As the year ends, conservatives are awash in smug resurgence.
This is the product of Obamacare's faulty roll-out, the president's less than precise messaging on his signature accomplishment, and the right wing's ever present capacity for delusion.
No one captures this resurgence, either as a matter of attitude or for its sheer exuberance, better than George Will. His ability to string together immeasurably silky sentences in the service of ostensibly substantive points knows no equal, and The Washington Post, he offers up "2013's lesson for conservatives." Rather, however, than a set of policies that might credibly attack the problem he purports to analyze, Wills "lesson" turns out to be nothing more than a resurrected faith in market orthodoxy, underlined by a near-Churchillian penchant for cute ad hominems.
Thus, we get the captain of conservative eloquence telling us that, on the Affordable Care Act, progressives have been: "tone deaf in expressing bottomless condescension toward the public and limitless faith in their own cleverness"; "convinced . . . that Pajama Boy", "the supercilious, semi-smirking, hot-chocolate-sipping faux adult who embodies progressives belief that life should be all politics all the time", "would be a potent persuader, getting young people to sign up for the hash that progressives are making of health care"; and oblivious to the ostensible reality that "events" have "ever so swiftly and thoroughly refuted [the] law's title", the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act."
The only one problem with this fusillade is that . . .
It is demonstrably false.
Though folks like Will seem never to remember exactly who birthed Obamacare, it was not the liberals . . . or the progressives . . . or even the Democrats. Frankly, it was not even Obama. Instead, the individual mandate -- the cornerstone of Obamacare -- was invented by the Heritage Foundation -- the poster child for conservative think tanks -- in the mid-1990s. It was then taken up by a Republican, Mitt Romney, and turned into actual policy in Massachusetts.
In the 2008 campaign, Obama actually opposed the mandate. He and the Democrats in Congress only came around to accepting it in 2010, bowing to reality by realizing that neither a single-payer national health plan -- or "Medicare for all" in the parlance of the day -- nor one with even the so-called public option -- where patients could have chosen to be covered by an enlarged Medicare system -- was possible. Though Will obsequiously derides the progressives for their "limitless faith in their own cleverness," whatever faith they had was not in their cleverness.
It was in Governor Romney's.
A similar ignorance of the actual facts infects Will's claim that "events" have somehow "refuted" the notion that Obamacare will either protect patients or be affordable.
The supposed proof of this proposition is the by now universally known fact that not all insurance policies previously offered in the market will meet the minimal standards imposed by the law and that, as a consequence, "patients" with those policies will have to upgrade and spend a little more. While Obama is being roundly criticized for having promised that anyone who liked what they had would be able to keep it, the truth is that the number of policy holders who fall into this category is relatively small, as are the premium increases that will be necessary to buy the new policies that meet the law's minimal standards. Though Obama was sloppy in his messaging, there is no proof that this was intentional.
Nor is there any empirical evidence for the claim by Will that a presidential qualifier -- by for example, altering the campaign stump speech to say that "virtually everyone" who liked what they had would indeed be able to keep it -- would have made Obama's reelection "unlikely." In fact, one might even call that claim an example of Will's . . .
"[L]imitless faith in [his] own cleverness."
Finally, there is "Pajama Boy." In Will's world, their "condescension" and self-cleverness "convinced" progressives that "Pajama Boy would be a potent persuader, getting young people to sign up for the hash [they] are making of health care."
In the week before Christmas, Organizing for America, which is Obama's grass roots advocacy operation, sent a tweet with the question: "How do you plan to spend the cold days of December?" As Chris Cillizza described it, the answer came from a "a 20-something guy with hipster glasses, wearing a black and white onesie and cradling a mug," who tells his audience to "Wear pajamas. Drink hot chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance."
This apparently drove New Jersey's Chris Christie around the bend. Dispensing with all pretense to the kinder and gentler Governor recently unearthed as a prelude to a Presidential run, Christie, in a soup kitchen, told the tweeter to "Get out of your pajamas. Put on an apron. And get Volunteering," the latter being, in Christie's mind, much better than any talk that might make Obamacare a success in resolving the tragedy that is our nation's now close to 50 million uninsured, and -- apparently -- something impossible for any 20-something to do after or before -- and in any case while -- he or she joined the Gov. in the kitchen.
Thus was born "Pajama Boy," Will's "supercilious, semi-smirking, hot chocolate sipping, faux adult who embodies the progressives belief that life should be all politics all the time."
And they wonder why they are losing the young.
There doesn't appear to be anything "haughtily disdainful" -- which is how the dictionary defines "supercilious" -- about encouraging a conversation about health insurance, and there certainly is nothing "faux adult" in being old enough to go to war.
One of the 20-somethings I know who talks to his friends about Obamacare is my son. When he does so, he recounts how he fell off a roof in the year after college but was able to go to the hospital because he was still covered under my health insurance policy. He does this while also working full time at a non-profit that matches itinerant day laborers with jobs in the area. And once a week he runs a town's homeless shelter. He has done more "volunteering" in a year than Chris Christie has done in a life.
The fact is that Obamacare is still in its infancy but is, by and large, working. The state exchanges that exist -- many states run by Republican governors or legislatures have refused to set them up -- are functioning well, the initial glitches in the federal government's web site are being ironed out, people are enrolling at rates sufficient to predict that the 2015 targets will be met, and premium costs have not been as high as was expected.
It hasn't been perfect.
But it also hasn't been the "hash" Will claims "progressives" are making of it.
He can ask my son.
There is nothing "faux" about him.