Politics & Policy

Obamacare’s Waning Popularity

If Obamacare’s such a good policy, why is it bad politics for Democrats?

Obamacare has a growing number of congressional Democrats, its architects, running scared. The law is now having a real-world impact on people’s lives, and that’s giving these Democrats real concern for their reelection prospects in the 2014 midterms.

For a while, Obamacare’s effects could be debated only in theory. Now, they’re making headlines. Some businesses are cutting back workers’ hours because they can no longer afford to employ them full time. Other businesses are laying off workers or nixing plans for expansion.

Health care is becoming more expensive — not more affordable — for many, if not most, Americans. For example, according to a report released last week, Indiana expects to see a 72 percent increase in the cost of individual insurance plans under Obamacare. And the Congressional Budget Office expects 7 million Americans to lose their existing employer-based health insurance.

In a letter to the administration, Teamsters president James Hoffa and other union leaders — typically Democrat allies — wrote that Obamacare will “destroy the very health and wellbeing of our members,” and “destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.”

Even voters who once supported Obamacare are changing their minds as they witness the effects of the law. A recent Washington Post–ABC News poll found that only 46 percent of moderate and conservative Democrats support Obamacare, down from 74 percent in 2010. It can’t be good news for elected Democrats that their signature law has lost so much support in their own party.

A National Journal headline from May succinctly summed up congressional Democrats’ problem: “Obama’s Legacy: A Health Care Law That Hurts His Party.”

Last week, 35 Democrats in the House of Representatives joined with Republicans to delay the law’s employer mandate, and 22 voted to delay the law’s individual mandate. Obamacare originally was forced through Congress on a party-line vote. But now, Obamacare is bringing people together — in recognition of its disastrous implementation. As Democratic senator Max Baucus put it earlier this year, Obamacare is a “train wreck.”

The Hill newspaper reported last week that “vulnerable House Democrats laid low Thursday after voting to delay two key Obamacare mandates over a White House veto threat.” These Democrats are doing their best to hide from the law for one very simple reason: They want to keep their jobs. 

But if Democrats are hoping for forgiveness, they’re out of luck. Obamacare is the law because of their poor judgment. And voters will be right to judge them for their failed policy. Would it really be fair for these lawmakers to keep their jobs when Americans can’t find jobs because of Obamacare?

In the 2014 elections, vulnerable House and Senate Democrats will be caught in a tough spot. They can’t expect to ride Obama’s coattails to reelection; that would require embracing Obamacare. But they also can’t absolve themselves; their party created this law.

If Obamacare is as good as President Obama says it is — or if it’s as “wonderful” as Harry Reid insists — then why are Democrats anxious about their reelection prospects? Why are they laying low? If it were a good policy, wouldn’t it be good politics?

Regardless of the intentions behind Obamacare, it’s not working. A yearlong delay will postpone some of the side effects. That’s a good thing, but it’s only that: a postponement. What America needs and deserves — what’s fair — is a permanent delay.

So the question is: Will Democrats stand with their president or with their constituents as Obamacare derails? If they choose the president over their constituents, their constituents will have a good reason to choose another candidate — one who will work toward health-care reforms that actually improve people’s lives.

— Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee.


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