Broken Promises

The Obama administration and their allies made many dubious claims both while securing the passage of Obamacare and during their subsequent defense of the law. Here’s a sample of these claims, all of which have been challenged by a very different reality.

  • Efforts to roll back the health-care reform were doomed for failure. President Obama challenged opponents of Obamacare to “go for it” and “run on a platform of repeal in November [of 2010].” Obamacare supporters “answered the call of history,” and the president was confident that “we’re not going back. This country is moving forward.”

  • Constitutional challenges to Obamacare were not to be taken seriously. Then-Speaker Pelosi assured supporters that constitutional challenges to the law were a joke, that could be dismissed with a mere “Are you serious?” After all, the law’s passage was secured by a president who, in 2007, boasted that he “was a constitutional law professor, which means that unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution.”

  • The passage of Obamacare, a really big deal, was bound for the history books as a great success. The passage of Obamacare was a “struggle that a lot of brave Americans have waged for years.” President Obama’s achievement was the culmination of “almost a century of trying” and “a year of debate,” and, according to Representative Clyburn, was “the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century.”

Republicans, responding to President Obama’s call to “go for it,” went for it, running in 2010 on a party platform of limited government that called for the repeal of Obamacare. The American people responded by giving Republicans control of the House of Representatives in dramatic fashion. When the dust had settled, Republicans had scored the “highest single-election gain for either party since 1948,” picking up a total of 63 seats, taking control of a chamber they had lost just four years earlier.

Liberals have also been rocked by the “serious” constitutional challenges to Obamacare. Randy Barnett, who was seen by some as one of the few voices in the wilderness who dared question Obamacare’s constitutionality, was rewarded with a profile in the New York Times entitled “Vindication for Challenger of Health Care Law.” The Supreme Court scheduled a historic six hours of oral arguments to consider the constitutional challenges to Obamacare. After the arguments liberal legal commentator Jeffrey Toobin declared that the hearings were a “train wreck” for the law’s supporters, while others searched for a scapegoat to blame if the law was struck down.

The passage of Obamacare was certainly one for the history books, but perhaps not for the reasons so confidently proclaimed by its supporters.

I’ve already written about the Supreme Court’s approval rating after the Obamacare oral arguments, noting how much they improved from before the hearings. While I’ve also noted that public-opinion polls have consistently shown Obamacare’s unpopularity, a recent Washington Post/ABC poll illuminates the depths of this unpopularity. The story focuses on how political the public believes the Court’s decision will be, but its other findings are more illuminating:

  • Only a quarter of Americans want the Supreme Court to uphold the entire health-care reform law.

  • Thirty-eight percent of respondents want all of Obamacare struck down, while another 29 percent want the individual mandate struck down. 

  • As the Post explains: “Only 39 percent of Americans support the health-care overhaul in general, the lowest percentage since the Post-ABC poll began asking the question.

The most astonishing result is that while, as expected, two-thirds of Republicans want all of Obamacare struck down, about half of Democrats do not want the Court to uphold all of Obamacare. Half of Democrats do not fully support President Obama’s crowning domestic achievement, the fulfillment of a “century of trying” and as Representative Clyburn put it, the 21st-century Civil Rights bill! There are countless reasons to believe that Obamacare will go down in history as a failure, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. But, if even Democrats don’t support all of the law, it certainly doesn’t appear to be in danger of becoming a historic success anytime soon.

Our president once claimed that his achievements during his first two years were surpassed by those of only Presidents Johnson, Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Perhaps, by now, even President Obama’s strongest supporters are reconsidering this proclamation.

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