The Corner

Obamacare’s Biggest Problem: Human Nature

As we all know, politics is not really a rational game. While journalists, academics, and self-professed “wonks” might have the patience to dissect political issues long into the night, most voters do not. Instead, they form an impression early on and they stick to it pretty tenaciously until something more dramatic comes along to dislodge it.

I am not sure what that something dramatic could be for Obamacare — perhaps it will all of a sudden be a miracle success — but without something considerable, the conventional wisdom is going to be a real problem for its advocates. Already, the mere word “Obamacare has become a joke – in some cases a lazy one-liner that can be deployed as shorthand to ilustrate something that doesn’t work. When football fans started to hold up signs on which the overhaul was the punchline — “Saban [LovesObamacare” — the administration should have started to panic. After all, recovery is always toughest when the crowd is laughing at you. And make no mistake: the crowd is laughing.

Trouble is, when you’re down, people feel happy to blame you for everything — even if you had nothing to do with it. A recent Associated Press-GfK poll, demonstrates the challenge nicely:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just when the government’s insurance website is starting to run more smoothly, an Associated Press-GfK poll finds a potentially bigger problem for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Americans who already have coverage and aren’t looking for any more government help are blaming the law for their rising premiums and deductibles.

Those are the 85 percent of Americans that the White House says don’t have to be worried about the president’s historic push to expand coverage for the uninsured. Overall 3 in 4 say the rollout of coverage for the uninsured has gone poorly as health care remains a politically charged issue going into next year’s midterm congressional elections.

Some of these problem are, of course, to do with Obamacare. Some of them, though, really are not. And yet the public does not appear to be discriminating.

There is a joke on Twitter. Someone will see something negative that has literally nothing to do with the president and they will append to the problem, “Thanks, Obama” or “Obama’s America.” It’s mildly funny. But here’s the thing: people are now doing this in real life.

This seems somewhat par for the course. Almost all governments reach a certain point at which this tendency becomes irreversible; a certain point at which no reason, no charts, no evidence will shake the impression; a certain point at which people start to say, “Yes, I hear what you’re saying, but I still think the opposite . . .” I am not suggesting that Obamacare has yet reached this point. Certainly, it is possible that a quick turnaround could reverse its fortunes. But I am saying that looking too much at the data and not the latent impression might be a mistake. Narratives are made in the first few days; revisionism is the work of years. And Obamacare doesn’t have that much time.

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