Don’t get me wrong. What’s happened over the past five weeks has been a colossal, epic failure on President Obama’s part. All he needed to say about the health care law was that you could keep your insurance if it met minimum standards, and then he needed to repeat those standards. He also needed to repeat the benefits of the law, from covering preexisting conditions to free physicals, checkups and flu shots. But Obama thought that passage of the law was enough and that the government didn’t need to publicize what was on public record. Big mistake. Now he’s gotten caught in a web that the right wing has been spinning since 2010. It’s ugly. It’s sobering. It’s a mess. And it hurts.
And now for the good news. Obama’s opponents are still the same gang that shut down the government, opposes marriage equality, wants to voucherize Medicare and cut $40 billion from the food stamp program, denies global warming, thinks transvaginal ultrasounds are effective public policy, supports testing public school students at the expense of a real curriculum, opposes immigration reform and continues to want to deport large numbers of Hispanics.
In the 1990s, my father used to say that Newt Gingrich was the best thing that ever happened to Bill Clinton. The Tea Party and John Boehner are the best things to happen to Barack Obama. His approval ratings are down now, but they’ll rebound because the right wing hasn’t changed.
Their main vulnerability is their belief that the health care law has imperiled every part of Obama’s agenda. What they forget is that prior to the shutdown, the GOP’s ideas were extreme and unpopular. My sense is that they’ll get even more extreme because they see Obama at a critical point in his presidency. Healthcare.gov will not make the Republicans look any better on women, Hispanics, social programs and, yes, health care.
The health care mess will also leave the front pages soon because the website will be fixed and more people will successfully sign up for care. Also, fiscal negotiations are just around the corner and the right has left itself vulnerable because they’ve pretty much promised not to shut the government down again and they’d be even crazier than I think they are to not raise the debt ceiling. Plus, the press will get tired of this story and move on to other things.
In the end, though, the real advantage is that we’re talking about trying to insure people against catastrophic expenses by providing them with health insurance. Never forget that.