‘History repeats itself — first as tragedy, then as farce,” noted Karl Marx. With the new Republican majority in the House planning to vote next Wednesday on repeal of Obamare, Democrats appear well into farce.
Throughout the debate over health-care reform, Democrats constantly told us (and themselves) that if only they could explain the bill better, Americans would come to understand how good it was for them. So President Obama went out and gave more than a hundred remarks, speeches, press conferences, and town-hall orations. But somehow voters resisted the president’s silver-tongued oratory. The more the president talked, cajoled, and explained, the greater public opposition to the bill grew. That January, voters in Massachusetts sent Scott Brown to the Senate largely on the basis of his promise to vote against Obamacare.
But Democrats were undaunted. They knew that once the bill finally passed the public would love it. As Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein predicted, the bill would “become more popular after passage than it was before passage.” New York senator Chuck Schumer summed up the Democratic argument, “Once it passes, it’s going to become more popular — because the lies that have been spread, they vanish, because you see what’s in the bill.” The bill passed. The public saw what was in it. The public hated it.
But surely, Democrats said, when the bill’s consumer protections go into effect in September, then the public will come around. “People don’t know all the nuances of this thing,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, “Bit by bit, we’ll get it out there. Ten people will know, then it’ll grow to 20, then it’ll grow to 80, and it’ll have a snowball effect.” White House adviser David Axelrod echoed the sentiment. “I think that health care, over time, is going to become more popular,” he told Meet the Press. But, September came and went, the new rules went into effect, and the bill didn’t become more popular.
So the Democrats decided that the public was a bunch of dolts who were “scared” and “not thinking clearly,” in the words of President Obama. Then Democrats headed off into the November elections, in which every Republican running for an office higher than dog catcher was campaigning in favor of repealing the bill. Those doltish voters overwhelming rejected Democrats who had supported the health-care bill, giving Republicans one of the biggest midterm election victories in more than 60 years. A post-election survey found that 45 percent saw their vote as a specific message of opposition to the health-care bill.
Now, Democrats say they are anxious for another debate over health-care reform, because it will give Democrats an opportunity to explain the bill — again. And this time, no matter how dense the public has shown itself to be so far, the voters will finally get it, rise up, and punish Republicans for trying to undo the Obama administration’s signature achievement. According to the New York Times, Democrats “see the renewed debate as a chance to show that the law will be a boon to millions of Americans and hope to turn ‘Obamacare’ from a pejorative into a tag for one of the president’s proudest achievements.”