The Right Prescription

Obamacare and GOP Complacence

Overconfidence is lethal. So is division.

By 12.30.13

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The breathtaking ineptitude with which the Obama administration has implemented the Affordable Care Act provides the Republican Party a very real opportunity to make major gains in the upcoming midterm elections. A mere 60 days ago, the Democrats seemed well-positioned to hold on to its Senate Majority and perhaps even regain control of the House. Since then, according to a CNN/ORC survey released last week, the GOP has improved its standing among registered voters by 13 points: “Two months ago, Democrats held a 50%-42% advantage.... The new survey… indicates Republicans with a 49%-44% edge over the Democrats.”

This is good news indeed, but some of the commentary offered by pundits and conservative activists concerning this trend threaten to infect Republican politicians and donors with a deadly strain of overconfidence. Rick Manning, of Americans for Limited Government, provided an all too typical example in a recent paean to Senator Ted Cruz for the Hill: “Fear of losing coverage, fear of significantly increased healthcare costs and fear of losing the doctor/patient relationship have become the table topic in households. These households know that Republicans… did everything possible to protect America from the impact of Obamacare.”

Cruz does indeed deserve credit for his stand against Obamacare funding, but Manning’s claim that Americans know the GOP “did everything possible” to protect them from ACA’s ill effects is nonsense. The legacy news media reported the Cruz defunding story as an attempt by an out-of-control party, led by wild-eyed Tea Party radicals, to shut down the government in order to avoid providing health care to patients with pre-existing conditions. They would still be peddling that tale “above the fold” had it not been swamped by the tsunami of revelations about Obama administration incompetence relating to the rollout of Healthcare.gov.

Likewise, the fear of losing coverage that Manning cites is the result of a failure by the establishment press to control a story it would normally have spun against the insurance industry. This failure was largely due to the outrage of some media figures who were themselves victimized. Thus, we got some uncharacteristically honest reporting in the form of anecdotal stories about people who had received insurance cancellation letters. Even so, most of these reports were studiously vague about how many people have actually been affected, and whether the cancellations were necessitated by Obamacare or insurance industry greed.

Does media coverage really matter when so many real people are receiving cancellation notices? Yep. The MSM can influence their perception of who caused their sudden lack of coverage. The President and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius are already working hard to place blame for those cancellations squarely on the shoulders of “bad apples” in the insurance industry. And, the media are about to end their brief sojourn in the alien regions of reality. By spring, the MSM will be aiding and abetting the Democrat attempt to make the insurers the villains of this piece. Many Americans will believe such a story about an unpopular industry they already distrust.

In fact, some alleged journalists are already attempting to revise history on the administration’s botched rollout of Obamacare as well as the spate of health policy cancellations. MEDIAite reports that some of the usual suspects have already begun shifting blame to the insurance industry: “MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell and NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd… agreed that the insurance industry has been unhelpful for the White House by citing the ACA and blaming President Barack Obama for problematic aspects of the nation’s health care system that he was ‘trying to fix.’”

In other words, because the establishment news media will return to form during 2014, the Republicans will have to “end run” them and communicate directly with the voters about the depredations of Obamacare. This should be obvious, but we’re talking about the GOP. Since Reagan, Republicans have suffered from a learning disability where voter communication is concerned. And this election cycle is no exception. When they should be selling the electorate on the alternatives to Obamacare offered by their party, the Republican establishment seems bent on squandering valuable resources on internecine warfare.

Just last week, the New York Daily News reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce declared war on the party’s conservative wing: “Tea Party challengers to establishment Republicans have a new foe — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The chamber is pledging to spend $50 million in GOP primary fights to ward off right-wing candidates.” A week earlier, the New York Times gleefully reported that Karl Rove’s American Crossroads group and state-based conservative super PACs are engaged in a “quiet but intense struggle over money and influence.” Neither the Republican Party nor the country can afford this nonsense.

If the GOP ignores the voters while engaging in an internal civil war, the Democrats and their media toadies will fill the information gap with propaganda. They will tell the electorate that all new entitlements are just as messy as Obamacare. Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich is already peddling this whopper, and he is not alone. If the Republicans don’t refute such balderdash with the truth, many of the voters will buy it. People like Rep. Paul Ryan have offered workable alternatives to the chaos of Obamacare, but the voters won’t know about such proposals if Republicans waste their resources fighting among themselves.

Has the disastrous rollout of Obamacare rendered the Republicans so complacent that they believe the voters will automatically embrace their party in 2014? The bumbling and dishonesty of the Obama administration has provided the GOP a real chance to win back the Senate and expand their majority in the House. Indeed, the Democrats take this threat so seriously that the Democratic National Committee has just sent out a desperate email suggesting that a GOP victory next fall means Obama will be impeached. Nonetheless, if the Republicans believe they already have the midterms in the bag, they truly are the “stupid party.”

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About the Author

David Catron is a health care consultant. He has an MBA from the University of Georgia and blogs at Health Care BS.