As near as I can figure, Chuck Todd, NBC's ubiquitous political analyst, was the first to float the notion of the Affordable Care Act's permanence, but it wasn't long before other left-leaning media voices fell in line. National Journal's Ron Fournier echoed Todd on Fox News “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Not that they haven't been aching for the opportunity to say just that all along, but now, apparently, Todd, Fournier and other fans of the Affordable Care Act have a statistical landmark over which to drape their sturdy enthusiasm. As of Monday's more-or-less open enrollment deadline, “Obamacare” sign-ups through the federal and state exchanges surged past the 7 million level that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius set way back last autumn — then denied as recently as two weeks ago — as a measure of first-year success.
So an administration whose accounting has been as opaque as mud on a moonless midnight declares that late-breaking procrastinators have vaulted over the bar and that is that. It's all confetti cannons and balloon drops from here on out. Seven million of your fellow Americans have Washington-approved medical insurance and a few million more are newly enrolled in expanded Medicaid — although not, notably, in Florida or 23 other states.
Todd and Fournier are agreed: What rational politician would campaign on a platform to strip coverage from those newly covered? Especially now that there's even a poll — it's just one poll, and it might be an outlier, but never mind — that says ever so slightly more people support the ACA than oppose it?
“Repealing it is politically untenable right now,” Fournier told Fox News viewers. “So the Republicans have a choice of trying to repeal it and being the party that takes away health care or working with Democrats and actually coming up with some fixes that are bipartisan.”
Meanwhile, Todd doubled down, claiming the next several months of relative quiet following the post-March 31 crescendo can only be bad for Republican midterm campaign plans. “The GOP needs the daily momentum of negative headlines on health care to last until the fall to truly build a wave,” Todd writes. “What if that daily momentum on health care is gone?”
What if it is? Is it naive to think Americans — especially midterm voters — will remember what they don't like about the ACA if it's not routinely leading the nightly news or making front-page headlines? What'll you bet the reality was captured by the wag who tweeted, when the White House announced the number of enrollees crested past 6 million (an entirely unreliable number, just like the 7 million, until we find out who's actually begun paying premiums), “Want to know who “Obamacare” is really unpopular with? Begin with those 6 million.”
The Congressional Budget Office projects that by the end of 2016 the ACA will have brought 22 million Americans under its umbrella, but if we can believe polling, anywhere from one half to two-thirds will have been herded there at the point of an IRS bayonet. And the vast majority, don't forget, won't be the previously uninsured but those replacing policies they liked and were told they'd be able to keep.
Resentment-inspiring coercion rarely constitutes a winning long-term political strategy. If early reports are accurate and premiums surge in 2015, candidates who run against one party's attempt to assert command and control over two of Americans' most personal concerns — their health and finances — should thrive.
Certainly, having an easily grasped free-market alternative to boast about would be optimal, but come November 2016, when only a minority of a minority is happy to have “Obamacare” at their throats, what the blessed unwinding media sages say can't happen could be only an Inauguration Day away.