Contra Jill Lawrence of the National Journal, it's not so much that Democrats don't grasp the theoretical need for this kind of strategy:
The political case for "Obamacare" is going to have to be made by advocacy groups, party committees and politicians themselves. And it will have to be made non-stop via every viral and high-profile means available, at an intensity level that matches the few short hours devoted to the health law at the Democratic convention last summer. “They haven’t grappled with fact that this is going to be a continual fight. You cannot rest,” says Andrea Camp, a strategist who has advised groups that support the act. “You keep talking about it. It has to be top of mind, and that’s how you drive up the favorables on this.”
...it's that quite a number of Democrats are glumly aware that it's not going to work. Here are the central problems with Lawrence's strategy (and you'll notice that I'm deliberately aping her bullet points):
- The Democrats are not proud of what they did with Obamacare. They are proud that they survived the backlash: passing Obamacare resulted in a bout of electoral fury that flipped the House and paralyzed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's agenda*. The Democrats who are left are largely in districts where crowing about what they did to their constituents will do absolutely no good whatsoever; at best it'll keep solidly-Democratic districts from becoming ever-so-slightly more competitive.
- Let's put up a scale. On one side you put free mammograms, no restrictions on coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and kids being on their parents' health insurance until they're 26; on the other we'll put across-the-board rises in premiums, people losing their existing coverage en masse because employers can't afford the new requirements, people losing their jobs because employers can't afford the new requirements, and of course the individual mandate. Which side of the scale do you think is going to be heavier, in terms of both number of people affected and how they're going to be affected? Spoiler warning: it's not the first one. Additional spoiler warning: the Democratic party leadership quietly agrees with me.
- Actually, the GOP does have a plan about Obamacare and its replacement. We're going to rip this Democratic party-spawned monstrosity out by the roots, burn it, urinate on the ashes, and then try a series of market-based reforms that will increase competition (health savings accounts, inter-state insurance markets) and foster innovation (meaningful tort reform). Just because the Democrats keep lying by saying that there's no alternative to their political equivalent to a midlife crisis** doesn't mean that there actually isn't one.
- I can't wait to see how a 2014 focus group full of voters who have kept watching their insurance premiums go up and their existing coverage go bye-bye will react to the message Trust us, you'll love Obamacare once we fix it. I cannot wait.
And that's pretty much where things stand. The problem with Obamacare is not that it is being badly presented; the problem is that there is a limit to how well you can present a law that is this bad. It's like trying to put a positive spin on having your leg bitten off by a shark: sure, yes, in the long run you're going to see a 50% saving on socks, but that's not exactly comforting news while you're watching the water around you go pink...
— BigGator5 (@BigGator5) March 24, 2013
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*Not that he needs much excuse to be paralyzed these days (assuming that those rumors are true).
**Honestly, it would have been much cheaper simply to buy every male Democrat in Congress a sports car, a white scarf, and a hat. I don't know what the equivalent would be for women Members of Congress, sorry: and I don't want to be unintentionally rude, here.