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We still hate Obamacare, but we love what it is doing for us

Robin Evans, a Republican warehouse worker who recently signed up for Medicaid when Kentucky finally implemented the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, loves her new health coverage. “I’m tickled to death with it. It’s helped me out a bunch.”

But she hates Obama, and says she prefers Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, who wants to repeal Obamacare, saying it should be “pulled out root and branch”.

Does Evans even know that if McConnell had his way, she would lose the health coverage she now loves?

Which gives us the ironic situation where people hate the word “Obamacare” while loving everything else about it. Heck, former Republican Senator Scott Brown even recently called for repealing Obamacare and replacing it with Romneycare. Which is funny since Obamacare is directly based on Romneycare and is virtually identical, the only substantive difference being that Romneycare was implemented by a Republican at a state level, while Obamacare was implemented by a Democrat at the national level. Brown has even said that current beneficiaries of Obamacare could be grandfathered in, which means he doesn’t dare actually repeal it, since that would be so unpopular.

The bottom line is that the word “Obamacare” has become a dog whistle term signifying dislike of our president. Even among people who love everything that Obamacare has done for them. There is no longer any chance of it being repealed, but there has been so much propaganda used against the term (“Death Panels”, anyone?), that it is still a potent, albeit hollow, weapon. Besides, it seems so much less racist to disapprove of his policy achievements than to disapprove of him.

UPDATE: Because of the ACA, healthcare spending is up 9.9%. In fact, without the increased healthcare spending due to Obamacare, the US GDP would have gone down 1%. And in addition to helping (saving?) the US economy, all that spending on healthcare will result in a healthier America, which has long had some of the worst health statistics in the developed world.



  1. il-08 wrote:

    The biggest mistake of the Democrats in the last 8 years is running away from Obamacare. They should have taken it head on and run with it. If they had, they now would have been winning the argument. Why do you have healthcare? Because ObamaCares! Instead you have a completely illogical situation like this where people love their healthcare but want it taken away from them because of a six year Fox News propaganda campaign.

    Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 7:13 am | Permalink
  2. Michael wrote:

    Dems made the same mistake that Obama himself did: A failed and misguided venture into “triangulation.” They abandoned anything remotely resembling a progressive stance and positioned themselves right-of-center to try to court the votes of people who would never vote for them. Case in point: Elizabeth Warren’s video about the difference between First Lady Hillary Clinton and Senator Hillary Clinton.

    Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 7:22 am | Permalink
  3. Iron Knee wrote:

    I just have to laugh when people blame the last 8 years on Obama and the Democrats. Yeah right. Even though (as you state) there was a massive propaganda campaign against Obama and anything he promoted, *especially* the ACA. Given the political situation, and the massive amounts of money spent attacking Obama, I think the outcome is about as good as it could have been. Obamacare survived and is successful and popular. Gay rights are flourishing. Marijuana is being decriminalized. We are not torturing prisoners any more. The economy is improving. Democrats are pushing for a rise in the minimum wage. How is this not “anything remotely resembling a progressive stance”?

    I have relatives who watch Fox News all day, and who would kick me out of their homes if I mentioned Obama’s name, they hate him so much (“because he is a fascist socialist who is destroying our country!”)

    In less than two months, the data shows that Republicans will take over the Senate. Do you really think this is happening because Democrats didn’t push enough of a progressive agenda? Seriously? Are all those disillusioned progressives out there voting for Republicans?

    I guess it is true what they say: only liberals eat their own.

    The problem is not that the propaganda campaign worked on conservatives. The problem is that the propaganda campaign also worked on liberals. It made them apathetic and lose interest in fighting for progressives. There are strong progressives out there. See

    Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink
  4. Jon wrote:

    First, FOX can and will spin anything in whatever direction they like. Nothing to be done about that.

    Second, Obama very decently credited Romney and the Massachusetts legislature for implementing legislation that would become the backbone of the ACA. Why the GOP, including and maybe especially Romney, cannot in turn be a little gracious about it, I’ve no idea.

    And FOX, but since hell has not yet frozen over…

    Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 2:21 pm | Permalink
  5. Dan wrote:

    It’s even worse than that, it was the GOP’s response to “ClintonCare” and originated from the Heritage Foundation.

    Friday, September 19, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  6. Michael wrote:

    You interpreted my statement as stronger than it was. I didn’t say the current mess is the Dems fault, and I don’t believe that at all. I simply said that, in retrospect, the Dems gave away too much too early in Obama’s administration under the assumption that the GOP would act in good faith. It was a misjudgment of the extreme of the opposition. The other big part is that the Dems were never able to define the terms of the discussion. That’s why we heard more about “job creators” instead of “Wall St. fat cats.” It wasn’t that Obama and the Dems didn’t try; just that they were ineffective. As a result, they ended up adopting the language of the right. Once the words “job creators” came out of Obama’s mouth at all…game over.

    The ACA could have been considerably more progressive than it is. But he quickly abandoned anything remotely resembling single payer because he thought a more moderate approach would buy some GOP votes. He didn’t realize that they were going to unite against the ACA regardless of what it looked like. He also didn’t realize the importance of selling the program to the public. Instead, he let opponents define the terms of conversation, primarily driven by lies and propaganda. Again, the blame is purely on the GOP for their scorched earth policy. Basically, he focused on the behind-the-scenes wonky stuff and didn’t do enough of the salesmanship that’s needed for the job.

    As for the other issues, I would hesitate to give the Dems too much credit. Gay rights and marijuana decriminalization: those movements are happening from the grass roots and trickling upward. With gay rights, Obama and other Dems hopped on the bandwagon after the tide was obviously turning. I’ll give Obama credit for killing DADT, but I mostly find progress on those fronts as being victories of an inherently winning argument (demonstrable injustice of the status quo) rather than political leadership. With marijuana decriminalization, most Dems are still against it. So the Democratic politicians are mostly not adopting progressive stances.

    Not torturing prisoners, sure. Instead, we’re just deporting them in record numbers and using drones as assassins. Furthermore, I don’t think the anti-torture stance is necessarily progressive. That’s something that almost everyone except the lunatic fringe agrees on.

    The economy is improving, yes. But I generally agree with the idea that politicians get (a) too much credit for good economies and (b) too much blame for bad ones. So it is a good thing, but I don’t know that I would necessarily hand out trophies for political vision for it. I would especially hesitate to give Obama too much credit since he ignored the advice of people like Stiglitz, Romer, Reich, and Warren, and instead let people like Geithner and Summers dominate. I give him kudos for Yellen, though.

    The minimum wage is a very recent push. And, yes, you’re correct that Dems are now pushing for it. But where was that talk 3 years ago? I think these policies have always been more popular than what the pundit crowd likes to suggest, and I think Dems have just been slow to realize it.

    As for the Republican takeover, it’s not about the disillusioned progressives. It’s about the moderates that primarily focus on jobs. The problem for the Dems wasn’t flawed policies, but rather failed marketing. Dems in the House and Senate distanced themselves from the ACA and from Obama. This created the appearance of disunity, whereas the GOP was united behind a single message and platform. As a result of that unity–in combination with outright lying about where the economic troubles began–they were able to sway those moderates because they were able to convince them that Obama’s economic policies were killing jobs. It’s more about what the Dems failed to do than what they actually did.

    Friday, September 19, 2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  7. Michael wrote:

    Dang it. I always end up writing too much. But it seems that my shorter posts often get misinterpreted and need longer explanations… I’m just not good at being terse.

    Friday, September 19, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    Michael, I don’t think I misinterpreted you.

    For example, you say “the Dems gave away too much too early in Obama’s administration” and “The ACA could have been considerably more progressive than it is.” Really? The Democrats already tried to get single-payer health care, pushed by one of the most popular and powerful Democratic presidents. What happened to that?

    You say “I don’t think the anti-torture stance is necessarily progressive. That’s something that almost everyone except the lunatic fringe agrees on.” And yet the Bush administration was reelected to office after Abu Ghraib became a scandal. Are you saying that the majority of the voters in the US were a “lunatic fringe”?

    I will agree that politicians often get too much credit for good economies, but I think Obama did a superb job in kickstarting our economy after Bush’s great recession. For example, I didn’t think there was any way to save the US auto industry, and called for Obama to let them go bankrupt, but he managed to get them turned around without even costing the taxpayers any money. I gotta give him credit for that. And I disagree with your second point. While politicians normally have little power to improve the economy, they certainly can and often do make the economy worse.

    And finally, you say “It’s more about what the Dems failed to do than what they actually did.” So under a well organized and extremely well financed propaganda campaign that was willing to lie about almost anything, Democrats weren’t able to get their message across. Are you surprised? Isn’t that blaming the victim?

    Friday, September 19, 2014 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
  9. Michael wrote:

    I’m speaking as retrospective analysis of what actually happened, not what should have been done. For instance, I agree that Clinton tried and failed to do health reform. As such, it was perfectly reasonable for Obama to weaken the ACA instead of pushing for it, hoping to build a bipartisan solution. In the end, not a single GOP vote. If Obama knew ahead of time what would happen, he could have gone with a more progressive approach and it would have had the same result. He had enough political unity in his party at the time that he could have pushed it through. But he thought it would be better if there was some bipartisan support and tried to do so through compromise. It was simply a misjudgment of what the GOP was doing. My real complaint, though, to go back to IL-08’s point was that most Dems ran away from the ACA afterward. They acted in their short-term interest because they thought it would fail. Now that it’s a success, they can’t claim credit.

    Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, ICE detention centers, Gitmo…and yet Bush was re-elected. Here’s what I’ve gotten from various Republicans regarding that election: Those scandals had nothing to do with Bush, and they were voting for Bush. Many will even call Dick Cheney a war criminal and place the blame at his feet. Most actually blame the 3-letter agencies as being rogues that went too far. They will decry the excesses and the torture, but insist that Bush is a good person and had nothing to do with it. Simple cognitive dissonance and willful ignorance.

    I’m not surprised and I’m not blaming the victim. I’m just disappointed. I’m disappointed that so many people in our country freak the hell out because we happened to elect somebody with dark skin and a non-WASP name. I’m disappointed that our populace is so ill-informed and sexist that Senator Clinton has to re-define herself as a war hawk to avoid the accusations that she’s a man-hating feminazi. I’m disappointed that “liberal” is such an anathema term that we had to change to using “progressive” as a superficial branding attempt. While I like that Dems are the big-tent party in terms of racial, gender, sexuality, and religious inclusion, I’m disappointed that they have not been successful in leading the communication.

    Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink
  10. Iron Knee wrote:

    Michael, you are forgetting that Obama also had to appease a number of Democrats in order to get the ACA passed, not to mention independents. Obama had to completely remove the public option in order to get Lieberman’s support, so there is zero chance that a single-payer system would have passed. Then there was Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat, who insisted on a number of changes. Immediately after that, the Democrats lost their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate (when Scott Brown was elected to replace Ted Kennedy). It required an amazing effort to get even Democrats to pass the Senate bill unchanged (since there was no chance of getting any further changes through the Senate).

    It is pretty clear that no better bill would have passed. In fact, I’m amazed at what it took to get the current version passed.

    The ACA passed. Barely. And it is is making a huge improvement to health care in the US. Be happy, and give Obama some frickin’ credit.

    As for your point about Dems running away from the ACA afterward, they did that because Republican Scott Brown was elected to replace Ted Kennedy, upsetting what was supposedly a safe Democratic seat in the Senate. This was widely reported as a referendum on the ACA.

    Dems didn’t stop publicly supporting the ACA because they thought it would fail. Having passed it, they realized that speaking favorably about it would hurt them with absolutely no upside.

    But you make me laugh when you say “Now that it is a success, they can’t claim credit”. Hah! The whole point of this post was that voters still hate Obamacare, even though it is a success and they love what it is doing.

    Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink
  11. Arthanyel wrote:

    A slight spin on Michael’s point – in retrospect, I think the Democrats and Obama made a big mistake in 2009 by trying to work with republicans. They should have just pushed through the key elements of the progressive agenda immediately and ignored the Republicans. by trying to appease them and wok with them, they watered down, delayed, or never implemented, a number of great things they could have done. And the ACA would have been better (although still not a single payer system) if they had talen that route.

    The most important word in the above, however, is “retrospect”. At the time, Obama was trying to demonstrate the way Washington should work and tying to be inclusive and bipartisan. Neither he, nor the Democrats, understood the level of resistance and vitriol that they were going to get from the right. And now it is about a coin flip whether Republicans will take the majority in the Senate. And Republicans will only continue their vitriol and tactics as they are clearly working.

    What we need is a progressive Tea Party to fire people up, and a couple of timely deaths in the SCOTUS so we can reverse Citizens United and all the voter suppression laws Republicans have been passing. In the mean time we should all be doing everything we can – time, money, etc. – to try and keep the Senate in the Democratic majority, because I deeply fear that Obama will cave in if the Republicans win, just to have some “legacy”.

    Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 9:19 am | Permalink
  12. Iron Knee wrote:

    I’ve thought about that (a “progressive Tea Party”) but the problem is that the Tea Party was heavily funded by special interests and promoted by conservative media. The other problem is that it is much harder to get liberals to agree on much of anything, while the tea partiers seemed willing to repeat (and repeat and repeat) almost anything they were told by Fox News.

    We tried to have a progressive Tea Party, it was called the Occupy Movement. It was systematically shut down by police departments, received little love from even the more liberal media, and sure didn’t get much funding. See

    One bit of good news is that we are seeing some activism around Climate Change.

    Oh, and since Obama ran heavily on the promise of bi-partisanship, and bringing civility to politics, I’m not sure if it could have been possible for him to immediately come out swinging against the Republicans. But it doesn’t matter. 20/20 hindsight.

    Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink