Political Implications of HCR

March 24th, 2010 by rubenr

Republican opposition throughout the Healthcare Reform debate was pretty staunch and unified, but it involved a gamble that they could block HCR and thereby sink the Obama presidency.  Not so terrible a strategy, but all the rhetoric and misinformation thrown around by HCR opponents might now come back to bite them.

For one thing, the “American’s Don’t Want This!” line, as powerful as it was, isn’t entirely accurate.  While polls showed about only 45% in favor of reform, there was a decent block of people who were undecided or felt too uninformed to answer.  Furthermore, you have to take these polls in the context of what people thought Health Care Reform does.  Republicans have significantly out-done democrats over the past few months in messaging HCR, such that the general conception is some sort of Government “takeover” of healthcare a-la socialized medicine countries like Canada and the UK.  Even many liberal-leaning friends of mine had concerns about such a non-existent takeover, not to mention the talk of “death-panels”.  It’s likely that these polls measure opposition to the publicly perceived HCR rather than the content of the actual bill, meaning that support for the actual content of the bill was under-represented in these polls.

In fact, now that HCR passed and the media has started to discuss the specifics of what it actually does, it looks like polls are trending such that a majority of people are liking HCR. (though these are just a few polls, and FiveThirtyEight’s been looking at the possibility of a post-HCR temporary “bounce”).  This could be a pretty big problem for Republicans,  the more popular HCR becomes, and the less HCR horror stories come true, the less Republicans can use it as a rallying-cry for November (in fact, an initial “repeal HCR” campaign has already been pulled back by the GOP).

The best bet for Republicans might actually be the legal challenges arising out of various States.  The legal logic that a Health Insurance mandate is unconstitutional is a little weak (we have tax incentives for all sorts of behavior).  But reframing the debate as Democrats doing something unconstitutional may play better than being against a popular bill.  That said, Democrats should be focused on squashing these lawsuits as fast as they can, but they could be tied up in the courts for a while.

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