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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

November 13: Democrats Must Own Obamacare

In the media-driven panic over cancellation of individual insurance policies that aren’t “grandfathered” and aren’t ACA-compliant, Democrats are in danger of forgetting they are going to be associated with the success or failure of Obamacare no matter what they do. That’s true of the congressional Democrats backing potentially Obamacare-unraveling “Keep Your Insurance” bills in Congress, and it’s also true of single-payer fans who are taking a bit too much pleasure in the problems with the private-insurance exchanges. Here was my comment at Washington Monthly about the need for “owing Obamacare:”

[I]t’s perfectly understandable that proponents of a single-payer system or those who thought a public option was absolutely essential to the kind of competitive system the ACA set up would note some of their concerns may have been vindicated, or that even as the Obamacare exchanges founder, the Medicaid (thought of as a single-payer program, though actually semi-privatized in many states) expansion is enrolling new people at a fairly robust pace in the 25 states where it’s proceeding.
Atrios–nobody’s idea of a neoliberal squish–offered a reminder of the political realities of Obamacare right now.

Whatever the merits of ACA, it is now something the Dems own. For decades I’ve watched Dems try to run away from things which have been surgically implanted on any politician with a D next to their name. It’s always bizarre and pointless. You’re the party of gay marriage, abortion, and Obamacare whether you like it or not.

That’s as true of single-payer fans as it is of those chasing after GOP “fixes” of Obamacare. If Obamacare doesn’t work, we go back to the status quo ante, not to some magic moment where Medicare For All becomes the national rage overnight.

Perhaps non-destructive “fixes” of this or that short-term problem with the exchanges or the cancellation of individual policies before the exchanges are functional can be found. But even as it took left-center Democratic unity to enact the Affordable Care Act, it will take left-center unity to prevent its destruction by a now-united Republican opposition.

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