Jonathan Bernstein pointed out something truly bizarre the other day, Americans Will Love Obamacare in 2020. But I’m almost certain that he’s right. You see, I’ve been of the opinion (In part because of arguments Bernstein himself has made!) that Obamacare is never going to be popular because it is so elusive.
The problem is that most people who get Obamacare don’t know it. A large number of them get Obamacare in the form of the Medicaid expansion. So these people see themselves getting healthcare from the state — not the federal government — much less Obamacare itself. And then another really large number of people get their healthcare from private insurers through the healthcare exchanges. Well over half of them are subsidized directly by Obamacare, but they aren’t alerted to this fact — they just pay less (often a lot less) for their insurance. So why should anyone “like” Obamacare; the main things they “know” about the law come from a very large disinformation campaign from conservatives over the last five years.
But as I discussed the other day, Obamacare approval ratings are going up. In fact, even since then, we have news that Obamacare is for the first time in two and half year above water: more people approve than disapprove. So what’s with that? Is the people learning? Well, probably not.
But Bernstein has a really compelling idea: it is all about Obama’s approval rating. As I just discussed, people really don’t know what Obamacare is or how it affects them. So in their minds, Obamacare and Obama mean more or less the same thing. As it is, earlier today, I clicked on a link that I thought was about Obama that was actually about Obamacare. So it is easy enough to mistake them, even if you are very clear on the distinction.
Now Obama’s approval rating could go down. It might very well! But one thing we know from experience is that the approval rating of presidents goes up after they leave the White House. George W Bush’s approval rating reached a low of 32% according to Gallup (it went much lower in other polls). But by mid-2013, it was back up to 49%. Things are going to be even better for Obama. How do I know? Because conservatives can’t manage to maintain any Republican Party talking points unless they are constantly being reminded by Fox News and company. It is hard to find a conservative who doesn’t think pretty highly of Bill Clinton now. They wonder why they hated him so much in the 1990s.
So you can bet that after four years of Hillary Clinton or, even more, one of the Republican loons, that Obama is going to look pretty damned good (not because he was necessarily better but because he will be out of politics). Bill Clinton left office with a 42% approval rating. As of 2012, it was 66%. I expect that Obama will be up around 60% by 2020. And what that most likely means is that Obamacare will be up there too. And the longer he is out of office, the harder conservatives will have to work to remember what all the fuss was about. Did they really go crazy over birth certificates? Did they really think he was a Muslim? A socialist? An America hater? It will all seem like a vague dream.
And as a result, people will have fond thoughts about Obamacare. It will bring back memories of when politics wasn’t so divisive!