I was talking to a person who regularly votes for Democrats the other day — someone who follows news and politics but isn’t involved in the day to day. My friend was distraught at the failed roll-out of the Obamacare website. This, the logic went, was going to cost Democrats in the 2014 election.
It took some time, but I managed to calm my friend down.
It is true: hard criticisms about the Obamacare website are probably warranted. It simply didn’t work as promised. Now its failure is a political cudgel for Republicans, the picture-perfect example of a “failed government program” (never mind that the website is nothing more than a tool to access the broader benefits of the program, albeit an important one). Much will be written about and said to conflate the Affordable Care Act itself with the initial failure of the website.
That would be a mistake for our conservative friends and neighbors.
“But you said it yourself,” my friend said, exasperated. “The Republicans will run on this as a failed government program!”
Yes, they probably will. But that’s a mistake, because the website will get fixed. And probably fairly soon. The target date right now is November 30. Even if that is delayed by a month or two, it’s still nine or so months before Election Day.
Indeed, we’re a full year before Election Day 2014 right now. Anyone in politics on either side of the aisle will tell you that a year in politics is practically a lifetime.
What matters now will change in a few months. Heck, it’ll change in a few days.
Remember the shutdown?
“Oh, yeah,” my friend said, calming down. “That’s right!”
During the shutdown — which does still persist in the minds of voters — there was talk of Democrats taking back the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, despite the heavily gerrymandered districts. But in just a couple of weeks, the Republicans are suddenly back in the game! Imagine that!
This, I told my friend, is a narrative that will persist over the next year. Republicans will find favor with voters — or try to. Democrats will do the same.
And the Obamacare website will get fixed. And millions of Americans who didn’t have health care coverage before will — including young people and those with pre-existing conditions. New consumer protections will be put in place. New safeguards against fraud will take effect. A scholarship and loan repayment program to assist young people going to school for health care related professions will take effect. Preventative services are improved and protections for seniors will take effect as well.
In eleven months or so, the story of the Obamacare website will be old news. So will the shutdown. So will the two-dozen other news stories in between now and then. Sure, these stories will have a cumulative effect — but election 2014?
Let’s at least finish 2013 first.