Poll: Obamacare Beats the GOP Alternative

Poll graphic
There's a reason that Republicans took a beating from the public over the government shutdown. Yes, Obamacare remains unpopular, but the fact is that people don't see it as bad enough to scrap. The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll show us that, although the law is approved of by only 44% of respondents, 47% want to keep the law as is or expand it, opposed to 37% who want to repeal it.

And if Republicans vastly overestimated American's desire to scrap Obamacare, they're currently making a similar over calculation of outrage over a buggy website. Kaiser finds that while 75% of Americans fallowed the shutdown story closely, only 51% say the same of the online exchange's rollout. Those who say they've followed the stories very closely show the starkest difference -- 44% followed the shutdown very closely, compared to only 22% who are as interested in the website story.

Writing for the Washington Post political blog The Fix, Sean Sullivan and Aaron Blake explain that Republican grandstanding over Obamacare was counterproductive for them:

It’s especially stinging for Republicans because Obamacare was at the center of the House GOP strategy that led to the shutdown. Republicans’ repeated refusal to pass a clean stopgap spending bill was rooted in an unyielding desire to use the budget debate to pick apart the health-care law. They talked over and over again about the negative impact of the law, and how it needed to be stopped.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s unsteady unveiling of HealthCare.gov during the same period gave rise to widely publicized causes for concern. But instead of allowing those issues to dominate the conversation, Republicans elbowed them to the side with their fight against the health-care law in Congress, which dealt the party a big-time political blow, even before taking into account the missed opportunity to spotlight the rollout woes. The party’s image plunged to an all-time low in the wake of the shutdown, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed.

"[P]olitics is all about moments," they say. "When an opportunity arises, if you’re not there to seize it, you lose, even if the other side doesn’t win. The GOP just learned that the hard way."

Normally, I'd say I don't think the GOP has learned anything. Republicans don't do learning lessons. But this is a "fire hot" lesson. Even the most obstinate, headstrong child will not touch the pretty red glowing spirally element on the stove twice. They're currently trying to undermine confidence in the law, but talk of repeal died almost as soon as the shutdown started.

Greg Sargent points out that part of the Republican Party's problem here is that they don't have any alternative. This puts them in the position of being the party of the status quo. And no matter how bad people think Obamacare may be, they believe that the unsustainable non-system of healthcare delivery we had was worse. By offering nothing other than repeal, Republicans are selling a crap sandwich that everyone's already said they didn't want -- and that's working out for them about as well as they really should've expected.

And no, health savings accounts aren't going to save them. It was never a popular idea and is likely even less so now, as people find themselves stretched so far they can't put anything in their regular accounts. Health savings accounts were never a solution or an alternative. They were just a different payment plan on the lousy and inefficient system that we finally scrapped. So even the old Republican ideas aren't actually anything like a plan, they're all simpleminded bandaids that don't address the underlying structural problems. Healthcare would've been just as unaffordable.

Until Republicans get it together and come up with some sort of alternative, it's hard to see how their position on the Obamacare issue is going to improve their standing with the public. They're standing on a loser, offering a loser -- and that's just not going to catapult them to popularity the way they seem to think.


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