What if President Obama doesn’t call me? What if it’s John Boehner who calls to ask for help in crafting an argument against Obamacare? What would I say?
I’d start by saying that opponents of the ACA have already done the heavy lifting. They’ve positioned Obamacare as an infringement on personal liberty and an expensive one to boot. It’s a fairly simple argument to make — “How dare the government tell me — a free thinking American individual — what to do? That smacks of collectivism and, given the history of government programs, it’s going to cost a lot of money. Our budget is already completely out of whack; we can’t afford to do more.”
So which argument is more persuasive? Frankly, I think the argument against the ACA is simpler and, therefore, should be more persuasive. Indeed, it seems to be working already. The most recent poll I’ve read suggests that 50% of Americans are against the law and only 45% are for it. Still, the proponents of Obamacare haven’t been very aggressive in positioning the law as an issue of responsibility. As they sharpen their rhetorical tools, the fault line could shift — probably not dramatically but perhaps just enough to claim a majority. The history of Social Security may give some insight. Social Security was not broadly popular when it first passed and was deemed by many — perhaps a majority — to be unconstitutional. Today, Social Security is the “third rail” of American politics — nobody can mess with it.
What is clear to me is that “smaller govenment” is the conservative’s answer to everything. What is key in the election is what the 10-15% of those “independently minded” think. If Obama wins (and it begins to work) he has plenty of time to convince more than half that it is a good idea.