Can he survive the healthcare onslaught?
A follow-up to my recent in depth look at the problems besetting Obamacare finds me indebted to the Sunday Times again this week.
In a editorial by Andrew Sullivan, the difficulties facing the President are analysed and prognostications proposed.
He starts out by reminding us that second-term crises are not new. Reagan, Nixon, Clinton and Dubbya all suffered from malaise in their second term. What seems to be different is the fact that Obama has painted himself into a corner with his own mouth (pardon the chillingly daft mixed metaphor) by promising that people can keep their healthcare plans if they like them. They cannot and if your plan does not meet minimum standards then you have to get a new one.
Question is – can Obama recover?
Nixon, of course, could not. His crime? He lied to the people. Is Obama any different? Categorically? Possibly? Inadvertently? The answer rather depends on you political persuasion.
Sunday Times: “The first issue is indeed healthcare. He is attempting something transformative and immensely difficult in the American context, even though every other developed country has long since passed the threshold of universal care.
Americans, after all, are a conservative bunch – and no-one likes to feel as if their health, of all things, is being jeopardised by a law that Obama need never have passed. Many will see their premiums rise. If the federal website isn't fixed, more and more people are going to go nuts as the “computer says no”.
If confidence collapses, the critical cohorts of young people may not join the system, tipping it into an insurance death spiral, in which there are too many sick people enrolled and not enough healthy people to balance them out. . . . .
If he succeeds, then, it will be by the skin of his teeth, and the odds of him clawing back to more than 50% approval are low. But it's worth remembering that the healthcare law has been declared dead several times. It was never expected to pass the Congress in 2009, which was already grappling with stimulus for the Great Recession. It survived – just – but then nearly collapsed again as the Republicans seized the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat and the votes were suddenly in question. After that the Supreme Court, in a surprise decision, upheld it. The law is close to being zombie – dead but still alive, and staggering ominously forward.”
Can the Republicans kill it? Hard to do up against the Presidential veto.
Moreover the Republicans have yet to propose any kind of alternative except a return to the status quo – which has very little support. Even now in the law's darkest hour there does not seem to be anywhere near a majority for repeal – according to the Sunday Times.
Back to the Sunday Times: “For all those currently without adequate healthcare provision it will be a godsend. For those whose plans are randomly cancelled or changed just when they need them most it will offer peace of mind.”
Second-term Presidents are always looking to their legacy. Obamacare is going to be this President's legacy like it or not. He has no fall-back position – he must make it work.