As we sprint to the finish to the March 31 open-enrollment period deadline in the health insurance marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act, national pundits are increasingly making the case that Obamacare is going to be a political liability for Democrats in November. As evidence, they point to the loss of Alex Sink in a Congressional special election in Florida, pronouncing that it was the ACA that sank Sink's ship.
Actual data, of course, points in the exact opposite direction, suggesting that the traction Sink got in a heavily Republican district in a low-turnout election was in part due to her opposition to Obamacare's repeal. If Obamacare is responsible for the results, then a more accurate reading would be that Obamacare closed an 11-point GOP registration gap to a 2-point voting gap on election day. That's the miracle here, and of course, the corpse of a national media isn't talking about it.
But how long they will be able to keep Obamacare's serious political advantage under wraps is in critical doubt. Last week, a Bloomberg poll showed that nearly two out of three Americans have a clear and convincing message for Washington on the issue of the Affordable Care Act: Keep your hands off my Obamacare. 64% of Americans don't just oppose a repeal of the ACA, they actually broadly support the law - in a poll that is heavily skewed to Republicans in its sampling (29-21 R-D gap, whereas most recent national registration data show a Democratic registration advantage of 4:3).
Were it that the ACA's political advantages for Democrats ended here. Oh, how the GOP-loving media wishes. But it's only the beginning. A quick look at the statistical breakdown of the data on Americans enrolling through ACA's exchanges, and you discover the following about enrollments in the marketplace plans:
- 55% are women (almost exactly the same as Barack Obama's margin of victory among women in 2012).
- 83% of those selecting a marketplace plan are doing so with financial assistance that is built into the ACA.
- Youth enrollment has been picking up - to now surpassing the 25% mark for two months in a row.
Add to this the following statistics:
- 80% of uninsured Hispanics, a similar number of uninsured AAPIs, and six in 10 uninsured African Americans are eligible for financial assistance
- These numbers would be substantially higher - most hugely for African Americans - without the Republican roadblock to limit the expansion of Medicaid (95% of Latinos and African Americans, 89% of AAPIs).
And there you have the coalition that elected Barack Obama twice, in two landslides: women, young people, minorities, and the middle and working classes. The Bloomberg poll should worry Republicans, not simply because it indicates that their days of demagoging Obamacare are limited, but because the emerging Obamacare coalition isn't all that different from the already dominant Obama coalition.
This connection should surprise exactly no one. For one thing, these groups aren't disparate. Women and people of color disproportionately hold low-wage jobs, young women find it appalling that Republican politicians are talking about whether critical reproductive care should be covered, and people of color, women and young people have always hugely approved of what is now the most significant expansion of the social safety net since the advent of Social Security - an approval that now is merely spreading to the rest of America.
If Democrats are going to do well in November, they need the Obama coalition - the Obamacare coalition. Democrats need women, young people, people of color, and the middle and working classes. If Democrats are going to get the Obamacare coalition to get out and vote, they must get out ahead of the media spin. Democratic candidates across the nation must not just "defend" Obamacare, but wear their support for it as a badge of honor. No running away. I have said it before, and I will say it again. Democrats need to be proud that we made affordable health care a right for every American man, woman and child. Democrats must go squarely after Republicans for trying to take it away.
Americans will be with a party that proudly protects their health care, but I fear the electorate will not stand for political cowardice too afraid to hit back hard against the lies. Democratic hanchos have a choice to make, and quick, but the choice does not seem difficult to me. Not at all.