Head below the fold for my (lengthy) thoughts on today's historic milestone.
The search for a solution to the nation's uninsured started with a horrifyingly frustrating legislative process, seeing good policy options like single payer and the public option shunted aside for a Heritage Foundation-designed market-based plan that rewarded the very insurance companies that created many of our health care system's problems in the first place. But as they say, the perfect is the enemy of the good, and we had to deal with assholes like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman and the stupid Senate filibuster. So we got what we got, and we had to make the best of it because while not as great as other options, it was far better than the broken status quo.
But Democrats were demoralized after that process, and Republicans decided that this market-based solution to the uninsured problem was worse than Hitler. Meanwhile, elected Democrats ran from the law as if it was infected with bubonic plague. So, 2010 happened, and we lost enough state legislatures, governorships, and House seats to screw us over pretty much this entire decade. Ouch.
The Supreme Court eventually weighed in with its surprise thumbs up on the law, and President Barack Obama survived re-election easily, in an election waged in large part over Obamacare. Dems picked up seats around the board, even in the Senate where a weak map should've led to big GOP gains. It wasn't all Obamacare, of course. The inability of Republicans to talk about rape in a civilized manner helped. But the Affordable Care Act obviously loomed large. Republicans succeeded in making a 2012 a referendum on Obamacare, yet lost the up-or-down vote. Only their 2010 gerrymander kept them in power in the House.
So 2013 was looking up for Democrats, and extra good after Republicans shut down the government in another one of their ill-conceived temper tantrums. The generic congressional ballot had Dems within striking range of a House pickup. But as you can see from this chart, that all went to hell after the administration botched the rollout of HealthCare.gov:
The cost was high, but the rewards promise to be even higher. There's a reason that Republicans fought this tooth and nail. For example, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell must now run on taking away the insurance of nearly 400,000 Kentuckians, giving those new beneficiaries and their friends, families and co-workers reason to turn out and vote Democratic. That dynamic will play out all over the country, and in increasing numbers as the law continues to expand to pull in the rest of the nation's tens of millions of unemployed. For Republicans, this has been an existential battle. And they lost it.
The law is now set in stone. Conservatives won't get the "downward spiral" they so desperately wanted. Their claims that the law is a "catastrophe" will ring increasingly absurd. The polling is moving in our direction, and when you account for critics from the left, conservative opposition to the law is already a minority position. Republicans, who spent so much time claiming that Obama was evil for breaking his "you won't lose your insurance" policy, are now explicitly embracing a strategy to do just that to over 13 million people (when you account for Medicaid expansion and the under 26-ers).
So what's left for the GOP? Double down on the increasingly unpopular "repeal" stance? It's what their crazy base wants. Benghazi? Birth control?
Maybe it won't matter because turnout rates will favor Republicans this year, but today has the potential to change everything. How big was hitting 7 million? Pretty f'n big.
1) It denied Republicans their biggest talking point, that no one wanted Obamacare.
2) It generated positive headlines for an administration and law that desperately needed them. Had the numbers come in even a few thousand under 7 million, the headlines would've been all about "coming up short" and "fails expectations".
3) It jazzed our side up. Admit it, you feel jazzed. Sure, some of that is schadenfreude for all the shit Republicans threw at the law over the past several years, but still, it's motivating. And heading into November, that's our biggest enemy—apathy. The more engaged and motivated we are, the better Team Blue will do.
4) It will move numbers in a positive direction. This is conjecture, of course, but I'm willing to bet right now that we will see positive movement across the board, from ACA approval ratings, to Obama approval ratings, to the generic congressional ballot. The crush of positive coverage and vibes, and that little spring in the step of Democrats (with a touch of cockiness) can't help but move numbers the right direction.
And that's where we are. We've come a long way. And we still have 2014 to contend with. The costs were high and could get higher. But today, it's clear we've taken a huge step forward, and Republicans have been knocked back hard on defense.
This thing isn't over, but today, we won a major battle.