On October 1, 2013, Congress failed to pass a continuing resolution which allocated most government agencies funds for the next fiscal year. As government agencies ranging from national parks to the IRS shut down, Republicans in Congress proclaimed that the Democrats had failed to come to the table to negotiate over funding for Obamacare. Obamacare deserved to be defunded—the American people did not support
On the surface, it is true that Americans detest Obamacare—after the government shutdown, thirty-eight percent of Americans now approve of the bill, hardly a ringing endorsement of the law, especially since thirty-eight percent is considered an improvement over earlier polls.
However, Americans do not seem entirely sure what Obamacare is, other than that they do not like it. Public Policy Polling recently surveyed Americans on whether they viewed the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare favorably—at least twenty-seven percent of Americans rated one law over the other, not realizing that Obamacare and the ACA are the exact same
But even for Americans who know that Obamacare is the same as the Affordable Care Act, their disapproval of the bill seemingly extends only to the individual mandate and the name. A Kaiser poll in March 2013 shows approval for the most important provisions of Obamacare; for example, 66% of those surveyed favored a ban on preexisting conditions, and up to 88% of those surveyed approved of tax credits for small businesses to buy insurance[S1] . The most unpopular provision of the law,the individual mandate, was viewed favorably only by 40% of those polled.
Moreover, Americans are not satisfied with their health care system—in 2011, when the Affordable Care Act came before the Supreme Court, most Americans thought that even if the ACA was overturned, Congress should come up with another law to overhaul the health care system[S2].
The American public seems woefully ignorant regarding one of the most important pieces of legislation passed in recent years—whether they support or detest the law seems more based on their partisan stance (the same Kaiser poll shows that the majority of Democrats support the law and the majority of Republicans are against the law, with many independents being split). Moreover, independents, who are slightly more likely to dislike Obamacare, are usually not wise voters who spend a great deal of time contemplating their electoral choices. Rather, they are frequent voters who simply do not keep up with current events and are therefore likely to swing back and forth in their political views depending on which side is louder[S3].
The Republican Party has pushed for the defunding of Obamacare because conservatives have taken over the dialogue with regards to Obamacare—independents, the most malleable voters in the country, hate the law because the Republican party has bombarded the airwaves. In contrast, the Democratic Party has largely failed in its marketing of President Obama’s signature legislation. However, the Democratic Party cannot simply give up the fight. To give up the defense of Obamacare would be showing weakness against the Republican Party, and also giving up President Obama’s major legislative achievement.
This government shutdown, therefore, is not truly the fault of the parties. The news outlets can blame politicians’ nastiness as much as they want, but politicians are merely responding to the malleability of the people. Independents are not educated enough to form definitive opinions. Republicans and Democrats are so entrenched in their political views that they do not bother learning more about the bill and simply focus on their political party’s line. Republican House members have focused on those most likely to affect their chances of being reelected—Rpeublican primary voters in districts gerrymandered favorably for Republicans. And those voters are the ones most likely to push for the defunding of Obamacare.
It’s a vicious cycle—the Republican primary voters force Republicans to proclaim loudly why they hate Obamacare, with independents being swayed by the louder of the two parties, and therefore poll numbers going down for Obamaacare, providing more ammunition for Republicans to force a standoff over a law that the Democrats cannot leave behind.
The only people left to blame are the voters sitting at home who have not enlightened themselves on what their opinion is. No truly educated electorate should be able to comfortably say that they hate a law but subsequently show support of the law’s provisions. This general ignorance may have seen previously seemed benign, but the US government shutdown is an indicator of the US government’s competence. Many unenlightened voters have the potential to rock many economies emerging out of a global recession and lay off thousands of federal employees.
To end this rather long public service announcement in support of an educated electorate: Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.—Franklin D. Roosevelt
[S3]Mann and Ornstein
Mann, Thomas, and Norman Ornstein. It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism. Philadelphia: Basic Books, 2012. Print.