Since the Affordable Care Act was passed in early 2010, I've held more than one opinion on just how the American public will feel about it as time goes by. Initially, perhaps influenced by the momentousness of the Act's passage, I wrote that once it was actually implemented, it would be much harder for Republicans to attack. They would no longer be able to frighten people with phantoms of death panels, and instead would have to talk about reality. Since people would have their own experience with the law to judge from as opposed to some hypothetical future, the attacks would lose their potency, Republicans would back off, and the law would rise or fall in public esteem on its own merits.
Then I began to have second thoughts. One of the biggest problems, which I wrote about a few months later, is that Obamacare isn't a single program like Medicare that people can come to love. It's a whole bunch of pilot programs and new regulations, many of which involve private insurance or existing programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and when people are affected by those changes they won't necessarily see them as being part of Obamacare. For instance, beginning in January, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny you coverage based on pre-existing conditions. But to most people, interacting as they will be with private companies, it will look like Aetna or Blue Cross or whoever just got more humane, and they may not even know that the government made them do it. Even the exchanges, if they work well, will just be the place where you go to shop for private insurance. Your relationship with the insurer you choose will certainly be affected deeply by the ACA's regulations, but most people still won't understand exactly how.
Among the consequences are that Republicans will be absolutely free to continue to blame every problem anyone has with the health care system on Obamacare, without concern of producing a backlash from the law's supporters.
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For many—most?—liberals, the aftermath of the 2000 election is like an old injury that won't heal. Most of the time you don't think about it, but if someone touches it, the old pain flares up again. Despite Antonin Scalia's frequent admonition to "Get over it!", doing so is awfully hard. Had George W. Bush been a run-of-the-mill Republican president, it might have been easier. But he wasn't; he was an epically awful president whose ability to cut such a far-reaching path of destruction made him exceptional.
Since the 2012 election, there's a story we've heard over and over about Republicans and the Latino vote. After spending years bashing immigrants, the party got hammered among this increasingly vital demographic group in this election, whereupon the party's more pragmatic elements woke up and realized that if they don't convince Latinos that the GOP isn't hostile to them, they risk making it impossible for themselves to win presidential elections. They've got one shot on immigration reform: pass it, and they can stanch the bleeding, or kill it, and lock in their dreadful performance among Latinos for generations.
This story is mostly true. But I'm beginning to wonder if it isn't already too late for the GOP to win Latinos over. It's going a little far to suggest that Latinos could become the equivalent of African-Americans, giving 90 percent or more of their votes to Democrats in every election. But is it possible that so much damage has already been done that even if immigration reform passes, Republicans won't see any improvement in their standing among Latinos?
In recent weeks, rumors have been swirling around the sports world that a currently active male athlete from one of the four major sports—baseball, football, basketball, and hockey—was about to come out as gay. Today, we found out who it is: NBA center Jason Collins, in an upcoming cover story for Sports Illustrated, reveals his sexuality to the world. Collins, a journeyman who has played for six teams, is at the tail end of his career—he's 34—and is what is referred to as a "defensive specialist," meaning he doesn't score very much. Nevertheless, this is a significant moment.
President Obama exercising his charm, to no avail. (White House photo)
You'd think that if you're an experienced political reporter for the Washington Post, after a while you would have acquired a sense of how things happen in the nation's capital these days—how legislation gets passed, how the different power centers in town relate to each other, and what factors do and don't matter in determining the outcome of events. Yet for some unfathomable reason, we're still talking about whether Barack Obama can exercise his "personal charm" or "powers of persuasion" on members of the Republican party, convincing them to vote for things they're otherwise inclined against. Here's an article from today's Post: