It certainly isn’t lost on Barack Obama’s opponents that the president is expected to let today’s second anniversary of health reform, his signature legislative achievement, pass by without any fanfare.
“For a president who isn’t particular shy about taking credit, even for things he didn’t have anything to do with, he is curiously silent,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor earlier this week.
Obama’s spokesman essentially confirmed the president’s silence on the Affordable Care Act’s second birthday, and said the administration was not focused “on discussing anniversaries, particularly, although I’m sure others will want to discuss this,” Healthwatch reported.
At first blush, Obama’s anticipated silence on ObamaCare seems a little odd. If the president doesn’t want to take a victory lap, then at least why not take the opportunity to further educate the public about why he believes the law will improve healthcare in the U.S.?
Is the silence simply a case of Obama wanting to stay out of the way in advance of health reform’s highly anticipated appearance in front of the Supreme Court next week?
Unfortunately for Obama, there are much better reasons than that to downplay health reform. Foremost is that public opinion on health reform has remained remarkably consistent over the last two years. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that about 50 percent of respondents disapprove of ObamaCare, while 40 approve of it — nearly identical to the results the poll showed two years prior.
That suggests that no matter what or how much public praise the Obama administration lavishes on the law, health reform has essentially plateaued in popularity. At this point, it appears that health reform just isn’t an issue that’s going to help Obama much in November.
What’s worse for Obama is that other polls suggest that while much of the American public doesn’t particularly understand what’s in health reform, it doesn’t really matter whether they do. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that a substantial portion of the population doesn’t particularly care about the details of health reform; they’re going to oppose the legislation no matter what because they’re so fed up with the federal government and Washington, D.C., politicians in general.
The Kaiser poll of people who held unfavorable views on health reform late last year revealed that 44 percent said their opposition was more due to “general feelings about the direction of the country and what’s going on in Washington right now.” Just 25 percent of those who held unfavorable views of health reform said that opposition was “more about what [they] know of the healthcare law.”
Viewed within that context, it seems that health reform was dead on arrival for a fairly large chunk of the American population. For these people, the substance of the law, what it could do to help them, how it could change the healthcare system and so on, was and is simply irrelevant.
Obama has correctly realized that no amount of facts or logic will sway many Americans on health reform, so he’s better off just shutting up.