President Obama clearly doesn’t get it. His post-election news conference showed he believes his health-care policy agenda was correct and may only need a bit of “tweaking.”
Despite his acknowledgement that Democratic incumbents took a “shellacking,” he did not back down from the policies that caused dozens of them to lose their seats.
President in Denial
The president clearly is in denial. Health-care reform was very much a key part of November’s elections: New poll results out from Bill McInturff and Public Opinion Strategies (POS) show that a vote for the president’s signature health-care law was a death knell for candidates.
McInturff found 52 percent of independents said their vote was a message opposing President Obama’s health-care plan; only 18 percent said their vote was a message of support. Those numbers were crucial in bringing down Democratic candidates in dozens of swing House districts.
All five of the House Democrats who flipped to support final passage of the law in March lost. Two others retired, and Republicans took their seats.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) were two rare Democrats who actively defended their votes for Obamacare. Both lost.
Voters who were basically told to shut up after last year’s tumultuous town-hall meetings about Obamacare patiently held their fire and flocked to the polls. Seniors in particular said they opposed the health overhaul by almost two to one, and they voted in greater numbers on Tuesday than they had in 2008.
POS found nearly seven in ten voters (69 percent) had seen ads about “the changes to the health care system that have been enacted by Congress and the Obama administration.” This is up significantly from the 42 percent recall in the POS October pre-election survey. And 70 percent said the ads they’d seen were critical of the Obama plan, 8 percent said the ads were supportive, and 20 percent said they recalled advertising on both sides of the issue.
Many House Democrats in swing districts who voted against the law survived basically by saying they know the law has serious problems and needs to be fixed.
President Won’t Reopen Debate
Still, the President is not backing down. While saying he is willing to work with Republicans to refine the law, he said it would be “misreading the election if we thought that the American people want to see us for the next two years relitigate arguments that we had over the last two years.”
So what does he plan to do? Based upon his news conference and subsequent statements, not much. He says the outcome of the law was good but the process of passing it was messy and the deals made to pass it turned people off.
Although the President said he would be open to considering changes to the massively unpopular requirement that businesses file 1099 forms with the IRS for all purchases over $600, he just doesn’t seem to hear how deeply Americans despise this law.
Repeal, Not Tweaks
In his news conference, the president said although “we can tweak and make improvements on the progress that we’ve made,” he doesn’t think Americans want to repeal provisions such as barring insurers from refusing to cover people with preexisting conditions or dropping people after they get sick.
“I don’t think that you’d have a strong vote for people saying, you know, ‘Those are provisions I want to eliminate,'” he said.
This is the slicing and dicing the administration has been doing all along in its health care messaging, focusing on a few small provisions of the law while the regulatory machinery is being built for a massive federal takeover of one-sixth of the economy.
The job of the next Congress will be to craft policies that forestall the wreckage of Obamacare in hopes they can buy time for a repeal of the whole bill in 2013. The American people know it needs a lot more than “tweaking.” The law is fundamentally and structurally opposed to the American values of freedom, limited government, and individual control over our lives and destiny.
Grace-Marie Turner ([email protected]) is president of the Galen Institute.