The ACA has never been more popularBottom Highlights, Latest Issue, Politically Aware Thursday, May 11th, 2017
Commentary: Politically Aware
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed with no Republican votes. It’s a favorite talking point of the right, or was until Tuesday. Obamacare is now bipartisan, thanks to 20 Republicans who voted against the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that squeaked through the House of Representatives by 217-213.
Did those 20 Republicans, who ran on “repeal and replace,” suddenly decide that Obamacare was a good thing? Probably not – they just realized their constituents had.
Lest we forget, the ACA passed the House in 2010 by a similarly narrow margin, 219-212, despite Democrats having a larger majority than Republicans currently enjoy. That majority went up in smoke in November 2010, when Democrats lost 63 seats. Three elections later, the numbers have changed very little.
A similar decimation in state legislatures and governors’ mansions allowed Republicans to gerrymander safe seats for themselves in generally moderate states. Direct correlations are therefore difficult, but comparing the old and new maps shows that 13 of the representatives who voted against AHCA come from districts that are near or part of those that Democrats lost in 2010. 14 of them are from districts carried by Sec. Clinton in 2016.
Those Republicans saw what polls have shown, namely that the ACA has never been more popular. Despite benefits rolling out since 2012, the ACA has never had plurality support, languishing at a nine point net disapproval as late as 2016. Suddenly, it has a nine point net approval and is approaching 50 percent.
The increase is probably multifactorial. Some voters may have liked the law all along, but didn’t like President Obama. Some who enjoyed their benefits, along with some who found their benefits less than ideal, decided they liked the ACA better than a tax cut for the rich. Some probably just didn’t appreciate what they had until it was being taken away.
Whatever the motivations behind the numbers, Republicans should be afraid. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told her colleagues that those voting for the AHCA will have “every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead” and “glow in the dark.” Who would know better than the former speaker who has run her party, despite losses, while the winners ran their leader, former Speaker Boehner, out of town.
The biggest glowing targets will no doubt be on the nine Republicans from Clinton districts that voted “Yes.” (That bright light to the northwest is Rep. Darrell Issa, who almost lost in 2016.) Swing district “No” votes may be right behind them, as we learned in 2010, when nearly half the Democrats who didn’t support the ACA lost anyway.
Expect more races to come onto the map as AHCA stays in the news. The problem for Republicans is that while support for the ACA is now bipartisan, voter anger seems squarely on them. As the most conservative Democratic senator, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, noted in opposing the AHCA, voters may not like their health insurance, but “they’re going to know who took it away.”
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