The minute the vote count hit 216 in the U.S. House of Representatives in favor of the health care reform bill on Mar. 21, Facebook statuses exploded across the nation. While some applauded the historic moment and celebrated the passage of the biggest social legislation in decades, it was much more amusing to read the ignorant lamenting of those who believed we had entered an era of “socialist America.” As I scanned through dozens of posts, I found many vowing voter revenge and metaphorical electoral blood in November.
This isn’t just limited to the crazies in the Tea Party or the uninformed on Facebook. Elected GOP officials have promised to campaign this fall on repealing the health care reform bill. But not only will this promise prove to be electorally and procedurally impossible, this campaign strategy will also be costly. By campaigning on the platform of repeal, Republicans will narrow themselves even more toward their base and the fringe right, pushing away moderates and independents.
There is no argument that the Republicans and other right-wing groups won the battle of framing the bill and thus it’s perception by the public. It was completely on Republicans’ terms that this bill was presented to the public. This manifested itself in the despicable actions of Tea Partiers as they shouted racial slurs at African-American Rep. John Lewis (D–Ga.), called openly gay Rep. Barney Frank (D–Mass.) a “faggot” and posted Rep. Tom Perriello’s (D–Va.) brother’s home address on a blog and told other Tea Partiers to “stop by.” These antics didn’t cease once inside the House of Representatives either, as Rep. Bart Stupak (D–Mich.) was called a “baby killer” by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R–TX) — taking a page right out of Rep. Joe “You lie!” Wilson’s playbook.
Republicans have perpetuated misinformation and an atmosphere of mass hysterical Armageddon. This has led to a lack of knowledge about the bill among the public. Despite the fact that there isn’t a public option, many believe they are now under a single-payer system or a government takeover of health care. Despite the fact that there are no “death panels,” many still believe they exist. Despite the fact that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill will reduce the deficit by $143 billion during the first 10 years and then $1.2 trillion during the second decade, many are still unconvinced by these numbers. However, now that the bill has passed and portions will begin to be implemented, this is no longer a battle of framing or perception but a battle of actual material benefits — benefits people don’t want taken away.
Though public support for the health care bill as a whole is divided, polls describing the individual provisions of the bill show high public approval. According to a CNN poll conducted in mid-February, 72 percent of Americans agree with employer mandates for mid-sized and large businesses, 62 percent approve of making it illegal to drop insurance for those who are seriously ill and 58 percent agree with preventing insurance companies from denying aid to those with pre-existing conditions.
This shows that though Americans have been duped by the right-wing spin machine, they are largely in favor of the bill’s reforms. It will be incredibly difficult for Republicans to campaign in the fall by telling young adults that they will take away their ability to stay on their parents’ health insurance policies or by suggesting that those with pre-existing conditions deserve to be denied coverage. Once voters enjoy the benefits of the bill, they certainly won’t vote for them to be taken away.
There certainly will be blood in November, but it might just be the Republicans’ own. Of course, while midterm elections are always more difficult for the president’s party, Republicans might want to reconsider their campaign strategy. It is a bad political message to run on repealing what’s already done, with no declaration of what your party plans to accomplish. And while everyone enjoys watching the desperate acts of a party in a train wreck, I’m not too sure that many people will enjoy voting for it.
Will Butler is an LSA freshman.