There is no denying that President Obama’s roll-out of the Affordable Care Act online registration platform was a PR disaster, and a headache for those members of the public trying to enrol in the exchange.
But there is one thing which I believe to be undeniable about the ACA (dubbed “Obamacare” by both supporters and detractors): it represented a good-faith effort by the President and his administration to address a crisis in our country.
Healthcare in the United States is more expensive, less accessible to all but the very wealthy, and often of a poorer quality than almost anywhere else in the developed world. It operates on a for-profit basis, something that seems truly unconscionable given that we’re talking literally about matters of life and death. It is operated not by any public body or institution or even under strong public guidance which has the interests of citizens at its core, but by private interests, heavily influenced by insurance and pharmaceutical industries which have incentives to avoid treating some people while mis-treating others.
And yet despite this good-faith effort to address what is undeniably a serious problem, virtually all of the President’s detractors have attempted to undermine this effort at every turn, to sabotage his reform agenda, and to discredit his administration, attacking the motives of people who I think are making a genuine effort to help people (and make no mistake, ACA will help many Americans).
It is now reported that Healthcare.gov has come under cyber-attack from right-wing groups who have created a tool called “Destroy Obama Care!” to allow people to attack the site and do their bit to kill healthcare reform.
There is something a little bit sick, and incredibly dispiriting about these attempts to undermine reform, to say nothing of the glee that right-wingers expressed when the ACA exchange website collapsed. Instead of trying to improve our healthcare system or give constructive input to reform, there are many people rooting for our government to fail in its efforts to ensure that we have better healthcare.
How did we come to such a pass? I don’t think it can be ideology alone, given the conservative nature of ACA and the extent to which it relies on market tools, which should please Republicans. Surely the same people who promote mandated religious instruction in school, mandates that prevent women from having abortions, or mandates which prevent gay couples from being married can’t be opposed to mandated health insurance, something which in a humane social democracy would benefit everyone, and which if it had the wide support of our elected representatives could be made to work well.
There seems to be a lot of hate at work. There is nothing else that I can think of which would explain what are such reflexive, ugly, and ultimately self-defeating attacks on the President and anything he says or does. That begs another question: what stands behind that hatred? Has people’s fear of economic uncertainty simply conditioned them to attack the highest authority they can see? Are people so insulated from different points of view that they derive their news purely from well-paid entertainers who make a living lying and scaring people? Has the right used latent racism to prevent some people from being able to engage civilly with the Obama administration? Is social democracy (and admittedly, ACA falls far short of this) really so anathema to people in the U.S.?
These are far bigger question than I can contemplate, but it is a rather tragic situation.