Press Draws Lame 2010 ObamaCare Parallel in Predicting Big 2018 GOP Midterm Losses

During the past month, many establishment press pundits have pivoted from believing that Republicans will suffer major losses in the 2018 midterm elections because they haven't accomplished anything to predicting that Republicans will suffer major losses now that they have.

They're now saying that the just-signed tax law, which they have declared is and will remain deeply unpopular (if so, that will be thanks mostly to their beat reporters' dishonest coverage), likely causing the GOP to lose a large number of seats, just as ObamaCare's passage led to serious Democratic Party losses in 2010. These attempts to draw a parallel fail for one obvious reason: ObamaCare's effective date was deliberately delayed for almost four years, while the just-signed tax law has gone into effect immediately.

Here's a rundown of some of the "thinking," if it's even fair to call it that.

Chris Cillizza at CNN was an early adopter on December 3 (HT to a longtime emailer; bolds are mine throughout this post):

There is an argument to be made -- and it will be made by Republicans -- that people don't really know what's in this bill, and once they find out, they will change their minds. Possible. But not probable. That same argument was put forward by the Obama White House and Congressional Democrats about the ACA; the legislation caused huge Democratic losses in the House and Senate in 2010 and 2014 before it finally began to grow more popular this year, when Republicans tried to get rid of it. That's a stiff price to pay.

What Republicans passed in the wee hours of Saturday morning then was this: An unpopular bill that will add to the deficit and not pay for itself.

At the Five Thirty Eight blog, Harry Enten wrote the following on Monday (links are in original):

... nothing in the polling to suggest that voters want the GOP to simply “pass something.” There’s also nothing in recent history that supports that line of thinking.

Indeed, for a while at least, Congress wasn’t in the habit of passing clearly unpopular bills. The closest analog, however, might be the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. That bill was unpopular with the American public (though, not as unpopular as the GOP’s tax plan). Nevertheless, then-President Obama argued that his party needed to pass the health care bill to save Democrats’ fate in the midterm elections that year.

Caitlin Huey-Burns at Real Clear Politics had a similar take on Wednesday:

The partisan measure has drawn parallels to the Democrats' passage of the Affordable Care Act and the political repercussions it had for the party in the 2010 midterms. Back then, Democrats argued that public perception of bill would improve with the passage of time and the implementation of the law. But Republicans won 63 House seats that year and control of the chamber. Even Democrats who did not vote for the health care overhaul lost their seats, as they were tainted by the national party. Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi was unpopular, and Republicans successfully used her as a boogeyman.

Ronald Brownstein wrote the following at The Atlantic on Wednesday:

The Double-Edged Sword of a Party-Line Victory

President Trump and congressional Republicans have just taken the same leap of faith that Democrats did when they passed the Affordable Care Act.

When then-President Obama and the Democratic House and Senate majorities muscled through the ACA in 2010, the bill represented a big policy victory, but an even bigger political gamble. Though ObamaCare fulfilled the party’s decades-long goal of providing (nearly) universal health care, the immediate backlash in the 2010 election helped propel Republicans to the biggest midterm gain in the House for either party since 1938 and gave them a majority in the chamber they still haven’t relinquished.

Republicans could face a similar equation of costs and benefits from the tax bill they just passed.

Though she didn't make an ObamaCare parallel, Ginger Gibson at Reuters, which is supposed to be a wire service delivering fact-based news, inexplicably claimed that "Pollsters believe the midterms could be a rare 'wave election,' when one party seizes back control of Congress. It happened for Republicans in 2010 and 1994" — as if that's a universal consensus — without citing a single pollster who is actually saying that.

None of these geniuses claiming that Republican tax cuts in 2018 will play just as poorly as Democrats' imposition of statist healthcare in 2010 have recognized one key difference: ObamaCare's implementation was deliberately delayed until 2014 (the first enrollment period was in late 2013), while the tax bill's impact has been immediately visible and will be seen in most paychecks very soon.

ObamaCare's implementation was delayed because, despite President Barack Obama's false bravado rhetoric, the administration and the Democratic Party knew it was unpopular and would remain that way. The implementation delay was a desperate attempt to limit its 2010 fallout, but voters saw through the hypocrisy. After all, if "solving" the problem of uninsured Americans was so urgent (which the bill didn't do anyway), why did Democrats delay ObamaCare's implementation for almost four years (almost all of 2010, and all of 2011, 2012, and 2013)? Democrats knew that the law was so unpopular that they didn't dare risk Obama's 2012 reelection by having it in place.

Additionally, virtually no one believed that ObamaCare would have any positive impact on the economy. There was plenty of evidence that it would be a significant drag during the run-up to its implementation, and that things would get even worse once it was in place — which is what happened. Meanwhile, the just-signed tax bill is expected to have a positive economic impact, some of which has already become immediately visible in the form of bonuses being paid to employees of several major corporations and announcements of increased capital investment plans by companies like Comcast.

Finally, ObamaCare's passage was premised on now-proven false Congressional Budget Office forecasts that it would be budget-neutral or even nominally reduce long-term deficits — a theoretical impact irresponsibly touted by the press which was only achieved based on collecting taxes for three full years before going live. Everyone with even basic analytical skills and an understanding of human behavior knew that wasn't true. In the tax bill's case, CBO's estimates of the projected increases in budget deficits naively assume that it won't cause an increase in economic activity and a resulting increase in tax collections above what has been projected. The overall point is that while ObamaCare had nowhere to go but down compared to CBO's work, the tax bill appears to have nowhere to go but up.

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If these pundits are so smart, why haven't they mentioned any of these items, all of which render ridiculous any attempt to draw parallels to 2010? As the folks at Instapundit have written so often, including just recently: "Just think of the media as Democratic activists with bylines," and it all makes sense.

Cross-posted at

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Campaigns & Elections 2018 Congressional Medical Insurance Double Standards Blogs Ron Brownstein Chris Cillizza Barack Obama Donald Trump