It’s not 2010.
As Republicans preach hatred of Obamacare to a dwindling audience even among their own members, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear chose to use the Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast to make a powerful case for Obamacare to 1,600 diners.
Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, also attending, weren’t expecting the onslaught. Jill Lawrence reported, “It was not what anyone expected—least of all Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, who sat stone-faced onstage with Beshear as he unloaded on them without using names.”
Beshear finished with a stab to the heart of GOP’s NoCare, no alternative. “It’s amazing to me how people who are pouring time and money and energy into trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act sure haven’t put that kind of energy into trying to improve the health of Kentuckians,” according to the National Journal.
That’s quite a flip of the narrative from the defensive, taken off guard Democratic apology tour of 2010. “We’re so sorry we’re trying to help you not get screwed by insurance companies” isn’t as appealing as “What have you done to help improve the health of your constituents?”
The National Journal reported that Beshear compared health insurance to “the safety net of crop insurance” and said farmers need both. His relentless onslaught continued:
He said 640,000 Kentuckians—15 percent of the state—don’t have health insurance and “trust me, you know many of those 640,000 people. You’re friends with them. You’re probably related to them. Some may be your sons and daughters. You go to church with them. Shop with them. Help them harvest their fields. Sit in the stands with them as you watch your kids play football or basketball or ride a horse in competition. Heck, you may even be one of them.”
“We’ve ranked that bad for a long, long time. The Affordable Care Act is our historic opportunity to address this weakness and to change the course of the future of the commonwealth. We’re going to make insurance available for the very first time in our history to every single citizen of the commonwealth of Kentucky.”
About half the audience burst into applause at that point while the other half sat on their hands. But he wasn’t done. He cited a study that showed the law would inject about $15.6 billion into the Kentucky economy over eight years, create 17,000 new jobs, and generate $802 million for the state budget.
The Governor might have surprised Senator Rand Paul, who later lamely claimed that he doesn’t do partisan topics at nonpartisan events like the Ham Breakfast (and then proceeded to list off some partisan topics in the way that Republicans do, assuming everyone agrees with them – so that “partisan” means “doesn’t agree with me”), but he knows very well that Beshear chose well.
Beshear was speaking to the farmers at the breakfast, and according to the Center for Rural Affairs, “rural residents are responsible for nearly 22 percent more of their total health care costs (premiums and out-of-pocket costs) than are urban or suburban residents.” Thus the provisions of Obamacare will be very important for the rural community. A new study for the Center for Rural Affairs found:
Cost-sharing and limiting out-of-pocket medical expenses will be crucial for many rural families. The proportion of rural residents with nearly every chronic disease or condition is higher than in urban centers, and rural residents receive fewer regular medical checkups and routine diagnostic tests than they medically and statistically should.
Cost-sharing will allow rural Americans to obtain the tests and checkups they should at lower cost, potentially enhancing their long-term health.
When it comes down to it, Republicans are stuck making the argument that healthcare is partisan, and only the Democrats have a plan for healthcare for Americans. McConnell tried to use the Teamsters Union against Obamacare, as if Republicans haven’t been trying to kill the unions. He did manage to get a cheer for his predictably lame “solution” — which was, of course, to kill Obamacare. Paul tried to rebut Beshear’s onslaught at the Ham Breakfast by making the argument that you shouldn’t want Obamacare because it’s not free — the fed has to pay for it and the fed is in debt.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare reduces the deficit. But arguing about the deficit as a reason to ignore personal health and perhaps life saving help is weak at best. Yes, a Republican audience will love Rand and McConnell’s arguments, but the problem comes when those ideas come crashing up against personal need. The instinct for self-preservation is stronger than hatred for Obama, fear of “Socialism”, and concern about the deficit (all of which are most often rote, jingoistic team cheers of the base rather than real emotional engagement with an issue).
The truth is that Republicans don’t have a logical argument against Obamacare, especially as it was partially based on their own ideas. And that is why they are devolving into what appears to be their 2014 Hail Mary — lying to their base about the possibility of impeaching Obama.
As if they didn’t already sound crazy enough.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.