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Steve Speak

It’s not exactly a revelation that “ObamaCare” is supported by Democrats, controversial among independents and detested by Republicans.

A poll from a few weeks ago tells the story. Three out of four Democrats say they support the law. Among independents, the number stands at 37 percent. And with Republicans it’s all the way down at 6 percent – roughly on par with e-Coli.

But you know what’s really popular with all voters – Democrats, independents and even Republicans? The Affordable Care Act. Which is also known as “ObamaCare.”

Just consider what Reuters found when they asked voters this week about the key components of the law…



Or “subsidies on a sliding scale” to help those who can’t afford private insurance? Nearly 70 percent of independents are for that, and so are almost 60 percent of Republicans.

Banning insurers from denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions – and stopping them from getting rid of customers who come down with expensive illnesses? Republicans and independents overwhelmingly say, “Yes – do it!” A majority of Republicans even say they think companies with more than 50 employees should be required to offer insurance to their workers.

Some say this reflects a “messaging” failure on the part of Obama and his fellow Democrats – if only they’d explained what’s in the law better, combated the death panel lie more vigorously, or …hater your favorite strategic criticism is.

I don’t buy it. I think the lesson is simpler, and a little more depressing: You can’t do big things in government without a big backlash.

Part of this has to do with partisanship. When you get down to it, most of us are loyal to one party or the other, even if we call ourselves independents. And that means we tend to think like partisans, deciding which side we’re on first, then working backward to justify why. The result is what we see here: Obama enacts a healthcare law chalk full of Republican ideas, Republicans respond by crying “Socialism!”

But there are, it’s true, some voters who really don’t think like partisans and really are independent. But they also lead busy lives. They haven’t read the law – it’s 2,700 pages long, maybe you’ve heard – but they have spent the last two years hearing all sorts of overheated, incomprehensible partisan noise about it. So what do they do? They err on the side of caution and say, “Maybe we’re going too fast with this big, controversial law.”

I doubt there was any way around this for Democrats. There wasn’t, isn’t, and never will be a simple, magical argument to sell something as sweeping as a healthcare reform law. The only thing that will bring the public around is time – and the Supreme Court will decide tomorrow if Democrats will get that.