Is Obamacare now helping progressives?

Posted on September 16, 2014

Right-wingers and the media have spent the past few years confidently asserting that Obamacare is a political albatross. This was backed up by polls that mindlessly combined conservatives who opposed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) because it “goes too far” with  liberals who opposed the ACA because it “doesn’t go far enough.”

Now most pundits have switched direction, pointing out that Americans do not want to repeal the ACA, even in red states. Those writers now say that Obamacare is no longer a powerful political issue. But what if they’re wrong again?

2014 is a turnout election. Predictions of disaster are based on the assumption that the conservative base will show up to vote this November while the progressive base will not.

The best issues to turn out voters are those that directly impact them. One example is the minimum wage because it brings low-income voters to the polls so they can “vote themselves a raise.” The issue is already on the ballot in Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota, and as Richard Eskow argues, progressive candidates everywhere ought to loudly embrace the issue.

At this point, there are 23 states which—for purely partisan and nonsensical ideological reasons—have not expanded Medicaid coverage under Obamacare. This petulant inaction denies insurance coverage to about five million nonelderly adults, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Every one of these five million should be targeted for get-out-the-vote efforts. Progressives should be saying, essentially, “vote so your family will get health insurance coverage.”

About one-million of these potential voters are in Texas. About 750,000 are in Florida. About 425,000 are in Georgia. North Carolina and Pennsylvania each have about 300,000. Another two million of these potential voters are scattered across other red states.

This is a matter of life and death—and these are the Americans most at risk. Florida gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist understands the power of this argument. He says that every day six Florida residents die because the legislature has refused to expand Medicaid. This is based on a study in Health Affairs that says up to 17,000 people will die because their state refused the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.

So how about this for a strong GOTV message? If you don’t want to die, vote.