Are CNN’s Poll Numbers on the Affordable Care Act a Mandate For Fiscal Conservatism?

A couple weeks ago, I formed an opinion likely to arouse consternation from both liberals and conservatives. While I have been a supporter of marriage equality since childhood, it was in 2012 that I came to the conclusion that the Republican Party was going to slowly chip away at its own pillars, so to speak, by continuing to oppose equal rights for gay people. My view is that even Chris Christie’s “everything but marriage” stance has fallen out of favor with voters and could end up sending the Republican Party to the political graveyard inhabited by the Federalist Party, the Democratic-Republican Party, and the Whig Party. More recently, however, I came to suspect that the Democratic Party may have its own spoke in the wheel, namely national health insurance. My theory was that gay rights was the biggest liability for the GOP, while national health insurance was the biggest liability for the Democratic Party and that whichever party became pro-gay rights and anti-national health insurance would probably end up in the driver’s seat politically.

To be perfectly clear, I have been on record in the blogosphere for the past three years as opposing national health insurance, even though I am an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama. I believe that the Affordable Care Act has been like the episode of Calvin and Hobbes in which Calvin notices that the faucet in the bathroom is leaking and tries to take it apart in order to fix it. By trying to take apart a running faucet, Calvin causes a flood in the bathroom. Lately, as Democrats have been bombarded with criticism over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and President Obama’s poll numbers have slipped, I have started to wonder if insisting on national health insurance could potentially thrust the Democratic Party out of power. As someone who votes based on gay rights, I will not abandon the Democratic Party over the issue of national health insurance, but I have been concerned that others might. There is polling data indicating both public support for gay marriage and public opposition to the Affordable Care Act. So does this mean that the American public is becoming socially liberal, yet fiscally conservative? Does this mean that Democrats will be more likely to win future elections if they reverse positions on national health insurance? While I would like to see the Democratic Party adopt a libertarian stance on health insurance, a closer look at the polling data on the Affordable Care Act suggest that this may not be a winning stance politically.

For a bit of trivia, can anyone tell me what former Senator-turned-Heritage Foundation president, Jim DeMint, has in common with former Representative-turned political pundit, Dennis Kucinich? At first glance, you might say they have nothing in common. DeMint is a poster boy for just about every conservative cause out there, and Dennis Kucinich is so liberal he makes Barack Obama look like Ann Coulter. But, in fact, one of the only things that DeMint and Kucinich have in common is that neither one of them was very happy with the Affordable Care Act. But of course, they were unhappy about it for totally different reasons. DeMint thought the act was too liberal, Kucinich thought it was too conservative. For instance, Kucinich was frustrated with the fact that the bill did not include a public health care option or allow states to pursue a single payer system. Now, that brings me to the fine print of the CNN polling data. In CNN’s December poll, people were asked if they favored or opposed the Affordable Care Act. Only thirty-five percent favored it. However, fifteen percent of those opposed said that they opposed the Act because it was not liberal enough. Only forty-three percent of the total people being polled stated that they opposed it because it was too liberal, leaving fifty percent of the people saying they either supported the Act or thought it did not go far enough. In essence, many observers, including initially me, failed to notice that the strong opposition reflected in CNN’s poll numbers included people who agree with Jim DeMint and people who agree with Dennis Kucinich. A good analogy would be that laissez-faire capitalists like Albert Jay Nock and Socialists like Norman Thomas were both critical of the New Deal, but obviously not for the same reasons.

My reaction to this is conflicted. On the one hand, as someone who has recently started considering themselves a Democrat and will probably register with the party in 2016, I cannot help but feel some sense of relief. These poll numbers indicate that the apocalyptic picture right-wing news outlets are painting for the future of the Democratic Party may be inaccurate. On the other hand, I am concerned about the fact that the American public appears to be in support of national health insurance, as I believe that such a system opens the door for increasing government control over our lives. It has always been my view that if a person has unusual tastes in food and drink and therefore wants to consume nothing but bacon and Scotch, that is their right. Such a “live and let live” system only works, however, when the public is not forced to foot the bill for the bad health decisions of individuals. Once everyone’s doctor bills are put on the taxpayers’ tab, it becomes harder to maintain a system in which people live their lives the way that they see fit. Furthermore, forcing people to buy something whether they want it or not is a violation of free choice, while allowing people to wait until they get sick or injured before buying insurance wreaks havoc on premiums. Perhaps what this blog post and the poll numbers show is that there are no easy solutions to America’s health care problems and that while people on all sides of the issue should stand firm in their beliefs, a dose of understanding and respect would be a welcome addition to the Affordable Care Act debate.

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