The health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act came online Tuesday, and judging by most accounts, their main problem was a good one: popularity. Some of the exchange sites saw so much traffic from people interested in signing up for Obamacare that they bogged down…and in the sound of those webservers crashing, we can hear the doom of the Tea Party wing of the Republican party.*
Obamacare is a disaster, we’ve heard again and again, and the Tea Party types have done their best to ensure that reality confirms their hopes, from pressuring the NFL to creating fake Obamacare cards for college students to burn. More than a failure, health care reform was evil incarnate: socialism! Tyrrany! Destined to fundamentally undermine our Way Of Life and condemn our children to slavery, no doubt in the Spice Mines of Kessel!
Except all along, plenty of conservatives knew that Obamacare wasn’t likely to go away once it was established, assuming it worked — in their eyes, because people won’t stop suckling on the government teat once they’re attached to it (Democrats might have a different characterization). Assuming that they can’t kill it legislatively, their best hope is that it would fail catastrophically, either because of technical problems or because people would actively resist it.
The technical problems are there — Fox News is cataloguing them lovingly — but those will crop up in any huge database project and will likely be solved before they keep too many people from signing up. But combined with the fact that Obamacare insurance premiums are coming in lower than expected, the flood of public interest indicates success, since it shows that the uninsured actually WANT to take advantage of their opportunity to get coverage. And therein may lie the doom of the Tea Party wing of the conservative movement.
Basically, Ted Cruz and cohorts have bet the farm on an Obamacare failure, and if it succeeds instead, their intellectual credibility is shot — along with that of a huge chunk of the ideological frenzy against Obama himself. Not among the true believers, of course (they’ll never cotton to the notion of a Kenyan socialist Muslim in the White House) but if the anti-Obamacare movement turns out to look like hysteria, many voters casually inclined toward the Tea Party might just start to question what Fox ,et al, have been telling them all around for the last half-decade. “Won’t get fooled again,” as G.W. Bush once put it, and the great danger to the Tea Party is that its more casual supporters decide that their emperor has no clothes.
For Democrats and liberals/progressives, that makes the Obamacare website crashes the best news of all. Tea Party Republicans may have decided hold hostage the functioning of government and the full faith and credit of the United States of America for now, but the fact that the uninsured WANT the new system means that this fight is essentially their last. And once they lose it, and enough people see the hollowness of their howling, we’ll see how many teeth are left in the Tea Party’s bite. 2014 might be a different kind of year than most of us have been expecting.
*Yes, I know that webservers don’t make noise when they crash, any more than they melt down into a heap of slag. It’s a metaphor.