COMMENTARY | Republicans seem to be on the verge of destroying their advantage in the polls in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections. They’ve gone from a statistical dead heat to handing the Democrats a ten point advantage in surveys.
And as the shutdown continues and we head toward a default, it will only get worse. Independents are more than 3:1 against the policy of linking a continuing resolution to Obamacare. Even Republicans are divided on the policy (49% in favor of a shutdown, 44% against it in the aforementioned survey).
So why is the GOP bent on handing Democrats an even bigger majority in Congress, putting even their House of Representatives control into the hands of Nancy Pelosi again? After all, if Obamacare is that unpopular with the American people and so badly flawed that it won’t work, then implement it. Even Democrats would be willing to repeal it, with no strings attached.
But that’s not how the GOP sees it. According to Eduardo Porter, a New York Times reporter, it isn’t the failure of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that the Republicans fear; it’s the success of the program that has the party worried for the next several decades. Even Fox News acknowledged as much.
Yet the evidence doesn’t support the GOP position. All you need is knowledge of political history to see what happened.
Back in 1965, Democrats with their large Congressional majorities, passed supplements to the Social Security Act, called Medicare and Medicaid. I’ll bet those laws really set the GOP back for decades, right?
In the 1966 election, Republicans gained 47 seats in the House, and picked off three Senate seats, reversing some big losses the GOP conservatives suffered in 1964. The trends continued as the GOP slowly erased the Democratic supermajority in Congress in the next three elections after that, picking up a net total of 60 districts and Senate seats from 1966 to 1972. Without the Watergate disaster of the 1974 election, they might have taken over both chambers, as GOP successes continued into 1978 and 1980.
As for the Presidency, after Goldwater’s drubbing in 1964 (the GOP had only one winning candidate between 1932 and 1964, and that was Ike), Republicans started winning. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush didn’t just win, but often blew out their Democratic rivals. And none of those candidates called for the full repeal of Medicare and Medicaid.
Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole, however, railed against both programs in the 1990s, with the latter calling for its outright elimination. As a result, Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, and seem poised to make it six of seven in 2016, unless the GOP accepts the ACA. People may be split about Obamacare, but when asked about covering preexisting conditions, market exchanges, covering younger people on their parents’ policies, people give the ACA more support. And many of these were originally GOP ideas.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. Photo comes from a LaGrange, Ga. pharmacy.