President Barack Obama cancelled a planned Asia tour so he could deal with the government shutdown and looming debt ceiling fight. That’s just as well. It’s hard to sell American democracy overseas when it is working so unpredictably at home.
It’s hard to imagine how anyone overseas can figure out why the mighty U.S. government has been brought to a partial shutdown when even its participants don’t seem to know.
At first it seemed to be all about the Affordable Care Act, popularly or unpopularly known as “Obamacare.” In fact, the confusion begins with the name. As a CNBC poll found, Americans were more likely to be opposed to “Obamacare” than to the “Affordable Care Act,” even though they’re the same thing. That’s a tribute to the Republican side’s rebranding skills, which by some measures have been more successful against Democrats than in favor of Republicans.
Yet the poll also showed Americans were more likely to answer “don’t know” when asked how they felt about the ACA. In total, 46 percent of those polled were opposed to “Obamacare” and 12 percent said they didn’t know what it was. But when asked about the “Affordable Care Act,” only 37 percent opposed it, but 30 percent were unaware of what it was.
That’s a strike against the president’s marketing of his own signature health care program. He may have overestimated the intelligence or, at least, the interest of the American people.
Fortunately for the White House, their Republican opposition turned an advantage against themselves. Encouraged by polls that showed most of the public opposes Obamacare, they gave us something the public opposes even more: a government shutdown.
Speaker John Boehner and other House Republicans refused to approve a resolution to keep the government open past the Sept. 30 end of the old fiscal year unless Obamacare was repealed or scaled back.