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The Permanent Campaign: Did Obamacare Kill the Democratic Party?

By / 12.3.2014

In the latest phase of post-election analysis and spin, there’s a sort of two-front war underway in which Obama and the Democratic Party are being accused by intra-party critics from both the “center” and the “left” of having destroyed the winning coalition from 2008 by advancing health care reform instead of “addressing the economy” in 2009.

Sen. Chuck Schumer has made the loudest noise on this subject, arguing that Democrats took on a “job we weren’t hired to do” in pursuing the Affordable Care Act.  And in that respect, he’s backed by political columnist Thomas Edsall, who argues Democrats lost white seniors by pursuing a means-tested health care proposal instead of focusing on the needs of the middle class.

Both these lines of attack run parallel to a longstanding liberal “populist” argument that the Obama administration should have acted much more forcefully on the economy in 2009-10, via a bigger economic stimulus package or perhaps action to break up big banks and prosecute and punish bankers.

Yours truly responded at TPMCafe today with considerable skepticism about the evidence for both claims as examples of what one might call a “negative mandate” from an election more easily explained by other factors.  And in a separate analysis, I suggested Edsall is ignoring evidence that white seniors shifted dramatically away from Democrats in 2008, before the Affordable Care Act was developed.

This is an argument that will not be resolved any time soon–or at least before 20-20 hindsight fades.