So far, the Obamacare website literally has been a joke. But don't take comedian Jon Stewart's word for it. Or mine. Or Jimmy Fallon's. Or Jay Leno's. That's what 60 percent of Americans say, according to the latest Fox News poll.
Who can blame them? News reports say fewer than one in 10 Americans who attempted to sign up were able to actually enroll. Not even the login experience could be made to work for a significant portion of the site's visitors. And those that did get in received bad information, encountered a calculator – a CALCULATOR! – that didn't work, along with other problems. And the insurance companies receiving these applications say they've received faulty info, blank information fields, spouses listed as children and on and on.
It's so bad even some electorally vulnerable Democrats in Congress have begun to suggest the law may not be ready for prime time.
And, as the Chicago Tribune and others have pointed out, the worst may be yet to come. The bugs, says the Trib, are not only in the computer but the law itself. The 30-hour work weeks. The counterproductive taxes and other gotcha features that have all but frozen hiring in this country. The high-profile companies that continue to look at the law and what it means to them choosing to run, not walk, away from offering benefits to employees. The enormous price hikes for many.
On top of this, more than half of Americans want the law repealed – not reformed or repaired but eliminated from the books. The numbers actually have not moved significantly on this as a result of the glitches, which means fixing the glitches won't fix this problem.
Moreover, three-fourths of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and can't afford uncertainty or large rate hikes. Younger, healthier Americans – the ones needed to make the actuarial tables work – now know they would be better off paying the modest fine than signing up.
And with elections now only about 13 months away, a strong, focused party that promised to fix the mess could realize enormous electoral gains. If only there were an opposition party poised to take advantage of this.
There is a party that in the past possessed the credibility to leap on this opportunity. Not one of its members voted for this monstrosity, and not one among them would oppose a measure to repeal it.
They are on record – more than 40 times for some members of the House of Representatives – voting against it and speaking out against it. Even those who "caved" on the shutdown and moved the legislation that ended it have perfect – yes, perfect – public records when it comes to denouncing and voting against the law.
But for this party to capitalize, it no longer can cannibalize. In the past, it has been able to coalesce around a few good ideas and otherwise let members "vote their districts." It has known to grade its purity tests on the Bell Curve and to win first, argue later.
This is that time. President Obama is burning through his credibility with all but his most ardent followers. Hillary Clinton, who seeks to replace him in 2017, is uniquely ill positioned – given her past efforts on Hillarycare – to disavow the program. Vice-President Biden is equally committed to going down with the ship.
But if this other party learned nothing else from the shutdown, it should have learned it remains a few electoral victories shy of being able to run the show. The president's tech surge – hundreds of millions of additional good dollars thrown after bad – eventually will address the glitches. What will be left is a program with enormous structural flaws that simply can't be engineered out.
This other party can achieve those victories and reclaim the commanding heights. But the effort has to start now. It's time for its heavyweights in the Senate to smoke the peace pipe and get out on the hustings and work to defeat the vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in Louisiana, Arkansas, Alaska and North Carolina.
The time for licking wounds has passed. It's time for this other party to re-emerge as one force united by one idea with one objective. How about it Republicans? Are you ready for the challenge?
- Read Susan Milligan: No Republican Tent Is Big Enough for the Radical Tea Partiers
- Read Pat Garofalo: Bank of America, ‘The Hustle' and an Overdue Guilty Verdict for Wall Street
- Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad