Patterico's Pontifications

4/17/2012

Mediscare and the liberalism of fear

Filed under: 2012 Election — Karl @ 6:53 am



[Posted by Karl]

Ross Douthat recently opined on the two faces of liberalism — the optimistic central planner and the demagogue who responds whenever the issue of the collective cost of the plans becomes an issue.  RTWT, as I intend to focus on his cautionary note for this year’s election:

In parts of the conservative press, the president’s increasingly scorched-earth rhetoric is being treated as a sign of his desperation. By resorting so quickly to partisan demagoguery, this argument goes, Obama is effectively conceding that he has nothing else to run on – that his policies are unpopular, that his agenda has largely been rejected, and there is no positive case for a second term that any swing voter is likely to be persuaded by.

There is truth to this: Obama’s legislative achievements are strikingly unpopular. ***

But elections won on fear count just as much as elections won on hope. It was fear that gave George W. Bush the edge over John Kerry in 2004, and it was fear that saved the Bill Clinton from political extinction. (Clinton’s rightward pivot helped him win re-election, but his willingness to savage the Dole-Gingrich Republicans on Medicare was just as crucial to his victory.)

Douthat is likely overstating the situation.  Presidential elections are mostly referenda on the incumbent or the incumbent party.  Jay Cost looked at 2004 and found:

The election that year was a referendum on Bush: people who disapproved of him voted overwhelmingly for Kerry; people who approved of him voted overwhelmingly for Bush. In fact, the Bush approvers/Kerry voters were more numerous than the Bush disapprovers/Bush voters.

Indeed, from Cost’s data it looks like this dynamic was even more true in 1996, when only 4% of Clinton disapprovers voted for Clinton.  Moreover, it seems unlikely that dynamic was due to Ross Perot’s third-party run, as 9% of George H.W. Bush disapprovers voted to reeelect him in 1992, when Perot was a bigger vote-getter.

Nevertheless, Douthat may have a point in identifying Mediscare as part of Clinton’s relative overperformance relative to the economy in 1996.  In the 1996 exit polling, Medicare came in as the second-largest “top issue” to voters.  However, the top “top issue” in 1996 —  the economy/jobs — was the top issue to only 21% of voters, and appears to have helped Clinton.

Can Obama exploit Medicare the way Clinton did?  Probably not.  In 2012, the economy and unemployment are likely to be the top issue with many more voters and not very likely to help Obama.  As of last month, Medicare was an asterisk in Gallup’s open-ended poll of the most important issue to Americans.  More broadly, “healthcare” looks to be a secondary or tertiary issue in most polls, although Gallup suggests it could be as important as economic issues.  Unfortunately, such results are of limited use, as “healthcare” is not the same as “Medicare” and the response likely encompasses things like dissatisfaction with the existence or operation of Obamacare.

Pres. Obama will probably continue to demagogue the House GOP budget on Medicare.  But likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney will probably continue to point out that the unpopular Obamacare law is supposed to be funded with $500 billion in (ahem) “future savings” from Medicare.  Moreover, polls from sources as diverse as Kaiser and Reason suggest the arguments that reform is necessary to save Medicare and will not affect current retirees both create potential majority support for the GOP approach.

–Karl

7 Responses to “Mediscare and the liberalism of fear”

  1. Ding!

    Karl (6f7ecd)

  2. Good post.

    The Dems will in fact pursue a Mediscare strategy this fall, especially in Florida and Ohio, which have very old demographics.

    The danger to Romney and thus to the country should not be dismissed so easily. Many seniors are very diminished and therefore quite vulnerable to being duped by the media/Democrat machine into voting against Republicans.

    Although this threat should be mitigated by the horrendous economy, you also have to factor in that Florida has a much higher than average percentage of blacks (who will vote at least 95-5 for Obama) and Ohio’s black demographic, although smaller in relative size than Florida’s, is extremely militant from a political standpoint and will turn out in November in huge numbers.

    Team Romney can’t simply rely on seniors being able to separate fact from fiction. That would be a recipe for a prospective disaster. It’ll be necessary then to get on the idiot box in Florida and Ohio and to run millions of dollars in preemptive and counter advertising to blunt the Democrats’ Mediscare pitch. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

    Tsar Nicholas II (89a442)

  3. I am a senior citizen and I just cannot understand why seniors would fall for the Democrats’ message about their protecting Medicare when anyone who has been reading EVEN THE LIBERAL PAPERS KNOW that the DEMS CUT MEDICARE $500 BILLION to help pay for Obamacare.

    Seniors are dying today because the implemented provisions in Obamacare that force doctors to prescribe drugs instead of pacemakers for seniors in their 80’s. The Dems are not for Seniors — they are for BIG GOVERNMENT statism.

    JoyO (9a8bfd)

  4. Karl – If you want some Mediscare, containment needs to be broken on the trustees’ report with the illustrations showing solvency calculations assuming Congress keeps approving the doc fix.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  5. JoyO,

    Don’t forget that Obama denied that Obamacare included Medicare cuts on the stump. Remember the ‘we’re just going to be cutting out tests that aren’t needed anyway’ and ‘we’re only cutting out the waste’ statements repeated ad infinitum? In newsreports if it came up at all it would come up in the last paragraph of a 15 paragraph story. The media did it’s best to hide it from the public.

    East Bay Jay (2fd7f7)

  6. It’s all about the Fear & Loathing. We say they’re wrong, they say we’re evil. But remember, THEY supposedly are the kind & compassionate ones.

    Icy (ad6a1f)

  7. 5. Or that Medicare was so efficient only 3.5% of cost went to overhead. Maybe fraud should be added to overhead foregone?

    gary gulrud (d88477)


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