The key to major Democratic electoral victories this year will be getting our base voters out to the polls. This indicates the most pressing question of all: How do we get them out to vote?
I am strongly in support of efforts like the DSCC's to focus on getting as many voters registered as possible. However, that doesn't necessarily mean they will be motivated enough to show up in November.
And while those of us who frequent websites like Dailykos understand the importance of defeating the Republican Party and the talking points that support this position, for many of these voters who see this mostly as horse-race politics and an abstract, they don't come out to vote because for the most part, they don't feel like they have a horse of their own in the race.
Given these political realities, I think there is a simple strategy that will help Democrats motivate voters to come out to the polls in November, and do so overwhelmingly for Democrats.
Get as many people signed up for Obamacare as possible.
This means doing whatever it takes, from spending more on advertising on tv and radio and print, to funding more health care navigators, to even having community-wide Obamacare signup rallies. Political activists will go door to door and stand outside grocery stores to promote their various platforms and representatives, why not do the same thing to simply promote Obamacare, and send people out with laptops to get people signed up one at a time if we have to?
This kills two birds with one stone.
First, it gives many more Americans a horse of their own in the elections. People will have affordable health care, who didn't previously have it, and will suddenly have a tangible way to understand the importance of voting Republicans out of office. Republicans in the House have voted to repeal Obamacare 50 times. They have shut down our government and risked default over taking away Obamacare. Republican-controlled states have refused Medicaid expansion and contributed to the botched healthcare.gov rollout by not setting up their own exchanges. In short, Democrats will have a simple politically-winning message: Vote for us, or lose your affordable health care.
And second, it gets many more Americans affordable health care, which should be seen as a worthwhile benefit in itself. Not only will millions of Americans have healthcare who otherwise would not have had the resources they needed to be able to sign up, or might have just chosen to take the penalty, but it means lower premiums and health care costs all around, which benefits us all.
Furthermore, instead of the average political campaign that only targets registered Democrats or swing voters, Obamacare is an issue Democrats can point to as helping Republican and Democrat and Independent alike.
For these reasons, the Democratic Party should treat getting people signed up through the Affordable Care Act as a viable political strategy.
According to Brainwrap's acasignups.net website, there were almost 50 million uninsured Americans pre-ACA. That means millions of people who are still not expected to gain insurance through the ACA. The thing is, there's no reason they can't be insured, other than ignorance of options, lacking some help to get signed up, or choosing to take the individual penalty.
There are two key demographic issues about these remaining millions of uninsured worth noting.
People of color are at higher risk of being uninsured than non-Hispanic Whites.Second, millions of these uninsured reside in key battleground states.
Individuals below poverty are at the highest risk of being uninsured, and this group accounts for 38% of all the uninsured (the poverty level for a family of four was $23,050 in 2012). In total, nine in ten of the uninsured are in low- or moderate-income families, meaning they are below 400% of poverty.
The uninsured rate among young adults was 27.4% in 2012, a decrease in recent years due in part to the ACA provision allowing them to remain on a parent’s private health plan until age 26. However, young adults continue to have a high uninsured rate compared to other age groups.
Arizona: 1.1 million uninsured
Georgia: 1.8 million uninsured
Florida: 3.9 million uninsured
Kentucky: 600,000 uinsured
Louisiana: 800,000 uninsured
Michigan: 1.1 million uninsured
Texas: 6 million uninsured
Total: over 15 million uninsured in only 7 states.
Now, these are the numbers of uninsured pre-ACA, meaning many have indeed signed up for insurance through the exchanges, or qualified for Medicaid, or qualified to remain on their parents' plans. I am merely using these numbers as a metric.
Still, they indicate one of the Republican Party's most important weak points in these states: For a lot of Americans in these states, access to affordable health care is an important issue. The very people the GOP is trying to convince to stay out of Obamacare are the people most likely to actually benefit from having health insurance. This is an Achilles Heel worth exploiting.
Throw in states with gerrymandered districts like Pennsylvania and New Jersey with large populations of uninsured, and getting more people signed up on Obamacare could be the final ingredient to building a Democratic wave this year.
If anyone needs any more convincing that a successful Obamacare rollout is the key to political victory, one need only look at how much Republicans have invested in undermining Obamacare as the key to theirs.
Simply countering the GOP and Koch's propaganda against Obamacare is a futile effort, at best a valid attempt at damage control. However, just by getting more and more Americans signed up with Obamacare each day, the Democrats will have a growing contingent of grateful, perhaps even vocal supporters, a contingent that simultaneously detracts from the GOP's. Where the GOP only has bluster, Democrats will have substance.
Here's my proposal: Between now and March 31, the Democratic Party should devote at least half of their political resources towards advertising and outreach to get people to sign up on the health insurance exchanges, with the goal of reaching the CBO's estimate of 6 million uninsured. Ideally, we'd even set optimistic higher goals of the original 7 million, even 10 million because why not, 10 million is a nice even number, so reaching 6 million along the way would just seem like an afterthought.
There are already 3 million signed up with about 40 days left, meaning we would have to average 75,000 more signups per day. That is not unreasonable. As a comparison, December averaged about 50,000 signups per day. But imagine if the Democratic Party devoted a large amount of their campaign funds and organized a concerted effort to reach more applicants and help them get enrolled. They could blow those numbers out of the water.
Regardless, all things considered, I think if the Democratic Party devoted many of their resources towards the goal of getting millions of more Americans insured, not only would they reap the political dividends in November, but Americans all over the country would reap dividends as well.
In their health, and their wallets.