As Washington decrees the Tea Party-backed refusal to fund the government a failure, it seems at least possible that the strategy may have inadvertently achieved its goal of doing damage to Obamacare by forcing President Obama to roll out the Healthcare.gov website prematurely.
There now is little question that the Obamacare website – which allows people to sign up for insurance through the health care exchanges – is not only an abject failure. It’s also clear that the administration was well aware it was going to fail – whatever the traffic levels.
According to the Washington Post, the website crashed “days before the launch” in a simulation conducted by government officials and contractors who tested only a few hundred users trying to log in at once. Catastrophe at launch time was inevitable, egg was destined for all faces involved, and the public was bound to be frustrated and disappointed.
The decision to move ahead anyway makes sense, though, if you look at the context of the October 1 rollout. Because as a political matter, a delay is the one thing the White House could not allow.
Obama and Republicans were engaged in PR warfare over conservatives’ vow to end funding for the government and refuse a debt ceiling increase unless the Obamacare exchanges were delayed for a year. October 1, by awful coincidence for the White House, was also the very day the money would run out as the fiscal year ended, and the shutdown would begin.
The White House believed Republicans held a losing hand and would suffer politically for their stance. But delaying Obamacare would have amounted to a stunning reversal in the shutdown battle, giving sudden credence to the the conservatives’ argument that Obamacare must be pushed back.
By delaying Obamacare for even several months, the White House would have appeared to be caving in to GOP demands. Valid claims that the website wasn’t ready might even have been laughed off by analysts who would have pronounced Obama a weakling who buckled under pressure from the Tea Party.
And so the White House went ahead and let the website go live. It’s failure could cause the destruction of Obamacare itself. And conservatives, by sticking to their guns long enough, may have ruined Obamacare in a manner they never anticipated.
It’s a theory, true. But it helps make perfect sense out of what is an otherwise incomprehensible decision to unveil the lynchpin of Obamacare, even though it was bound to fail.