5 reasons Republicans fear 'Obamacare'

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The Republican demands that Democrats and President Obama agree to defund, delay or otherwise hobble the Affordable Care Act, or they’ll push the U.S. economy out a 14-story window, may seem irrational to the untrained eye.

But in some ways, conservatives’ die-hard opposition to the law they derisively named “Obamacare” (a name picked up by Democrats and even the president), is entirely rational.

Why? Because of five factors that “thinking” conservatives see in the rear view mirror, and picking up speed.

4.7 million hits

The onslaught of traffic that caused massive glitches in the healthcare.gov website (more hits by 7 a.m. Tuesday than the site gets in a year) provided an excuse for Republicans to trash the ACA as a “disaster” waiting to happen. But the truth is, the huge demand is evidence of the fact that millions of Americans lack healthcare, but would like to have it.

The law may not be popular (or may be less popular depending on how you explain it) but the idea of having an insurance card so that you and your loved ones can see a doctor is quite popular. And if the administration reaches its target of 7 million people with brand new, federally subsidized insurance policies by January 1, when the coverage actually begins, that means…

7 million or more advocates of Obamacare

… and good luck trying to pass a law in a Republican-controlled congress, signed by a future Republican president, that repeals the law that gives them access to healthcare.

Not to mention who those newly insured are

Statistically, the uninsured are more likely to be one or more of three things: 1. young, 2. black, 3. Hispanic. And guess who Republicans already have a hard time getting votes from? Throw in new health care plans that help these very people survive a major illness, not to mention free health screenings and no lifetime caps on coverage, and no more exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and you might just give those voters a reason to go to the polls, even when Barack Obama isn’t on the ballot.

And then there’s where they are

Despite the fact that the hardest of the hardcore resistance to the ACA is in the south, and 7 of the 10 states that are both refusing to implement the health care exchanges and refusing the Medicaid expansion are in the south, the former Confederacy is home to the largest number and percentage of the uninsured. States like Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi have astronomical rates of poverty and lack of access to healthcare, which means that as people sign up for the ACA, many of them will be from that region. That could provide an opening for Democrats to also encourage those people to vote, and to vote Democratic.

‘Entitlements’ forever!

The other reason so many conservatives fear the full implementation of healthcare reform, is that history has shown that once a big social program is enacted in the U.S., it almost always gets expanded, rather than retracted or removed. Social Security started out as a limited old age pension, but it now covers all seniors. Medicare has grown to include Part D, which covers prescription drugs, and was signed by a Republican president (George W. Bush), and despite the GOP’s brutal opposition to “food stamps” and Medicaid, the TANF program has survived since the 1930s, and been modernized by congresses and presidents of both parties, to the point where “food stamp” coupons were replaced by debit cards, and Medicaid works in much the same way as an HMO. Republicans understand that once the ACA is embedded in the culture, it will be nearly impossible to take it away.

On the one hand, many conservatives fear that the cost of providing universal healthcare will balloon the deficit, and harm state coffers (once the generous federal subsidy to states for expanding Medicaid expires down the road — which many analysts say will probably not happen because the politics will embed them, too). Outside of the cost issue (to state and federal governments, and to businesses, for providing health insurance,) much of the Republican base, especially the Tea Party, is simply opposed to the idea of expanding health insurance with government help. They would prefer that people figure out how to get health care on their own. And if they can’t? Well, for many on the right, that’s not their problem.

Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @TheReidReport.