The latest threat to Obamacare comes from one of its supporters, Jonathon Gruber, an MIT economics professor who advised the Democrats on the law and has been caught several times on tape saying damaging things about it. “Grubergate” began with a video that surfaced in which the professor said a “lack of transparency” was necessary to pass the Affordable Care Act against the objections of the “stupid” American voter. Further videos then appeared. One showed Gruber arguing that with the ACA the federal government wanted to threaten states that did not set up exchanges by withholding federal money—a claim relevant to the newest legal challenge to the ACA, King v. Burwell. In another, Gruber said the Democrats pretended the law was about cost control when it was really about expanding insurance, again to convince the “stupid” American voter to embrace the law.Reactions to the videos have varied, with some pouncing on them as evidence against the ACA and others claiming they are unimportant. Over at Bloomberg Voice, Jonathan Bernstein pens a textbook example of a “nothing to see here” column:
Republicans in Congress are furiously plotting about how best to exploit it, but c’mon: It will have zero effect on Obamacare, on Barack Obama, or on anything or anyone else.Most of the time, what “everybody” is talking about disappears into nothingness incredibly quickly. Even things with considerable substance (Central American kids streaming over the border and Ebola just in the last few months, not to mention the war in Afghanistan) fade fast from the headlines and everyone’s memory with no appreciable political effect. […]What Gruber’s comments do is give Republicans new language to make the same points they were going to make anyway in the speeches they were going to give anyway in support of the repeal they were going to advocate for anyway. It will change nobody’s mind about a law that is now almost five years old.
Like Bernstein, the media and many Democrats do not fully understand just how corrosive this story is for them. Grubergate may not rise to the level of a Watergate-style scandal, but these videos will confirm voters in their increasing skepticism towards blue model governance, eroding their belief that it can offer solutions to important social problems. To the average American, these videos show an untrustworthy Administrative elite that is trying to enact its program while leaving voters in the dark. They expose a media that shills for the technocrats, playing along with their preferred narratives and sitting (whenever possible) on contrary evidence. And thy reveal an ugly nexus of the powerful, allegedly out for the public good, cashing in like bandits.Obamacare was meant to be the definitive demonstration that left liberal Democrats were smart enough, honest enough, and competent enough to be trusted with growing power at the federal level. But fewer and fewer Americans believe this. According to the Pew foundation, which has tracked the public’s trust in government since 1958, trust levels today are at historic lows. With stories like Grubergate, it’s no wonder. The Gruber revelations will not on their own destroy progressive governance. But they will contribute to historically low trust in government that could increasingly block liberal Democratic social initiatives.