Regardless of whether the Republicans win enough seats for a majority in the U.S. Senate, there's a very real possibility that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will be defeated by Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. But if the traditional news media continues to miss one of the most damning stories on McConnell, it could swing the election away from Grimes and back into the Republican win column.
The other night, the candidates squared off in a televised debate, and the news media takeaway played directly in McConnell's favor: Grimes continues to sidestep questions about whether she voted for President Obama and, as Tommy Christopher pointed out, her question-dodging prompted NBC News's Chuck Todd to outrageously suggest that by refusing to answer the question Grimes has "disqualified herself." This is somehow the big national story: Grimes's choice for president, and why she refuses to discuss her votes. Again, we're not talking about legislative votes or even decisions she's made as Kentucky's Secretary of State -- her choices in the voting booth.
Between this and the wall-to-wall Ebola hysteria, the traditional news media has attained full clown-show status. Chuck Todd might as well be wearing giant red shoes, squirting Joe Scarborough with a seltzer bottle, while a chimp on roller skates flogs Willie Geist with a cartoon-sized Wiffle bat.
What's been almost entirely overlooked out of Kentucky, regardless of the cable news venue, is an issue that speaks directly to the rotting core of the Republican Party. McConnell keeps insisting that he will help to repeal the Affordable Care Act, aka. "Obamacare," even though a plurality of Kentuckians love the ACA insurance marketplace there, known as "Kynect." On top of that, 60 percent of Kentuckians support the expansion of Medicaid, as authorized by the ACA. By the way, that 60 percent? I should clarify: it's 60 percent of Kentucky Republicans. Kentucky Republicans by a supermajority margin support the expansion of Medicaid per the dreaded Obamacare law. Support rises to 79 percent among all Kentuckians.
Yet Mitch McConnell wants to repeal the law. Sort of.
In Monday night's debate, McConnell said:
The [Kynect] website can continue, but in my view, in the best interest of the country would be achieved by pulling out Obamacare root and branch. And let me tell you why. In order to try to provide subsidies for the uninsured, there were roughly 40 million of 'em, put another way, 85 percent of Americans had health insurance, Obamacare took 700 billion out of the program for the elderly and used it as a piggy bank -- put 700 billion dollars out of Medicare over the next 10 years in order to provide a subsidy for people who are not old, and not poor.
Did you get that? McConnell wants to keep the Kentucky marketplace, financed through the ACA and the federal government, but he also wants to rip out the entire law -- "root and branch." Sadly, this glaring contradiction panders to the ignorance of Kentucky voters who incongruously like Kynect but despise "Obamacare." The fact is, you can't rip out the entire tree and expect the Kynect branch to simply defy the laws of gravity and float in mid-air (per McConnell's folksy metaphor). It's simply impossible to continue to operate a health insurance exchange, financed and regulated by the ACA, absent the ACA. Without the insurance regulations from the law and without the subsidies to help consumers pay for insurance policies, the website will disappear.
This is the big GOP trick.
They're pandering to voters who don't grasp that Kynect is the ACA -- the "website" they love so much only exists because of Evil Obamacare. But too many of them have been led to believe that it's a separate, independent entity. Worse, they don't seem to realize that by uprooting the ACA, they'll be uprooting Kynect and everything they like about the ACA, including the Medicaid expansion. And it's not entirely the fault of the voters.
While, sure, the Obama administration hasn't fully educated the public about the law, the Republicans have engaged in arguably the most cynical, shameless disinformation campaign in American political history, and that includes the lie McConnell repeated above -- that the ACA stole $700 billion from Grandma in order to pay for a rabble of freeloaders. In fact, the $700 billion isn't drawn from benefits at all, but instead the notorious "waste, fraud and abuse." Why is McConnell and his party opposed to eliminating waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare system? Why haven't the Democrats asked him that question?
McConnell's slippery position on the ACA ought to be the story in this election, not Grimes's personal ballot choices. McConnell is literally speaking gibberish, squirming his way around poll numbers and offering to do things that are physically impossible. It's reflective of a broad contradiction throughout the country, best illustrated in a poll that showed support for something called "The Affordable Care Act," while significant opposition to something called "Obamacare": 46 percent were opposed to "Obamacare," while only 37 percent were opposed to "the ACA." Too many voters are just plain dumb about the law, and the Senate Minority Leader is slithering through that gaping loophole.