Mitt Romney Attends Tea Party Rally In New Hampshire

Last October, I wrote:

My rule of thumb is pretty simple: whenever you hear a quote about Obamacare, it’s more illuminating to remove the “care” part.

What I meant by that is the congressional opposition to this centrist, national version of Romneycare has little to do with the actual issues at hand. Yes, absolutely, there are legitimate arguments to be made that Obamacare is bad policy, won’t work, or has many flaws. But the political opposition to it still isn’t about that. It has become simply a proxy for feelings about the president himself. I had no way of proving that; but it seemed clear to me by listening to the arguments and passion and virulence of the opponents.

Well, now, we have a study that proves it. Austin Frakt brings my attention to a new paper in Health management, Policy and Innovation, by Aaron Chatterji, Siona Listokin, and Jason Snyder. Money quote:

Studies of health policy often assume that politicians will enact laws based on the preferences of their constituents in order to maximize their reelection prospects. This paper analyzes the determinants of voting in the 111th Congress on the Affordable Health Care for America Act. We find that the percentage of uninsured constituents in a Congressional district has no impact on voting. This result is robust to including a host of demographic control variables. We find that President Obama’s popularity in the district is significantly correlated with support for the bill and explains approximately 50% of the variation in voting. Finally, we find little evidence that campaign contributions are correlated with voting when controlling for the other variables in the model. These findings call into question much of the conventional wisdom about how legislators vote on health policy.

We’re dealing here, in other words, not with a rational opposition to a debatable policy, not with a judgment as to whether constituents would benefit or not from the law’s provisions, not even with a case of money-influencing politics – but with an emotional, irrational reaction to the first black president himself. Many would literally rather get sick and die than support any policy he has championed.

The cognitive dissonance of West Virginia is not in West Virginia alone.

(Photo: a Tea Party banner via Getty Images.)