At some point, the ObamaCare website will work. People will be able to buy insurance in a matter of minutes, and considering Americans' dismal experience with the healthcare system before the Affordable Care Act existed, the number of satisfied customers will likely outnumber the unhappy ones. After all, the ACA's customer satisfaction has a very low bar to rise above: In 2012 only 22 percent of Americans reported satisfaction with the healthcare system.
The major difference is that when Facebook has a massive tech collapse (as it did last week), there's no congressional hearing intent on humiliating Mark Zuckerberg or TV spots in Silicon Valley calling him an idiot. The bugs are fixed, and the service disruption fades into memory.
And little-discussed in the botched ACA launch brouhaha is the apparent halt of runaway healthcare cost inflation, one of the primary big-picture benefits of the ACA. Since the implementation of the initial stages of ObamaCare, the famous “cost curve” that previously looked like a rapier pointed at the heart of America’s long-term solvency has been actually bent as advertised by the ObamaCare sponsors. It's early, but the purposeful rearrangement of the healthcare market is pointing to a rosier fiscal trajectory for the nation.
So getting beyond the fake outrage (come on, GOP, you can't logically be indignant that people have to wait for something you want repealed anyhow), what will Republicans do in, say, six months? At that point the website will undoubtedly be fixed, and if RomneyCare in Massachusetts is any guide, millions of people will have been able to buy insurance — and be generally happy with the result.
Perhaps the oft-repeated truism that the biggest fear of Tea Party Republicans is that people will actually be happy with the ACA, and thereby fatally undermine their goal of dismantling the social safety net, is correct.
We are about to enter an election year, with a critical midterm election that could flip the House (not as improbable an outcome as it appeared just a few weeks ago, before the GOP's shutdown) and give Democrats continued control of the Senate. This election may well set the stage for another GOP presidential debacle in which the Tea Party wing of the GOP, so powerful during the primaries, may nominate an unelectable candidate, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas).
Irrespective of Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) desires to avoid another destructive shutdown of the government, we should not forget the Tea Party's awesome power to undermine even the best-planned Republican strategies. Come January, we'll be back to the federal budget battle and an impeding debt-ceiling vote.
All of which begs the question: Will Republicans be able to make a positive argument for November 2014? After all, the recent verdict of the American people has been devastatingly bad for the GOP brand, a fact that no amount of faux outrage about ObamaCare website glitches will likely change.