It is clear that President Obama inflicted massive damage on his personal credibility among most Americans with his three false promises on Obamacare: you can keep your health insurance plan if you like it, you can keep your doctor if you want to, and you will save $2,500 a year. Only about a third of respondents to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal survey give him “high marks for being honest and straightforward.” As Democratic pollster Fred Yang explained: “Make no mistake, the president has been weighed down by one issue: his health care law.”
But Obama is not the only one to blame for the Obamacare nightmare. As Politico reported in 2009, it was the Herndon Alliance that came up with the idea of promising people they could keep their insurance plans and doctors so they wouldn't feel threatened by Obamacare. The Herndon Alliance is a Democratic messaging strategy group that leads a coalition of liberal advocacy groups. According to Politico, “When President Barack Obama says Americans can maintain their ‘choice’ of doctors and insurance plans, he is using a Herndon strategy for wringing fear out of a system overhaul.”
At the top of any listing of Herndon Alliance members is AARP, specifically with regard to Obamacare and more generally on health care matters of concern to seniors. The ubiquitous seniors group claims 37 million members and offers them an incredible variety of benefits, information, discounts and advice. As a result, AARP is to seniors what the NRA is to firearm enthusiasts. Just as the NRA can put put the kibosh on gun control bills, the prospect of AARP opposition or support can make or break any proposal that affects Americans in their golden years.
That AARP is a major Washington player is not news, but, as the Washington Examiner first reported in 2009, it is less well-known that AARP’s Washington office is a dependable ally of those in Congress and the White House seeking to expand government’s already intrusive role in American life. Top AARP officials are heavy donors to Democrats, including Obama in both of his presidential races. When Obama first proposed Obamacare, AARP was right there with him. So AARP bears a unique share of the responsibility for Obamacare, both as a leading member of the Herndon Alliance and as a Washington power player on behalf of bigger government.
The problem for AARP is that there is no evidence that the organization ever disavowed the strategy of promising people they would be able to keep their coverage and doctors. Nor has AARP ever warned its members that government-run health care likely would be as bad in the U.S. as in every other country that has adopted it. As was noted in this space four years ago, “there will be hell to pay for AARP with its members when this ugly reality becomes crystal clear, as it most certainly will.”