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Opinion: Columnists

The Truman Doctrine

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"Answered Prayers" was the title of the much-discussed and never-completed last novel of Truman Capote, based on his notion that having one's dearest wish granted can be even more painful that having it never come true.

This new Truman Doctrine is about to be tested in the next months and years for the Democrats. They had their prayers answered in seeing Obamacare pass, seeing it given a pass by John Roberts and then given reprieves anew by the recent election. They now face the ordeal of seeing this huge, complex and unpopular act carried through in the face of its own contradictions, 30 unhappy Republican governors, and the sullen resistance of much of a public that never embraced it and likes it now less than it did before.

What woes could now spring up to haunt them? Here are just a few.

Obama won on the claim we had come through the worst of the crash and recession, and that things would slowly but surely start to improve. But wait for the downturn that's likely to hit when smaller business embark on a new wave of cutbacks, to avoid moving north of Obamacare's 50-employee limit, above which the federal mandates to provide workers with health care kick in. New hires will not happen, full-time employees with benefits will become part-timers without out them, and some jobs may even be axed. For two years, businessmen have postponed their decisions -- now they will make them. Wait until voters find their jobs, their hours cut, their premiums rising, their insurers going out of business and their employers dropping health coverage because of Obamacare.

And wait till the crunch comes on implementation -- which, on the evidence, is not going well so far. Only 14 states have agreed to expand Medicaid since the Supreme Court allowed them to opt out. Only 17 states have committed to run their own insurance exchanges, six want a mixed or state-federal model, and the rest are in no hurry to help things along. The states drag their feet, the Department of Health and Human Services sputters, and you have a mess, which is bound to get even messier. Which is what the liberals fear.

Answered prayer No. 1 was for health care to pass, but it led to the Tea Party, the loss of Democrats' filibuster-proof edge in the Senate and a shattering loss of the House.

Prayer No. 2 was the Supreme Court decision, which also came with the cost-free exception from the expansion of Medicaid, which may lead to a lingering death, not a quick one.

Prayer No. 3 was Obama's re-election, with a substantial attrition in his vote totals. This leaves to Obama the problem of implementing Obamacare in a political climate where Gallup found, for the first time since the question was asked, that voters feel that securing health care for everyone is not the government's obligation.

"What matters now," says pollster Scott Rasmussen, "is not how the law was passed, but how it will be perceived in the future." That is to say, it all depends on how well or how poorly implementation works out.

If all goes smoothly and on schedule, and if costs come down as promised, it will vindicate the Democrats' view that government is the solution. If the opposite happens, which now seems more likely, it will prove that this new Truman Doctrine was right.

Examiner Columnist Noemie Emery is contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."

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