I spent much of Election Night watching the television, my Twitter feed and Facebook as friends, family, colleagues and contacts reacted quite differently to the results of the Presidential race. As it became increasingly clear that Obama had won, my folks on the left could not contain their jubilation. Over on the right, it was a mix of learned helplessness (among those who figured some time ago that Romney would not win), doom and outrage. One friend IMed me directly and told me to stop cracking wise about the election because if Obama won, his IT business would go under. Another simply muttered, “I can’t believe that bastard won.”
Follow the conversation: Did I screw up last Thursday?
Was it so hard to see, though? Aside from any political wish fulfillment on either side, there were some pretty clear indicators that Romney had a hard road to climb. For starters, the New York Times political blog FiveThirtyEight had been calling this race for Obama for quite some time, now. FiveThirtyEight was the only polling site I bothered to look at late in the race because of them all, its math seemed to be the most reliable, and frankly, that’s all I cared about. There was a lot of polling out there that seemed to make one side or the other feel better about their prospects, and that’s not what polling is supposed to be about. Plus, polling itself is becoming ever more scientific and accurate. It’s not a crystal ball, to be sure. But it does a pretty good job of indicating broad trends, and on this race, FiveThirtyEight was consistently on the money. Those who felt the blog was on point knew it, too, and so last night’s results — which came in very close to what FiveThirtyEight predicted, by the way — came as no real shock.
I have been accused by some of our more politically active readers as being leftist, socialist, radical, and a few other terms. My personal politics and my professional politics are different things, believe it or not. I thought very long and hard over whether or not National Underwriter LIfe & Health should endorse a candidate, but ultimately, I decided to keep the publication neutral. If we had endorsed a candidate, however, it would have been Romney because his policies are clearly more favorable to life and health insurance carriers, agents, and many of its customers. So last night’s win for Obama is quite clearly a loss for the industry, especially those in the health insurance distribution system, and those who sell life products based on their tax advantages.
Here’s the thing, though. And this is as much a reality check for the industry now as well as a comment on the industry’s political reactions for the past two years or so. And it is this:
None of this should be a surprise. As bad as all of this is for the industry — and make no mistake, this is bad — it is also not that surprising. The passage of PPACA and Dodd-Frank amid a Democratic supermajority was not much a matter of “if” but a matter of “when.” That PPACA faced a House repeal was little more than a symbolic exercise in a Congress where the Senate wouldn’t even hear the motion, and the rest of Congress didn’t have even close to what it needed to overturn Obama’s veto on a repeal. The closest the industry has come to reversing its political fortunes lately was the Supreme Court hearings on PPACA, but even then, I was hearing from plenty of folks within the industry that Roberts was never going to overthrow that which Congress had enacted. The Court’s history just didn’t suggest it was really going to axe the individual mandate.