Pundit Audit: What I Didn’t Get Wrong in 2013

It’s working now.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

My colleague David Weigel has an admirable annual tradition of conducting a pundit audit in which he confesses his sins and bad predictions. But I’m far too egomaniacal to do that. Instead I would like to double down on a forecast I made that the conservosphere has been roundly mocking for months.

To wit:

Now, look, obviously the pundit audit cop-out would be to simply fess up that the computer problems have been much more severe than I thought they would be in August or September and then self-flagellate a bit.

But I’d urge you to read the blog post I was teasing:

I’ve got a new column up about the White House’s plans for the rollout of the Obamacare exchanges and I wanted to once again take the opportunity to lay down a marker and say once again that Obamacare implementation is going to be a huge political success.

Again, that’s not to deny that there will be some problems. But you have to understand that the media, for non-ideological reasons, is just massively biased toward negativity about this kind of thing. You never read a newspaper article headlined “A Bunch of People Got Free Dental Care Today Because They Live In A State That Offers Dental Benefits Under Medicaid,” but if something goes wrong in a state’s Medicaid program, that warrants a story. That’s the nature of the news business. You add in the fact that Republicans have a vested interest in making hay about problems plus the fact that liberals have never been all that enthusiastic about the Affordable Care Act’s reliance on private insurers, and a lot of negative coverage is baked into the cake. But fundamentally a lot of this criticism comes in the form of comparing the reality of the ACA to an abstract idealized system rather than comparing it to the status quo.

My view is that this holds up really well. I think that relatively few Democrats were mentally or politically prepared for the media blowback, but the media blowback was entirely predictable and, in fact, baked into the basic structure of how the news media works. But based on the information released over the weekend, it’s clear that the system was able to handle a huge surge of December signups. Saying you’re going to have a website working in October and then it doesn’t actually work until November is a huge embarrassment, and everyone involved ought to be a bit ashamed of themselves. You can see why this dominated the news cycle for months. But when we look back five, 10, 20, and 30 years from now, a 60-day delay in the functionality of the website just isn’t going to be the thing that strikes people as significant.

Millions of previously uninsured people are going to get health insurance next month, improving their lives in concrete ways. Millions more will be enrolled by the end of 2014. That’s the big story.