Moreover, if Republicans try to undo certain aspects of the plan, they may find themselves alienating some of their campaign contributors. Insurance companies and healthcare businesses are giving big money to Republicans in this cycle, and they will expect a return on their investment. But a couple of the provisions most hated by the right wing of the party and by "tea partyers" are ones that healthcare businesses have embraced. The "individual mandate" rule, for example, which requires most Americans to buy insurance after federal subsidies make it affordable, is something many healthcare businesses want to keep, because it promises more paying customers and encourages people without known health problems to carry insurance, thus spreading out the risk. On some issues, GOP leaders will have to choose between pleasing donors and pleasing the tea partyers.
It's not surprising that we're seeing pushback to Obama's healthcare reforms. Social Security was passed in 1935, but it faced delays and challenges for decades before it was fully embraced as an essential part of U.S. economic and family life. Medicare went through ups and downs too.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act faces years of struggles in Washington and state capitals, and may be delayed or watered down in the short run. But over the years, many states will work out their own versions of broad coverage and effective regulation, as California is already doing. Bit by bit, with a lot of variations across the 50 states, the U.S. healthcare system will evolve toward more secure, affordable and cost-effective healthcare for all Americans.
Obama's legacy will stand in the end, and we're betting that by 2025, if not sooner, we will look back and wonder what all the shouting was about.
Lawrence R. Jacobs is director of the Center for the Study of Politics in the Hubert Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota, and Theda Skocpol is a professor of government and sociology at Harvard University. They are the authors of the just-published book, "Health Reform and American Politics: What Everyone Needs To Know."