• ObamaCare is the party’s unworkable contraption of nonperformance.

    As American voters watch ObamaCare continue its Godzilla-like rampage across the national health-care landscape, it’s worth considering the collateral damage this political monster may be doing to the Democratic brand itself. What if ObamaCare’s problems become a metaphor for the modern Democratic Party? Two portents emerged the past week.

    The United Auto Workers suffered a humiliating defeat at Volkswagen VOW3.XE -1.54% in Tennessee. And days before that loss, voters in San Diego elected Republican Kevin Faulconer mayor after he teed up his opponent as a captive of the city’s public unions. Two big constituencies sacked in a week.

    The Democrats’ problem is that we live in the brutal age of brand maintenance. Ask BlackBerry, Sony, Target or Lululemon.  The horror of falling off the curve is that, seemingly overnight, enthusiasm for one’s brand can evaporate. There is no reason why a political party should be immune to this new imperative.

    Out in the world beyond what Washington manufactures and spins, no one would get away with putting out a product as flawed as ObamaCare. Today’s public won’t accept that kind of performance. From the largest consumer-product companies down to the local sandwich shop, you’ve got to deliver the goods at a sustained level of competent execution. Not everyone deserves a gold badge from J.D. Power, but by and large it has become very difficult to sustain a shoddy product in the marketplace anymore.

    Except the government. And the Democratic Party is nothing if not the party whose identity is bound up with government services and the public unions that deliver those services.

    Good enough for government work was once just a joke. Some years ago I sat with a roomful of people in lower Manhattan’s federal Social Security office for a half hour with no discernible forward movement. The clerks seemed to have disappeared. Suddenly a frustrated lady shot up and screamed, “This place is worse than the department of motor vehicles!” To which the guard at the door responded: “Oh no, ma’am. They’re still worse than we are.”

    For decades, voters have passed off this mediocrity as the sometimes maddening bureaucratic price for living in a large, complex country. No longer. With every new reboot of ObamaCare—glitches to the horizon, the constant revision of the law’s rules, policies canceled and resurrected at higher cost—more of America’s workaday Dilberts are seeing that the Democrats’ performance benchmarks would get anyone else fired. Nowhere else could you get away with arguing a product like this is at least better than nothing.

    And they won’t even apologize! When the first ObamaCare problems erupted, its supporters said: It’s the law, get over it. Even now, the smart alecks in the Obama administration responsible for ObamaCare, backed by a chorus of left-wing wonks in the media, make it sound as if you are too dense to comprehend the law’s inevitable benefits.

    The Democratic Party and especially the left have for years been demoting standards of performance for pretty much everything. Whether it’s the work product of the public unions, the quality of Medicaid’s medicine, admission criteria for colleges or even standards of personal behavior, measuring up has been devalued. It’s no accident that one of the most used words of our time is, “Whatever.”

    Once public employees became unionized, the process was never accountable to anything. The inevitable weaknesses simply metastasized. Work rules and pension obligations proliferated under politicized collective-bargaining agreements until the system bogged down into an expensive morass that won’t change and won’t reform. But it changed the Democrats into a pure public-sector party.

    Now even liberal Democrats have begun to distance themselves from this legacy. Last May in Los Angeles of all places, Democrat Eric Garcetti defeated Wendy Greuel for mayor by turning her union endorsements into a liability.

    But for decades most Democrats have been floating through this low-performance public milieu, where standards of any sort can be diluted, if not wholly ignored. The idea that the $824 billion stimulus was for “shovel-ready” projects has become a butt of the government joke circuit. This sloppy mindset outputted ObamaCare, by acclamation the party’s biggest product since Medicare. It looks like a Rube Goldberg machine.

    The Rube Goldberg Democrats means that whether from laziness or arrogance, the party is now producing political contraptions that are monuments to inefficiency, incomprehension and unworkability. Before ObamaCare, it often went unnoticed. But the health-care law sits out in plain view, letting every voter connect the dots between political promise and nonperformance.

    No quick patch is likely for a brand problem on this scale. Congressional Democrats Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona and Joe Garcia in Florida have produced ads saying they fought the glitches but now want to “fix” the contraption. Millions will be spent repositioning the party’s image.

    The GOP could still blow their historic opportunity this year. Brands collapse because consumers have good choices. It may be true that ObamaCare has exposed the Democrats as a party of bells, whistles and rotating pinwheels. But absent a better product, it will lumber forward.

    Write to henninger@wsj.com

    Posted by Dana West @ 6:24 pm for Colorado politics, Editorial, Elections, Issues, National politics, ObamaCare |

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