Oh, that’s just funny.
Last Wednesday, Scott Gottlieb and I debated Jonathan Chait and Douglas Kamerow on this proposition: “Resolved: Obamacare Is Now Beyond Rescue.” I was feeling a little trepid, for three reasons: First, I’ve never done any formal debate; second, the resolution gave the “for” side a built-in handicap, as the “against” side just had to prove that Obamacare might not be completely beyond rescue; and third, we were debating on the Upper West Side. Now, I grew up on the Upper West Side and love it dearly. But for this particular resolution, it’s about the unfriendliest territory this side of Pyongyang.
Nonetheless, I greatly enjoyed the debate. I’m not ashamed to admit that the other side had a lot of powerful moments. Kamerow, a doctor who is also a former assistant surgeon general, made good points about the problems with the previous status quo. In the other seat, Chait was as passionate, witty and well-reasoned in his arguments as ever. (You can read his account of the debate here.) Given the various difficulties, we went in assuming that we would lose, so we were pretty surprised and pleased when we won.
Amusingly, Chait manages to go through his entire account without explicitly saying Oh, yeah, we lost that debate that we we did so well at**. If I was an Obamacare supporter, I’d be worried as all get-out that my side is starting to find a non-friendly reception at even the most reliable of places…
*That needs explaining. When the debate started up, the score was 53% said that Obamacare could still be rescued, 16% said that it could not, and 31% didn’t know. After the debate… 59% yes, 32% no, 9% didn’t know. The general shift among respondents (who could be safely assumed in this specific venue to be predisposed to be favorable towards Obamacare) was firmly and decisively in favor of McArdle’s position. To put it in sports terms: the pro-Obamacare side didn’t make the spread.
**See previous footnote.