In December, national polling discovered that Republicans think ACORN, which permanently closed its doors a few years ago, still exists and helps Democrats steal elections. In March, House Republicans approved a measure blocking funding for ACORN, despite the fact that non-existent organizations don't seek public funds.
And now in April, the right is arguing the Obama administration is poised to help reanimate ACORN -- or at least something very close to it.
Breitbart.com ran an item last week warning conservatives that the administration may be poised to use the Affordable Care Act as a "vehicle to resurrect ACORN or an ACORN-like entity."
A day later, the far-right Family Research Council issued an email alert to its supporters, warning of an "army" of ACORN activists. The message added, "With this administration, it isn't a question of whether they would abuse their power -- but when!"
What in the world are these people talking about? As the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, there are obvious bureaucratic challenges associated with signing up tens of millions of people. As the Washington Post noted, "While some people will find registering for health insurance as easy as booking a flight online, vast numbers who are confused by the myriad choices will need to sit down with someone who can walk them through the process."
To that end, the law empowers the Department of Health and Human Services to hire people to help the uninsured navigate the health care system and get coverage, many of whom have never had coverage and aren't sure how to proceed. This is obviously important -- if the uninsured get lost, confused, or slip through the cracks, they won't get the benefits to which they're entitled and the law won't work as designed.
And so, tens of thousands of "navigators" will be needed -- and that immediately makes the right think of ACORN, "or an ACORN-like entity."
From the Post report:
Over the short term, some workers may be funded by federal grants, state budgets or private money. But over the longer term, most of the costs are to be covered by the new health-care marketplaces, called "exchanges," being set up in every state. The money will come from fees that insurers will pay to sell their plans on the exchanges.
Groups such as unions, chambers of commerce, health clinics, immigrant-service organizations, and community- or consumer-focused nonprofits can use the grants to train and employ staff members or volunteers to provide in-person guidance -- especially to hard-to-reach populations -- and to provide space for them to work.
None of this should be considered controversial, at least not politically. There are legitimate questions about the scope of the logistical challenges, but it was expected all along that the country would need to hire some folks to help people get into the health care system. It's why this was part of the law in the first place.
But for the right, it's a scandal in the making.
Note, however, the use of scare quotes in the Breibart headline -- conservative Republicans aren't sure if they're afraid of ACORN, but they're certainly worried about "ACORN." Maybe it'll be the group reincarnated, or maybe it'll be something similar to the group, which for the right, is just as scary.
This is all terribly silly -- I'm no longer sure whether to find the anti-ACORN panic amusing or depressing -- but it's only a matter of time before it's on Fox News and being talked about on Capitol Hill.