This week's readings take on the weighty issue of policy outcomes and success. McConnell (2010)'s piece presents a framework for evaluating policy outcomes, which is organized around process, program, and political domains and contains a "spectrum of success" consisting of resilient success, conflicted success, precarious success, and failure (p.345). Through this framework McConnell attempts to systematically address the complicated objective and subjective criteria that impact evaluations of policy outcomes, taking into account not only goal achievement, but also levels of opposition and support.
Hacker (2010)'s analysis and summary of his involvement with the 2009-2010 movement for health care reform in the United States provides a useful case example for further examining elements and frameworks of policy outcomes and success. Through his account of the political features involved in the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Hacker highlights some of the key political actors and forces involved in present-day reform efforts. Among these elements include the impacts of political polarization, the agenda setting function of interest groups, and clout of party elites, which harken back to the earlier readings of McCarty (2007), Cigler and Loomis (1991), and Domhoff (1998).
The chapters featured from Patashnik (2008)'s book Reforms At Risk serve as a useful end cap for this week's readings in that they explore the interests, actors, and mechanisms that undermine the sustainability policy reform efforts. The case study of 1986's Tax Reform Act serves to illustrate these elements that can scale back the reforms of earlier policymakers and render a piece of legislation essentially ineffective.
Given what we have read this week about the evaluation of policy outcomes and the political and structural threats that may undermine the sustainability of hard-won reform efforts, what chances do you think the Affordable Care Act has to endure as a lasting piece of policy reform? What political actors or forces do you think might contribute to its long-term success or eventual demise?