Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 14, 2009

A HARD PERCEPTION TO BREAK.... We talked earlier about the new Washington Post-ABC News poll, which largely focuses on health care. Greg Sargent does a nice job highlighting the ways in which the data points to possible trouble for Republicans. Greg noted that the poll finds:

* That Dems hold an overwhelming 20-point lead on which party is most trusted on major issues, with Obama preferred over Republicans by 12 points on health care.

* That a majority, 53%, agrees that "government reform of the nation's health care system is necessary to control costs and expand coverage," underscoring yet again that the public wants government action.

* That a plurality now believes reform won't prevent people from keeping their own health care, suggesting the public may see reform as less and less threatening.

* That a big majority, or 62%, believe Republicans have not made a good faith effort to cooperate with Dems on health care.

All true. For all the pounding President Obama has taken in recent weeks, his approval rating is still at 54% in the new poll, and he enjoys sizable leads over congressional Republicans, not only on health care, but also on the economy and deficit reduction. The president's support was not where it was a few months ago, but we're not looking at a landscape in which the GOP has caught up. Indeed, while much of the public has been affected by Republican attacks against health care, Americans don't see the GOP acting in good faith.

That said, there is one data point in the poll that's especially disconcerting. Respondents were asked, "Do you think Obama and the Democrats in Congress should try to change the health care reform bill so some Republicans in Congress will also support it, or should they try to pass health care reform without Republican support?"

Only one in four (25%) said Dems should go ahead and pass reform whether Republicans like it or not, while 71% said the majority should change the bill to garner GOP votes. Last week, an AP/GfK poll asked a similar question and found a similar result.

It creates an awkward situation. Americans don't trust GOP lawmakers on the issue, and don't think Republicans have been acting in good faith, but the public can't quite shake the impression that good bills are "bipartisan" bills, and that legislative consensus may actually be more important than legislative quality.

My only advice to the governing majority? Ignore this. Americans are, for whatever reasons, predisposed to support bipartisan lawmaking. But this is an impossible task -- Republicans don't support reform and aren't willing to make concessions. If Dems make the bill worse, on purpose, just to pick up a few GOP votes, it's likely voters will be far less satisfied with reform when it's implemented.

Pass a good bill and let the policy speak for itself.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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Comments

They can easily change the bill to add Republican input. They can put back in Johnny Isaakson's end-of-life counseling provision and they can insert McCain's catastrophic stop-gap insurance idea. Bam! Bipartisan.

Posted by: jamfan on September 14, 2009 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

the poll god has spoken -- i guess the obama admin will, thus, be surrendering all week...

remember: 'bipartisan' corporate submission is always safe for the villagers...

Posted by: neill on September 14, 2009 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Neil, you could also write your comment as

i guess the obama admin will thus be surrendering, all weak...

Why should Obama make things easier for the GOP who are obviously uninterested in health care reform.

Posted by: Paranoid Floyd on September 14, 2009 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

I think you are misreading the results of that last question. The majority of americans want healthcare reform so badly, and they have been convinced by the press that it can't pass without Republican support.

So, they don't want Democrats to "try to pass it without Republican support" because they don't think the Democrats have the votes. Read how the question is worded.

The previous poll did the same thing.

They need to ask the question "If Democrats can only pass healthcare reform without any Republican votes, should they do it?"

And I bet the number would be over 50%.


Posted by: DR on September 14, 2009 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Claiming the high-ground of bipartisanship

My only advice to the governing majority? Ignore this. Americans are, for whatever reasons, predisposed to support bipartisan lawmaking.

This gets it exactly right.

Most Americans don't pay rabid attention to politics. So what ends up in their noggins either seeps in from the ambient noise, or is put there directly by the President when he has everyone's attention spans...

In his recent address, Barack was able once again to claim the hallowed high ground of bipartisanship. He talked about the "same old bickering" and his call out to McCain's influence on his plan was masterful. He stressed his willingness to listen and encouraged Republicans to bring him good ideas [Insert old fashioned twitters here]. That was all brilliant gamesmanship...

So what's the take away here?

Pass the public option with reconciliation and then have Barack stress the bipartisan elements of the bill in his State of the State address. He can blow that trumpet better than anyone...


Posted by: koreyel on September 14, 2009 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

What's missing from that poll are some necessary follow-up:

"If the Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress make concessions to health care reform that water the bill down to a point where it will not benefit the uninsured, the insured OR the economy, BUT it therefore has bipartisan support, would you consider that acceptable, or would you rather have the Demcrats try to pass a bill which will benefit the most Americans?"

"If the Obama Administration and the Democrats in Congress make concessions to health care reform that water the bill down to a point where it will not benefit the uninsured, the insured OR the economy, AND the Republicans STILL indicate that they will not support the bill, should the Democrats STILL continue trying to find a bipartisan solution, or just pass the bill that benefits the most Americans?

Posted by: slappy magoo on September 14, 2009 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Where do Amerikans get the information to form their opinions?

Including word of mouth from ignoramous to ignoramous, I believe the amerikan sheeples' opinions are formed by the following:
- about 25% are Faux Noise / Rush Limpballs / etc. believers
- about 40% are completely confused, half believe the last thing they heard, and have been convinced that all politicians are lying
- about 25% sort of believe what they hear from the corporate media

The above percentages include overlap and are not cumulative.

On the subject of bipartisanship, Faux News and the corporate media continually repeat the rethugnican mantra (when dumbocraps have the presidency and congress) that bipartisanship is essential. No real effort is made by the corporate media to present bipartisanship as something that would require actual rethugnican participation; just dumbocraps conceding point after point to the rethugs.

That the amerikan sheeple are confused and express opinions that are contradictory to each other is just a natural outgrowth of receiving information from the corporate media that is mostly 'he said - he said' rather than truth, fact, or valid interpretation.

It should be no surprise that the corporate media delivers well on their assigned roles of amplifiers and echo chambers for rethugnican talking points.

Posted by: SadOldVet on September 14, 2009 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

If the Democrats passed a decent healthcare reform bill that actually served its intended purpose on their own without the Republicans do you think anyone would care, or remember, how it was passed?

Posted by: Saint Zak on September 14, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

But the question is moot, since the Republican support is not coming.

Posted by: Christopher on September 14, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

You are absolutely right. No one remembers the lies Republican legislators told and made the head of CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) tell to get the pharmacy bill passed. No one remembers that all three of President Bush's tax cuts passed through reconciliation.

But Americans DO remember that President Clinton failed to pass health care reform.

All they remember are the successes. Democrats should pay attention.

Posted by: JIm G on September 14, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

What no one seems to be talking about is that Republicans amendments have been accepted into the bill. I would argue that whether any Republicans vote for the bill or not- it is still a bipartisan bill. Both Democrats and Republicans have contributed reform measures to the bill. I think that does makes it a bipartisan bill, whether Republicans vote for it or not.

Posted by: ReformNow on September 14, 2009 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Americans don't trust GOP lawmakers on the issue, and don't think Republicans have been acting in good faith, but the public can't quite shake the impression that good bills are "bipartisan" bills, and that legislative consensus may actually be more important than legislative quality.

AmeriKKKans are stoopid.

Posted by: Banana-Eating Jungle Monkey on September 14, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

There are some questions that people are always going to answer a certain way -- that is, "Yes, bipartisanship good," but that, at the end of the day, they are going to judge Democrats by the quality of reform, not what the Republicans said or did to contribute to the reform effort.

Posted by: Barbara on September 14, 2009 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

That a big majority, or 62%, believe Republicans have not made a good faith effort to cooperate with Dems on health care.

So what are those other 38% smoking?

Posted by: henry lewis on September 14, 2009 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Go read Greg Sargent before you get the vapors. The story that the lame-stream media isn't reporting is the fact that there is going to be a price for rethugs to pay for this shit.

Posted by: Realist on September 14, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

It is very interesting to me how so many of the so called blue dog democrats as well as all the repukelicans from farm states are so against the public option yet think that subidizing crop insurance with tax money is so great. Since 2001 59% of all farmers annual premiums have been paid for with our money. This subsidy is available to ALL farmers -big and small, rich and poor. Think about this for a minute. Chuck Grassley R-Iowa against public option,yet Iowa farmers in 2008 and 2009 got $910 million to reduce crop Ins premiums. Sen. Ben Nelson D-Neb. against public option, Nebraska farmers recieved $724 million and North Dakota (my state) with Sen. Kent Conrad (Insurance Co_op man)received more than a billion. If Grassley brought home the same total premium subsidy reduction for the past two years, an uninsured family of four could have had an annual premium subsidy of $6,620. And Sen. Co-op (Conrad) would have delivered $34,520 to the unisured family of four. How can the Dems pass a decent health bill when we have all these blue dogs who think like this. Sorry this got so long.

Posted by: nodaK on September 14, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Bi-partisanship in one act:

The Oval Office

Barack: So tell me, Senator Snowe, if I give you what you want and take the public option off the table, what do I get?

Olympia: I'm not sure what you mean.

Barack: Can you deliver me 5 or 6 other Republican votes?

Olympia: No.

Barack: Two or three other Republican votes?

Olympia: No.

Barack: One? Maybe Sue?

Olympia: No.

Barack: Can you promise me your vote?

Olympia: No.

Barack: Is there some other concession on the substance of the bill that you'll give me in return?

Olympia: No.

Curtain

Posted by: CJColucci on September 14, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

It's simple: No one remembers how something is passed. They just don't. The only ones who do are those who live, eat and breath politics.

All most people remember is whether or not the policy was good, or if it sucked.

It would also help if "bipartisanship" started to mean what it's supposed to (two parties working together to solve common problems) instead of what the media has turned it into (Dems giving the GOP whatever the hell it wants while getting nothing in return, often to the detriment of most Americans).

For that, we can thank Broder and the rest of the Villagers ... who, strangely, only seem to bitch and whine about bipartisanship when Dems are in power. Wonder why that is ... hmmmm ...

Posted by: Mark D on September 14, 2009 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

The Dems should just pass a great bill, no one is going to remember or care how bipartisan it was.

And in a few years the Teabaggers will be crying that the Dems are trying to take away their public option. Who cares, just get the best possible bill passed.

Posted by: Grytpype on September 14, 2009 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Americans may be predisposed to support bipartisan lawmaking, but they are certainly predisposed to support winners.

Pass something effective. After the moment has passed, that is what the public will remember.

It's like the shot that the dentist uses to give you the painkiller. The shot itself is usually painful, but as the drilling is done it is a blessing.

Posted by: Rick B on September 14, 2009 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

One other thing. The Republicans fount both Medicare and the Civil Rights Act to the last moment, but when the final vote came around many of the very Republicans who were dead set against it voted for it - because it was popular at home and they wanted to be reelected.

That final vote is what everyone looks at today and calls bipartisan, but the process that got to that final vote was anything but bipartisan. (Of course, Republicans were more politicians in those days and much less ideological overall. And they didn't have to face the talk show hosts who run the party. Descriptions of history are not predictions for the future.)

Posted by: Rick B on September 14, 2009 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Also, don't pass a weak 'reform' bill. If it doesn't have the public option, or at least include very strong regulatory teeth (e.g. if you want to sell insurance you have to insure everyone at the same premium for a particular category of insurance irrespective of health history) then don't pass the bill at all.

Just state why it would make things worse and blame all the Repugs by name that blocked real reform and go out and challenge voters to replace them with folks who will support real reform.

That is a better strategy than a bad bill. A bad bill will kill the Dems much worse than no bill at all.

Posted by: BrianInMKE on September 14, 2009 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Do you think Obama and the Democrats in Congress should try to change the health care reform bill so some Republicans in Congress will also support it, or should they try to pass health care reform without Republican support?

Questions not asked:

1.) Do you think Democrats should try to pass health care reform on their own, if Republicans refuse to join negotiations?

2.) Is it better to do nothing or to pass a bill backed solely by Democrats.

Posted by: Jinchi on September 14, 2009 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

By all means ignore it!
Who cares what the polls show about what people think about something that hasn't happened? Once a bill passes, everything changes. That's why the actual - gasp - substance of the bill is what really matters. All those people who say they want the Democrats to try to change the bill to attract Republicans - (1) they probably have no idea how that would affect the bill, and (2) I guarantee you they are not going to say after the fact that they hate the bill because there weren't enough Republican votes (unless they hate the bill anyway). Most people don't care or even know the head count of a bill.

Posted by: bobbo on September 14, 2009 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

There is no argument that bipartisan IS better. That would mean that both parties recognize that there is a problem and something must be done to fix it. The problem with most voters is that they aren't keeping a close eye on what the Republicans ACTUALLY do, which is their best to kill any reform, as opposed to what the Republicans SAY, which is that they just don't like THIS reform - and then offer no alternatives. That's what produces the disconnect that appears so often in polls between what voters want and how they want it achieved
The best antidote is to give the Republicans every possible chance to support the basic reforms: controlling costs via a public option, no recissions, no pre-existing conditions. If they aren't willing and offer no other ways to accomplish the required reforms, trumpet it to the skies that the Democrats tried to work with Republicans and all they got in return was: not only no, but HELL NO!
Oh, and don't obsess too much about the polls, they can change very quickly and it's 14 months until the next elections.
(The last is for those Democratic worry-warts, otherwise known as Representatives and Senators)

Posted by: Doug on September 14, 2009 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

10 years from now no one will remember who and how many congressmen voted for the bill. All they will be concentrating on is whether or not this works for me.

Posted by: donnaf on October 9, 2009 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

10 years from now no one will remember who and how many congressmen voted for the bill. All they will be concentrating on is whether or not this works for me.

Posted by: donnaf on October 9, 2009 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK
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