By Markos Moulitsas - 03/23/10 09:43 PM EDT
As we rush full-bore into the 2010 electoral cycle, Democrats and Republicans are hurtling toward each other in a game of chicken. Both sides are determined to wage this fall’s elections on their healthcare records — but only one party can win. If polling is any indication, it looks like the Democrats have the upper hand.
For their part, Republicans have convinced themselves that the American electorate is broadly on their side. “If we pass this bill, there will be no turning back. It will be the last straw for the American people,” said House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn BoehnerDem drops out of race for Boehner's old seat Conservative allies on opposite sides in GOP primary fight Clinton maps out first 100 days MORE (R-Ohio) before Sunday’s historic vote. “And in a democracy, you can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it.”
Yet the Pollster.com aggregate polling on healthcare shows that 51.3 percent of Americans oppose the president’s healthcare plan, a bare majority of the public. At best, “the will of the American people” is just slightly negative on the healthcare plan.
And Republicans can’t really take comfort in that slim majority, since a significant portion of that opposition comes from the left. A CNN poll taken over the weekend found that while 59 percent of Americans opposed the healthcare legislation, only 43 percent opposed it because it was too liberal. Fully 13 percent opposed it because it was not liberal enough.
Even worse for Republicans, that CNN poll found that asked whom they most trusted to make health policy decisions, 51 percent of respondents said President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaUnderstanding why populist fires are still 'Berning' Clinton at risk of being upstaged An important week for Puerto Rico In Philadelphia MORE, while just 39 percent said Republicans.
Furthermore, most opposition to the legislation is soft and built on fear-mongering, such as the whopper about death panels skewering grandma. Ask about specific provisions in the legislation, and support is oftentimes overwhelming.
A Newsweek poll in late February found that 81 percent supported the new insurance exchange. A mid-February Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 80 percent supported the ban on pre-existing conditions, 56 backed an insurance mandate with tax credits for low-income people to pay for it, and 72 percent supported the employer mandate requiring businesses to offer insurance to their full-time employees. A January poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 56 percent were more likely to support reform that cut the federal deficit “by at least $132 billion over 10 years.” And will anyone really oppose the closing of the Medicare prescription drug “doughnut hole” coverage gap?
Given the polling, it’s no wonder Republicans are refusing to debate the policy, instead screaming hysterically about socialism and death panels. It’s easier for them to cry about procedural horrors like the reconciliation process and the (abandoned) “deem and pass” gambit, which Republicans used over 200 times under Gingrich and Hastert. It makes sense for them to charge Democrats with abuse of power, arrogance and tone-deafness in “ramming through” the reform law.
That’s why Democrats will be happy to campaign on healthcare this year. By November, Republicans will be trying to change the subject.
Moulitsas is founder and publisher of Daily Kos (dailykos.com).