And so it ended with a whimper, not the bang Republicans hoped their trivial and obstructionist amendments would bring about. Republican Senators, apparently eager to retain the special treatment given to states like Nebraska under the health care legislation signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday, spent the Senate’s time offering a few trivial objections to the legislation’s reconciliation status, under the apparent impression that such activity would cause great consternation in the House. The House shrugged and passed it, with a 220-207 vote.
Since it became law, Republicans have misjudged the public’s appreciation for their attempts to block health care reform, which is no real surprise, because they did exactly the same thing before the Democrat’s legislation passed. My colleague James Morrow reported gleefully that a CNN poll conducted last week found 59 per cent of Americans were opposed to the bill. He either didn’t know, or didn’t care to let you know, that the actual poll [PDF] found that 13 per cent of Americans opposed the bill because it is not liberal enough. That is, a 52 per cent majority of the American population was either in favour of the legislation, or wanted it to go even farther than it did. And despite James’ willingness to reproach New York Times columnist Paul Krugman for failing to fact-check a Washington Post article that may have misrepresented some comments from Newt Gingrich, when I emailed James to let him know he hadn’t properly communicated the findings of the poll, he disregarded my advice entirely.
But Republicans don’t need to look to even the second reported finding on a poll to discover people don’t mind Obama’s new health care reforms. Gallup reported a new poll earlier this week finding that 49 per cent of Americans think it is a good thing that Congress passed the bill. Only 40 per cent think it is a bad thing. 50 per cent were enthusiastic or pleased, while 42 per cent were angry or disappointed. My guess is that a big chunk of Democrats that had once been upset that the bill was not as liberal as they would like quickly realised they actually were impressed with what Barack Obama had accomplished.
When the House passed the Senate’s original legislation this past Sunday, Republican Senator John McCain said, “there will be no cooperation for the rest of the year … they have poisoned the well.” If Republicans believe—and they seem to—that doubling-down on their obstructionist tactics will pay off electorally for them, they’re sadly mistaken. They’ve confused the anger a depression-battered American public has for its government with the enthusiasm their small sliver of a base has for their own right wing ideology.
In 2006 and 2008, Americans threw their support behind the Democratic party because it had credible approaches to confront the problems with the country’s health care, foreign policy, and economy. And even though the Democrats aren’t as popular as they once were, the Republicans have offered no ideas to convince an American populace the GOP is better placed to solve their problems. The CNN poll I referred to above shows as much; people trust Congressional Democrats to solve major health care over Congressional Republicans on a 45-39 ratio, and President Obama over Congressional Republicans on a 51-39 ratio.
Make no mistake: right now, the American people’s dissatisfaction with its government means Republicans will likely gain a lot of seats in the midterms this November. But the best way the party can prevent that from happening would be to confuse that hostility to incumbents with approval of anything Republicans are doing. Because right now, the GOP is doing its darndest to score an own-goal in what should be a mid-term cakewalk. Or do they think Americans will vote for angry, obstructionist candidates who propose to once again allow health insurance companies to reject them based on pre-existing conditions?