Is dragging America toward health care reform hard because voters don't want to go that far left? Or is it just hard to drag people who are asleep with boredom?
That's the debate going on over at that bastion of liberal health-care commentary, The New Republic. One of the magazine's sponsors bought an ad suggesting Democrats would lose big in the midterm elections because of health care reform. Senior editor Jonathan Chait, though, has a different idea. "Health care reform actually remains quite popular," he points out. So what's the problem then? He thinks voters are simply tired and bored of the months-long, drawn-out debate. Here's why:
One recent poll asks whether the Democratic plans create too much government involvement, the right amount, or not enough. Too much gets 42 percent, the right amount 34 percent, and not enough 21 percent. Another question shows that only 28 percent of Americans think the bill goes too far in expanding coverage to the uninsured, 33 percent say it expands coverage the right amount, and 35 percent say it does not go far enough. In both cases, majorities of the public either support Obama's approach or wish it went further.
Moreover, a clear majority of Americans say that they want the Democrats to pass a health care bill with a public option, even if this means it would get no GOP votes--a striking result, given the misty-eyed sentiment Americans generally display toward bipartisanship in all its forms.
All of these results suggest that the Democrats' biggest obstacle on health care reform is not a fundamental lack of public agreement but public weariness with the endless legislative grind.
Are sagging Democratic poll numbers just about public boredom? Is the electorate tired of endless coverage of congressional battles?