According to some new strategy memo that's going to fix everything, Democrats should not worry about all those polls that indicate an increasing opposition to the emerging health care reform legislation. Why? Because some of the people saying they oppose health reform are actually for it. What the what? Here's Politico's Mike Allen, attempting to explain this:
In a strategy memo to be provided to Democratic senators on Tuesday, Mark Mellman, CEO of The Mellman Group, reports that public polls are giving a distorted picture of the level of opposition to health-care reform. That's because in many of these polls, "opponents" include people who think the current proposals do not go far enough.
"The individual elements of the legislation are very popular, as is the bill in total, when it is explained," Mellman writes. "Moreover, the public continues to trust Democrats and the President over Republicans to deal with the issue. The news media has recently highlighted polls showing double-digit margins in opposition to the current healthcare plan. But these cursory stories often neglect to mention two salient facts. First, these poll questions fail to give any content, any specific meaning to the reform proposal. ... Focus group research makes clear that voters know little about the substance of the plan ... Second, public poll analyses often ignore the fact that a chunk of opposition to the current plan comes from those who support reform, but would like to see Congress go further."
In other words, here's your good news, Democrats: You haven't only pissed off people who don't want reform, you've pissed off people who do want reform, as well! You have expanded the universe of opponents even beyond the inevitable number of people who just oppose reform for philosophical reasons and who oppose it just because they don't understand what the current plan will do. (Wonder whose fault that is, by the way!) Pop the champagne!
Naturally, I'm overjoyed that somewhere, out there, there's a Democratic strategist who's figured out that polls often lump together dead-ender opponents, the insufficiently informed, and people who are aggrieved that their legislators haven't delivered on their promises under the single banner, "OPPOSES THE HEALTH CARE REFORM PLAN." I was beginning to wonder if anyone was going to notice that people were reacting with dismay at the death of the wildly popular public option. It's just too bad that the public response to the larger failings of legislators is being spun as "good news."
But hey! I guess we can take solace in the "discovery" that opposition to the health care reform effort isn't based solely on discontent that President Barack Obama is trying to do much, as the conventional Sunday morning wisdom has been telling us over the whole year. Rather, it's because a lot of people think that the Democrats are weak, waffling, and not doing enough to fix the nation's myriad problems.
There is one pinched and perverse way in which all this is actually "good news" -- and that happens to be the only way that Politico looks at the world. It is a view also shared by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. According to this school of thought, pissing off liberals is of no consequence; no, is actually something devoutly to be desired. Pissing off liberals shows you're actually a reasonable, moderate person -- and what are the liberals going to do about it, anyway? Somewhat shockingly, Emanuel actually spelled this out to the Wall Street Journal the other day, plain as day, for all to see. And reading Politico as a direct emanation of Rahm Emanuel's amygdala (that part of the limbic system most closely associated with reward and fear) almost never steers you wrong.
But seeing this abundance of contempt as the pony in voter discontent leaves out the issue of voter enthusiasm. And on that matter, let's jump to Time's Michael Scherer:
The 2009 elections in New Jersey and Virginia were initially talked about by Obama allies as a test of the President's organizing power. By the time the votes were counted, however, with Republicans winning two Democratic seats, no one at the White House wanted to claim any responsibility. That's because the remarkable enthusiasm that greeted Obama's victory in 2008, with record turnout among independents, blacks and young people, had gone away, along with the minions of Obama organizers. "I think that we all thought, and I think that the President thought, that they would stay with it because we would create this movement," explained [Celinda Lake, of Lake Research Partners], at a recent reporter briefing organized by the Christian Science Monitor. In fact, the enthusiasm gap bodes poorly for 2010, when Obama will be trying to minimize losses in the House and the Senate. According to the recent Battleground poll, just under two-thirds of Democrats say they are extremely likely to vote in upcoming elections, compared to 77% of Republicans and Independents.
There is something all those folks becoming disappointed with Obama and the Democrats can do -- they can stop voting at all.
So good luck with this "good news" come 2010, guys!