As the Senate considers health care legislation, voters at home are waiting. Waiting for the holidays, waiting for paychecks, waiting for jobs. Postponing trips, postponing purchases, postponing college, postponing weddings. Postponing anything that costs money.
When Members of the House and Senate return home, they will probably face the wrath they did last summer in town hall meetings. It is not anger aimed towards one party, or one president. It is not a gang of angry Republicans or angry Democrats or Independents. It is anger from a population living from day to day, one which Congress cannot see from inside the beltway. Members can only imagine how much worse things have gotten since August.
Polls are hard to go by. Americans want health care but don't. They don't like the government spending that's going on, but they need unemployment compensation. The jobs bill was huge: so where are the jobs?
When Members get home, they will see that general anger and anxiety doesn't get expressed through one clear prism, like a mandate for a certain kind of health care bill, or anger at one particular party.
Not when over one in ten are unemployed. Not when uncounted part-time workers are no longer working.
This is not to say that voters' fear for their personal situations can or should be laid at their Member's doorstep. But it is to say that it is truly impossible to see the level of the problem from inside DC.
Outside, you have more evidence. The guy at last month's conference is the new checkout guy at Target. Mothers are saying "No" to kids in stores and kids are used to it. Food is being stretched further. Teachers are envied for their job security. Fathers are afraid.
Congress should work hard on a good health care bill. They should negotiate and vote their consciences. There is no reading tea leaves in tea parties. There is not one right or wrong answer.
There may well be the most anger towards those who don't take a stand, and to Congress as a whole if they come home for Christmas without having made a decision. If voters are losing steam for health care now, wait until the New Year, just over a month away.