ObamaCare=Jonestown Politically for Democrats?

I have long had a great deal of respect for Pat Caddell’s, pollster for Jimmy Carter, political acumen.  He has been around forever, and his political experience gives his opinions a weight with me that most of the talking heads on political shows do not enjoy.  So when he compares the passage of ObamaCare to Jonestown as to its political impact on the Democrats, I pay attention.  He and Doug Schoen, another Democrat pollster, wrote an article for the Washington Post here which I believe will prove prophetic in the fall.

Bluntly put, this is the political reality:

First, the battle for public opinion has been lost. Comprehensive health care has been lost. If it fails, as appears possible, Democrats will face the brunt of the electorate’s reaction. If it passes, however, Democrats will face a far greater calamitous reaction at the polls. Wishing, praying or pretending will not change these outcomes.

Nothing has been more disconcerting than to watch Democratic politicians and their media supporters deceive themselves into believing that the public favors the Democrats’ current health-care plan. Yes, most Americans believe, as we do, that real health-care reform is needed. And yes, certain proposals in the plan are supported by the public.

However, a solid majority of Americans opposes the massive health-reform plan. Four-fifths of those who oppose the plan strongly oppose it, according to Rasmussen polling this week, while only half of those who support the plan do so strongly. Many more Americans believe the legislation will worsen their health care, cost them more personally and add significantly to the national deficit. Never in our experience as pollsters can we recall such self-deluding misconstruction of survey data.

The White House document released Thursday arguing that reform is becoming more popular is in large part fighting the last war. This isn’t 1994; it’s 2010. And the bottom line is that the American public is overwhelmingly against this bill in its totality even if they like some of its parts.

The notion that once enactment is forced, the public will suddenly embrace health-care reform could not be further from the truth — and is likely to become a rallying cry for disaffected Republicans, independents and, yes, Democrats.

Second, the country is moving away from big government, with distrust growing more generally toward the role of government in our lives. Scott Rasmussen asked last month whose decisions people feared more in health care: that of the federal government or of insurance companies. By 51 percent to 39 percent, respondents feared the decisions of federal government more. This is astounding given the generally negative perception of insurance companies.

CNN found last month that 56 percent of Americans believe that the government has become so powerful it constitutes an immediate threat to the freedom and rights of citizens. When only 21 percent of Americans say that Washington operates with the consent of the governed, as was also reported last month, we face an alarming crisis.

Health care is no longer a debate about the merits of specific initiatives. Since the spectacle of Christmas dealmaking to ensure passage of the Senate bill, the issue, in voters’ minds, has become less about health care than about the government and a political majority that will neither hear nor heed the will of the people.

Voters are hardly enthralled with the GOP, but the Democrats are pursuing policies that are out of step with the way ordinary Americans think and feel about politics and government. Barring some change of approach, they will be punished severely at the polls.

Now, we vigorously opposed Republican efforts in the Bush administration to employ the “nuclear option” in judicial confirmations. We are similarly concerned by Democrats’ efforts to manipulate passage of a health-care bill. Doing so in the face of constant majority opposition invites a backlash against the party at every level — and at a time when it already faces the prospect of losing 30 or more House seats and eight or more Senate seats.

For Democrats to begin turning around their political fortunes there has to be a frank acknowledgement that the comprehensive health-care initiative is a failure, regardless of whether it passes. There are enough Republican and Democratic proposals — such as purchasing insurance across state lines, malpractice reform, incrementally increasing coverage, initiatives to hold down costs, covering preexisting conditions and ensuring portability — that can win bipartisan support. It is not a question of starting over but of taking the best of both parties and presenting that as representative of what we need to do to achieve meaningful reform. Such a proposal could even become a template for the central agenda items for the American people: jobs and economic development.

Unless the Democrats fundamentally change their approach, they will produce not just a march of folly but also run the risk of unmitigated disaster in November.

 Considering that the Lying Worthless Political Hack’s, aka Nancy Pelosi’s, favorability rating in a CBS poll is 11% and Harry Reid’s favorability rating is 8%, that in a Rasmussen poll 54% of the voters oppose Obamacare, and that in a Rasmussen Congressional generic ballot poll the Republicans have a ten point lead,   I’d say that the analysis of Caddell and Schoen is on the money.  Two main factors to consider are anger and energy.  The passage of ObamaCare is angering  and energizing Republicans, Conservatives, Independents and disaffected Democrats.  The Democrats are doing their best to forge a political alliance against them that will place their party in the political wilderness for a very long time. 


7 Responses to ObamaCare=Jonestown Politically for Democrats?

  1. Blackadder says:

    Intrade puts the possibility of a Republican takeover of the House at around 50% (take over of the Senate is at 15%). That seems about right.

  2. I could basically buy that. It’s for sure that the GOP will make significant gains, but they have so far to go to actually capture a majority that it wouldn’t surprise me if they fall short in the Senate. I could see the House as a decent possibility, but it’s not a sure thing.

  3. RL says:

    The problem with the Republicans is that they’re the Republicans. Their greatest strength and virtue is that they’re not the Democrats. However, that may be enough to get people like me to vote for them on the lesser of two evils principle, it’s hardly enough to deliver a handy victory, let alone get people enthused to support them. They’re in dire need of a Reagan or even a 1994 Gingrich. They need leadership that will get the party back to first things and convincingly so. There are a few Republicans that in actions fit the mold, I’m just not so sure they can or want to undertake that kind of leadership.

  4. Donald R. McClarey says:

    Back in December of last year I made the following predictions in regard to the Senate:

    “The Democrats are defending quite a few vulnerable seats in the House which McCain carried last year, and many more which Bush carried in 2000 and 2004. Traditionally Republican districts will be swinging back to the GOP next year. Incumbency after the fiasco this year I doubt can be regarded as a positive in competitive districts. The Democrats are also beginning to be plagued by retirements from Congress, a sure sign of a party in trouble in the next election cycle.

    In the Senate I see the Republicans taking Senate seats in Arkansas, Connecticut, Colorado, Nevada, New York (Gillabrand’s seat), North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Delaware and either Washington or Wisconsin. I see them holding all their seats and Lieberman caucusing with the GOP in 2011. If Linda Lingle, popular Republican governor of Hawaii, gets into the Senate race she might topple 85 year old Inouye who has served in the Senate since I was 5 years old in 1962. It is hard to imagine Evan Bayh losing in Indiana, but if the political winds are gale force against the Democrats I think there is a small chance he might.”


    With Bayh having retired Indiana looks to be a sure pick up by the GOP. Barbara “Call me Senator!” Boxer I think may go down in flames in California. I think with the Dodd resignation Connecticut is probably safe for the Dems.

    I believe a turnover in the Senate for the GOP is probably likely now, especially since in a sweep year close Senate elections tend to fall to the winning party, as occurred in 2006 and 2008 to the Democrats. Of course the Brown miracle in Massachusetts makes the math one seat easier for the GOP than when I made my December predictions. Real Politics, based on an average of current polls are showing a seven seat gain for the GOP. I expect the polls to get much worse for the Democrats as the year and the recession goes on.

  5. Donna V. says:

    They’re in dire need of a Reagan or even a 1994 Gingrich.

    I have been increasingly impressed with Paul Ryan (unfortunately, he is not my representative) throughout this debacle. I think he might end up being the Gingrich of 2010.

  6. Elaine Krewer says:

    Good analysis, and the analogy to Jonestown (which, appropriately enough, inspired the catchphrase “drinking the Kool-Aid”) may prove to be accurate — but where does Caddell make that comparison? I didn’t find it in the article.

  7. Donald R. McClarey says:

    He says it in the video Elaine.

%d bloggers like this: