IT'S TOUGH TO MAKE PREDICTIONS, ESPECIALLY ABOUT THE FUTURE
I shouldn't wade into these waters again, but yesterday, via Steve Benen and Talking Points Memo, I saw that Public Policy Polling had released a new survey that says Democrats are looking at bad results in the midterms -- whether they pass health care reform or not. (Results in this PDF.)
In the generic ballot question, here are the results:
* Wnen asked about November with no mention of health care: respondents favor the GOP, 43%-40%
* If Democrats pass health care reform: respondents favor the GOP, 45%-41%
* If Democrats don't pass health care reform: respondents favor the GOP, 43%-38%
Not much difference no matter what. This seems to give the lie to the widespread belief that passing the bill could save the Democrats.
Or does it? Because we don't know what the aftermath of passage or non-passage would be. Respondents think they know, but they don't. Nobody does.
PPP's Tom Jensen also thinks he knows:
Here's the bottom line on health care at this point: the political damage for Democrats has been done. It doesn't matter whether it actually passes- it has had the effect of getting Republican voters really fired up and along with the economy continuing to struggle it has turned independents toward the GOP as well. Those voters aren't going to come back at this point because health care doesn't pass.
But we don't know that. John McCain's poll numbers cratered in GOP polls in 2007 -- around the time immigration reform was on the table. After the Bush immigration bill crashed and burned, McCain mounted a comeback. Coincidence?
... Democrats are primed to have a brutal election year right now. It might be nice if they actually had something to show for it....
Sure -- but reforming health care isn't the only conceivable accomplishment they can point to going into November, is it? Couldn't they do something else, instead or as well?
If a bill passes, I assure you that right-wingers will hit the ceiling. There'll be massive tea party demonstrations, calls for impeachment, declarations of unconstitutionality, pledges of resistance from demagoguing governors.
My guess is that Republicans will win that propaganda war -- but I'll admit that I can't really say for sure. Is there some point at which they might overplay their hand and alienate the middle? Possibly.
On the other hand, I don't think Jensen and others really know how the public will react if there's no bill -- and if we're not talking about health care ten months from now. They don't know what the reaction will be if there are other Democratic accomplishments. Hell, if Democrats somehow manage to get their act together, having a health care bill in limbo that could still be passed might be an appealing campaign promise for Democrats. We just don't know.
I have my (somewhat heretical) opinions. But we can't really see the future. Nevertheless, we ought to at least consider a no-bill future in which memories fade (even though they might not) and a passed-bill future in which the GOP war against the bill never ends, and possibly escalates (even though that may not happen, or may not succeed).