Andrew Sullivan is the latest to point out that the Health Care Bill would be more popular as law than as a proposal. And, he has some data to back that up
There is considerable polling evidence that passage of health insurance reform will do two things: it will create a critical impression of the country moving forward in tackling its problems and will reassure and revive Democratic voters. Mark Blumenthal notes a fascinating aspect of a poll from NB/WSJ above. It showed reform to be unpopular in the abstract but much more popular if it became law:
"If the current health care legislation becomes law, will you consider it to be a step forward or a step backward?" Asked this way, the margin closed: 44 percent said it was a step forward and 49 percent said it was a step backward, leaving just 7 percent unable to answer
The key lesson I’m learning from the last three Presidency is that the voters reward good news, not good policy. If the have jobs, feel safe and the number of dead Americans they read about in the paper’s isn’t too great you get to stay in office. If not you have to leave.
To wit, its probably best to ignore public opinion entirely and simply ram through an agenda that you think will work. If you’re wrong you won’t get to stay, but you will have the made the best stab at what you want anyway. Both Bush and Obama seemed to govern this way and by and large I think its worked out for them.
Whatever the public may think of Bush, we have a fledgling democracy in Iraq and that’s what he wanted. If Obama rams through health care we will have near universal coverage and that seems to be what he wants.