Why the Health Care Polls Are Tanking, Part XVIII:

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Dec. 17 2009 3:45 AM

Why the Health Care Polls Are Tanking, Part XVIII:

At least some of the rising discontent with the Democrats' health care reform comes from the left, or from not-necessarily-left voters disappointed that the left's favorite ideas--the public option, the Medicare buy-in--are dropping out of the legislation. At least that's the conclusion the Wall Street Journal reaches after the latest NBC/ WSJ poll, in which a 45% plurality of voters said it's "unacceptable" to drop the public option--and in which overall support for the bill fell by 10 points (since the previous poll, in October). I'm not sure just how impressive this evidence of pro-government discontent is--the "public option" always tests well, and only 13% of "Democratic liberals" now actually oppose the bill (up from 6%). 
 
Still, you have to wonder what this says about the left's overemphasis on the public option throughout 2009. I'd originally assumed the p.o. fixation would work to Obama's advantage, drawing conservative attacks that would then be defused if the option was dropped. (That's Jonathan Cohn's take .) But maybe it worked to Obama's disadvantage-- promising Medicare-like advantages from the wondrous public option only to have voters turn against the bill as a whole when this fabulous feature was snatched away from them . If so, the left has inadvertently done Obama a huge disservice--not pushing the bill "to the left" but rather helping kill it even after it's inevitably been pushed back to the right.  If the left had fixated on a policy idea that wasn't so sensible and appealing, it wouldn't have been such a problem!  (Then dropping it would have been a helpful pushing-off point for Obama.) Possible moral: Be crazier next time!
 
P.S.: Paul Krugman calls on the disappointed left to "[b]y all means denounce Obama for his failed bipartisan gestures," but to support the scaled-back health bill. But how did Obama's "failed bipartisan gestures" lead to the public option (and the Medicare buy-in) dying? What sort of non-bipartisan gesture would have preserved them? They didn't have the votes. They had all the votes on the left. That wasn't enough. No votes, no public option. The only hope of getting the necessary 60 was appealing to the center, which is where the votes were. ... But maybe Krugman is thinking about some other kind of "failed bipartisan gesture"--i.e. if only the stimulus had been bigger , then the economy would have recovered faster and Lieberman or Snowe would have been more amenable to government-run insurance. That last step seems implausible. [ Was this written by you or Herman?--ed Does it matter? I basted him with the triangulating juices , and he knows more about health care than Mickey does I do]

Update: A TPM reader tries to explain the left's beef:

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I think people are pissed right now less at the fact that they didn't get what they wanted, and more at the fact that they feel like their people didn't really fight for it. Leaders don't always get what they want. But people recognize when true leaders at least give it a shot. And people judge that leadership by what they say in public and how hard they see them publicly pushing for it. ... [snip]

They wanted to see news stories about how "staffers close to the majority leader" say that chaimanships and other perks were on the line for any Democrat who talked about filibustering this crucial bill.

In other words, they wanted more Kabuki before the inevitable defeat. ... Do you think public  threats would have changed Lieberman or Nelson's mind (as opposed to feeding their adversarialism)? ... Some would say this is the essence of the left's Fight Club mindset! It's all about the drama, even if the results are the same (or, usually, worse). ... [ via Ezra Klein , who thinks "grueling negotiations" before giving up the public option would have helped. This hasn't been grueling? ] ...  P.S.: Nobody knows how to stage empty Kabuki outrage more than labor unions . ... P.P.S.: Maybe this rumor  will help. ... 1:02 A.M.

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