Monday, October 1, 2007

The Country's Political Center is Shifting and With it the Health Care Reform Debate

I always thought it was shortsighted for the Republicans to avoid comprehensive health care reform in the six years they controlled the White House and the Congress (2001-2006). Instead they just added $8 trillion in unfunded liability (Part D) to a Medicare system they've been telling us from the beginning is unsustainable as it is.

Eventually the political pendulum swings to the other side. Whatever big problems you leave on the table when that happens, you leave to the other guys.

Today's Washington Post cites a tracking poll that gives us reason to believe that pendulum is swinging the other way.

It seems that Democratic polling firm Hart Research and Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies have tested two propositions over the last twelve years: "Government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people" and "Government is doing too many things better left to business and individuals."

In December 1995, a year after the Republican takeover of Congress, the poll gave a big lead to "less intrusive government"--62% to 32%.

This month, "a more activist government won out"--52% to 39%.

The Post pointed out that Republican voters still say government is doing too much--62% to 32%.

The data says two things to me:
  1. Republican presidential candidates are running to the right for good reason in the Republican primary season. Republican voters are going to respond to the "free market" and "individual responsibility" health care reform messages all of the Republicans are now delivering.
  2. "Free market" health care isn't going to get the job done in the general election.

Yelling "Hillary Care" may work for the Republicans with their own in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina in January but it will backfire come November 2008 if Republicans don't have more on the table by then.

The center has moved. Right now on health care, the Democrats are standing on it.

All of those great Republican health care reform ideas, where were they during those first six years?

They couldn't get them past Democratic "obstructionists?" They got $8 trillion in unfunded liability for Part D and a private Medicare Advantage program past them.
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