Friday, November 06, 2009

Which Public Is That?

The Beltway cognoscenti keep telling us that a bipartisan solution to health care reform is what the public wants. Just what public is it that's more interested in process than results?

Conventional wisdom says that Obama has failed to make Washington more bipartisan if Democrats ram through a health reform bill without Republican support. That would be the Republican support that House Republican whip Rep. Eric Cantor just swore Democrats will never get. “[N]ot one Republican will vote for this bill," Cantor told a “tea party” crowd on Thursday.

Republican strategist Mike Murphy from Thursday’s Morning Edition (NPR):

… I think the great mistake of the Obama presidency, the thing that has taken his numbers among the critical independents who put him in office from very high to low now, is they were elected as a bipartisan problem solver, almost a post-partisan politician. But from the day they've been in, they got a little drunk on the power and they've governed as a one-party liberal party. It's been more of the Democratic dogma, particularly in the House under Pelosi.

And while they have the pure political power to force some things through with their majorities, the Democrats, in my view, are governing too far to the left. They're losing the middle of the country.

Put aside for a moment the up-is-downisms. The public is disillusioned because, as Murphy suggests, Democrats aren’t being bipartisan enough? Or is it really because they have accomplished too little in trying to placate an avowedly obstructionist opposition party?

Observe the coverage of the off-year elections. It is the end of the honeymoon, says Murphy. The media made it out to be a turning point for the White House -- picking up two House seats is, of course, bad news for the Democrats. It's a wonder television news didn't brand the coverage with a catchy name and trademarked graphics.

This should give health care reformers in Congress pause, suggest our media mavens. Why?

Suspense, drama, conflict and histrionics are the stuff of good TV. One would think the media would be egging on Democrats to use the reconciliation process to pass health care reform – with a public option. Think of the ratings. You ain't seen nothin' yet.

See Rep. John Boehner crying on the House floor, streaking his bronzer! Hear Congresswoman Michele Bachmann declare President Obama the antichrist on the steps of the Capitol! Experience the riveting oratory of Joe the Bummer! Watch conservatives in Congress rend their garments as tea partiers fling themselves onto a pyre of burning Constitutions!

Now that’s must-see TV. So why is our “liberal” media suggesting that that would be the worst that could happen? For whom, exactly? It is because the corporate titans behind mass media have a vested interest in seeing health reform fail?

There are more questions than answers.

What public is it that would rather have a bad bipartisan bill rather than a more robust single-party one? The public that's disenchanted because health reform has not been passed already? The majority of Americans that consistent polling shows want a bill with a public option? The people already suffering under a failed and costly health care system? The pragmatic average Joes who go to see Larry the Cable Guy shout "Git ‘Er Done!" from the stage?

That public is more interested in process than results?

Cross-posted from Campaign for America's Future.

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