Several conservative commentators, including Byron York in this morning’s Examiner, have argued that Democrats are turning their back on their signature domestic accomplishment and running away from the health care law they worked so hard and staked so much to pass. Here is York:
It’s no mystery why the party is in retreat. The public’s disapproval of Obamacare hasn’t changed in the last five months. The RealClearPolitics average of recent polls shows 52 percent of Americans oppose the new law, while 39 percent support it. A variety of pollsters — Rasmussen, CNN, Pew, and CBS News — all find significantly more opposition than support. And there’s not just opposition but enthusiasm for outright repeal. “Overall support for repeal has ranged from 52 percent to 63 percent since the law was passed by Congress in March,” writes Rasmussen.
The story might be even worse than that for Democrats. Everyone knows the public’s top issue is the economy. It has been since before Obama took office. So when the president and Democratic congressional leadership devoted a year to passing national health care, Republicans charged they were ignoring the public’s wishes. Now, when Democrats admit that Obamacare won’t cut costs or reduce deficits, they open themselves up to a more serious charge: they spent a year working on something that will actually cost jobs and make things worse.
York has a small point — Democrats aren’t exactly tripping over themselves to defend the new health care law. But they’re not running away from it either. Obama’s HHS has maintained a fairly open and publicly visible implementation process and has often held news conferences with lawmakers to tout its success. Just yesterday, Kathleen Sebelius traveled to Montana to hold a town hall meeting with Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), and the Obama administration called on doctors to rally behind the law and educate their patients about it. Speaker Pelosi has been lobbying Democrats to run on reform since at least July, “urging them to hold town hall-type meetings to highlight the law’s benefits, in the belief it could help Democrats avoid major losses in November.” Last month, Democratic leaders circulated a memo “pressing members to host meetings with constituents during this week’s recess to underscore the benefits of the reform law.”
And it’s partly because of these efforts that public opinion seems to be turning in favor of reform. “A late-July Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 50% of the public views the new law favorably, up 9 points from May, while the proportion of Americans who view reform unfavorably has dropped from 44% to 35% in the same period. In late June, more Americans (49%) told Gallup that the law’s passage was ‘a good thing’ than those who disapproved — the first time the law showed a positive result in Gallup’s survey.”