The votes of House Democrats on Sunday will largely determine the votes of independents in November. Individual members of Congress who vote “no” on the proposed health care overhaul will strike an immediate chord of respect with their constituents, establish an instant reputation for fiscal prudence and independent thinking, and gain the appreciation of voters for listening to them. Those who vote “yes” will invite the disdain of voters across the entire political spectrum, save the far left.
Independents, even more than most Americans, strongly disapprove of the proposed health care overhaul. In June, 66 percent of independents supported President Obama in a Fox News poll. After nine months of the president’s focusing almost entirely on health care, the same poll now shows that only 38 percent of independents support him — an amazing decline. Even fewer of these same independents, just 29 percent, specifically approve of the president’s handling of health care. More than twice as many, 63 percent, disapprove.
A PPP poll now shows Republicans leading on the generic congressional ballot by a tally of 46 to 43 percent. The GOP has built that lead on the strength of a 44 to 26 percent advantage among independents — the same 18-point margin by which Reagan beat Mondale and FDR beat Hoover.
Intensity of feeling is also clearly on the side of those who oppose the health-care overhaul. By two to one, those who strongly oppose it outnumber those who strongly support it (46 percent to 23 percent). This is not just a flash in the pan. Such two-to-one gaps in intensity have been pretty consistently in evidence since Thanksgiving.
It’s hard to win an election without the support of independents and with the intensity of support/opposition working solidly against you. But individual House Democrats can quickly quiet most opposition and win over most independents. With just one vote, they can show that they are independent too. They can show that they don’t just vote the party line, but are willing to exercise independent judgment and take independent action. They can show that they are willing to listen to their constituents. Those who exercise that healthy spirit of independence, even with their party leaders breathing down their necks, will be rewarded by grateful voters in November for their courage.