A recent Kaiser poll is filled with interesting numbers. It found support for health care reform split, with 43 percent pro and 43 percent con. It found that only 34 percent of respondents believed the current legislation would better their condition. Only 32 percent said they wanted Congress to pass comprehensive legislation quickly. Twenty-two percent want health care to be put on hold until later this year. Nineteen percent want the topic to be dropped altogether. Do the math.
The push to pass health care reform is not the result of a shift in public opinion. To the contrary: public opinion on this issue has not moved in the Democrats' direction for some time. What is driving the president's renewed effort is (a) ideological commitment to universal health insurance and (b) a political calculation that the Democrats are doomed if they do not pass a health bill. It's entirely possible, of course, that the Democrats are doomed whether they pass this bill or not -- indeed, passing a bill over the objections of the public may worsen their political problem, at least in the short term.
E.J. Dionne writes that the health summit will determine the fate of health care reform. But it is hard to see how one televised event, coming off Obama's 34 speeches on the topic, will do anything to nudge recalcitrant Blue Dogs into voting for the revised bill. Rather than serving as health care reform's relaunch, the summit could wind up being its funeral. The summit has been called political Kabuki Theatre. But considering what the public thinks about this bill, maybe Noh Theatre is more like it.