Bozell Column: Don't Replay the Seventies
The Left is ecstatic about the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, which claimed a surge in public support for the so-called "public option," wrapped in the (insincere) rhetoric of "choice" and "competition." The poll asks if the government should "create a new health insurance plan to compete with private insurance plans," and 57 percent agree. Happy days are here again for liberals.
Liberals in the media found even better news to declare: a new low for the Republican Party, since only 20 percent of those surveyed "usually" think of themselves as Republicans. (Another 19 percent "lean more" toward the Republicans, but that number is being ignored because 20 percent sounds better.) MSNBC’s David Shuster openly hoped: "Have centrists been frightened away from the Republican Party by the right-wing birthers, Tenthers, and town hall screamers?"
PBS "NewsHour" anchor Judy Woodruff proclaimed this was the worst showing for the GOP in a quarter-century, and the remedy was sounding much more like the Democrats. Why be the Party of No when you can be the Party of Snowe? Liberal Mark Shields knew who the GOP should follow: "[Lindsey Graham and John McCain] are trying to reach out, and they recognize the country's changed. The party has to change. And the Republican Party got whomped, thumped, among those new emerging constituencies, among young voters."
If Shields truly understood the Republican Party, he’d understand it is precisely because of this thinking that Lindsey Graham is not currently Secretary of State in the John McCain administration.
Liberals who fondly reminisce about recreating that supine moderate Republican establishment of the Seventies might have looked deeper into the poll. So bedazzled was the Left by that 57 percent number that they overlooked – or just plain ignored – the other numbers in that ABC-Washington Post survey.
When asked if their views were liberal, moderate, or conservative, 38 percent said conservative, and only 23 percent said liberal. In January, those numbers were 32 percent and 24 percent, respectively. That’s a net gain of seven points for conservatives since Obama took office. That’s a national headline. Unless you’re a leftist media outlet, in which case you ignored it.
That number is no fluke. Consider Gallup, which conducts thousands of interviews with Americans each year and always asks respondents to describe their political views. So far in 2009, 40 percent of those surveyed call themselves conservative. That's up from 37 percent in 2007 and 2008, the lowest percentage of self-identified conservatives in more than a decade. Movement is coming from independents. In Gallup's 2008 interviews, 29 percent of independents self-described as conservative. This year, it’s 35 percent.
In other words, MSNBC’s Shuster has it exactly backward. No surprise there.
Even as the Post touted a surge in support for the blow-private-insurance-to-smithereens "option," other Post poll numbers suggested that Democrats shouldn’t be too rosy about a government takeover. Only 45 percent of Americans favored the broad outlines of the proposals now moving in Congress, while 48 percent were opposed, about the same division that existed in August. Then consider the strength of passion: 26 percent strongly support current proposals in Congress, while 36 percent strongly oppose them.
So it was almost comical a few days later when a headline on the Post front page touted "Momentum Shift is Dramatic" toward that government-monopoly "option." Democratic leaders may be shifting, but the poll numbers are certainly not a socialist landslide.
What else was downplayed? The Post poll respondents are skeptical of bizarre liberal claims that health "reform" will reduce the deficit. When asked if it will increase the deficit, 68 percent said yes, and only ten percent said no, it would decrease it. So of course, the Post added whether the deficit increase would be "worth it," and less than half of those who saw a deficit hike said it was worth it.
It gets worse. So why not tax "Cadillac" private-insurance plans? The Senate Finance Committee suggested taxing the most costly private insurance plans to extend coverage to millions more people. Guess what? Americans correctly understand that they are the supposed Cadillacs. Sixty-one percent oppose the idea, while 35 percent favor it.
More bad news still. In a more generic question about the economy, the Post pollsters asked if it was more important to increase federal spending to improve the economy and increase the deficit, or avoid a big increase in the deficit even if it meant not spending to improve the economy. Fifty-seven percent opposed a large new deficit, while only 38 percent wanted more spending.
Conservatism is not dead. It is not only alive, it is growing. The last thing the liberal media want is a resurgent Reaganite Republican majority party, instead of a crippled and co-opted Rockefeller Republican minority. Despite all their attempts, it’s here, it’s flexing its muscles, and it’s ready to rumble.