Don’t let a poll feed the panic

DON’T LET A POLL FEED THE PANIC…. The new Gallup poll won’t help, but it’s not a surprise, either — a 55% majority would prefer to see lawmakers hit the brakes on health care and “consider alternative bills that can receive more Republican support.”

At face value, I think the wording of the poll may skew the results a bit — Americans say they love “bipartisanship,” so if you ask the public whether Dems should seek out GOP support, it’s easy to expect a majority. If, however, the same poll asked Americans to choose between Democratic policy ideas and Republican policy ideas, the GOP would lose badly.

But even if we accept the poll as entirely reliable and an accurate reflection of public attitudes, Democrats would still be crazy to retreat because of it. Greg Sargent had a good item on this.

[I]f Dems don’t pass reform, they will never have a chance to sell a completed package to the public — and to try to convince the public that they were right, and Republicans were wrong. People will never have a chance to decide that their fears about reform were unwarranted.

Not passing reform won’t stop Republicans from attacking Dems for trying to jam an unpopular bill down the public’s throat. And failure would give Republicans more ammo, not less. It would allow the GOP to take credit for blocking reform, to present itself as an effective and relevant opposition, and to paint Dems — accurately — as ineffective and unable to lead.

Look, I can appreciate why Dems are feeling anxiety, but if they take a deep breath and think about it, what’s the best way to turn the polls around? Do they think public opinion will turn in their favor if they cower in fear and fail to deliver? After they’ve already voted for health care reform?

What I’m suggesting is that they give success a chance. The polls are far more likely to recover if lawmakers do what they said they would do, pass the most important domestic policy legislation in generations, reap the rewards of a historic victory, and then get out there and sell their handiwork — making clear to the country that the scare tactics were wrong. Once the bill is signed, the media won’t just have a major signing ceremony to cover, but there will be plenty of reports about what the new law does and does not do, which would further help debunk the myths.

How is this not obvious? In what universe do the polls improve after politicians fail to deliver on their promises?

Pass. The. Damn. Bill.

Pass. The. Damn. Bill.

Pass. The. Damn. Bill.