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It's true, as Josh Marshall said yesterday, that the political and institutional landscape is more receptive to healthcare reform this year than it was in 1994. We have bigger majorities in Congress; the GOP is in tatters; the HMO revolution has failed; the AMA and the hospital industry are willing to play ball; unions are working with us; business opposition is far more muted; and Obama's legislative strategy is more sophisticated than Clinton's.
Oh, and the public mood is more favorable to healthcare reform too. Right? Bob Somerby doesn't think so:
In fact, the Democrats “went into this round” with a public which is massively clueless about health care reform — and massively lacking in righteous anger, in angry desire for change....Real progressives would work for years — for decades — to develop public understanding and anger about such complex affairs. It takes a long, aggressive struggle to develop progressive political frameworks. As Krugman explained, the other side has pimped its poll-tested narratives down through all those years. But our own denatured “liberal leaders” are too fat and happy to fight against that. When have you ever seen them fight to develop a winning politics about anything known to this earth?
I'm not quite that gloomy, but I think Bob is basically right. Sure, if you take a survey and ask people if they "support healthcare reform," a large majority will say yes. But while that may be better than a large majority saying no, it's mostly meaningless. Most repondents haven't thought about it much, don't really know what healthcare "reform" is, and will switch views in a millisecond once they see a single TV attack ad. What you need isn't people willing to murmur yes to a pollster, it's people pissed off enough to inundate their congressmen with phone calls. But we don't have that.
Even though it's an even day and I'm supposed to be pessimistic about healthcare, I still think it's more likely than not that we'll get a fairly decent bill passed this year. Call it 60-40, maybe a little better. But the odds would be a lot shorter if liberals had done a better job over the past decade of getting middle class voters as angry about their healthcare as they get over, say, a pothole outside their front door. Note to Dems: it's still not too late.