Is Kevin Drum Too Optimistic about Health Care?

| Mon Aug. 31, 2009 9:07 AM EDT

Has Kevin Drum been misled by Fox News?

He writes that the takeaway of this summer's angry town hall meetings--where rightwingers screamed at members of Congress about President Obama's plan to overhaul the health care system--is that actually not that many wingnuts showed up to voice outrage and shake their fists. And he presents what he calls "the optimistic view":

The Fox/FreedomWorks crowd has created some great political theater, but underneath it all not a lot has changed.  If Democrats can just take a deep breath after the trauma of being yelled at all summer, they'll realize that the loons at their townhalls represented about one percent of their constituency; that the public still wants reform and will reward success; that the plans currently on the table are already pretty modest affairs; and then they'll stick together as a caucus and vote for them.  And that will be that.

But has the Foxification of the health care debate drawn too much attention to the wrong players? Kevin is correct that the wing nuts don't matter much. But they are not the real problem. The issue for Obama and for congressional Democrats from certain districts and states is that many (if not most) independents are skeptical of comprehensive health reform--and can be swayed by the predictable GOP talking points: it's too costly and too risky. And as I wrote a few weeks ago, assorted polls

show that support for Obama on health care "is too generalized" and that "too many Americans . . . see health reform benefiting others but not them." Perhaps more important, large majorities of voters tell pollsters that they are generally satisfied with their health insurance coverage and consider their own insurance affordable. (One poll [Democratic pollster John] Marttila conducted found that 88 percent had insurance coverage and 85 percent were satisfied with it.)

Cable media, newspapers, partisan websites, and blogs have had a good time covering the loons of the town halls, and that has made it seem that they are the story. But the true fight at hand is not for the anger-filled hearts and rage-clouded minds of the pitchfork set. It's for the support of the indies. Recent polling shows that Obama still needs to win over more of them; that's the challenge he faces as he leaves behind lovely Martha's Vineyard and returns to the moshpit of Washington.

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