The coming ObamaCare backlash

Ralph Reed Contributor
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Barack Obama’s poll numbers have plummeted further and faster than any incumbent president in modern times. Then came passage of Obamacare. With it a new conventional wisdom took hold: Obama is Superman! The diffident and detached intellectual had entered the final legislative battle over Obamacare as Jimmy Carter and emerged as Franklin Roosevelt. Amidst huzzahs from the lamestream media, Obama showed he could inspire both fear and enthusiasm, bending Congress to his will and forcing passage of the most sweeping social legislation since Medicare in 1965 and Social Security in 1935. Correspondingly, the media predicted, his base would snap out of its comatose stupor and rush to the polls to punish do-nothing Republicans who had sold their souls to the far right and the Tea Party crowd.

The problem with this media-driven narrative (like the erroneous claims of threats of violence by Tea Partiers) is that it is not backed up by the facts. A CNN poll taken over three days, including the day Obamacare passed the House, found that 59 percent oppose the bill and only 39% favor it. A CBS survey found that more people believe it will hurt health care in America than help. The same CNN survey finds that 54% of the American people believe Obama will be defeated in 2012 while only 44% believe he will be re-elected. This question used by pollsters is one of the most reliable predictors of the electorate’s view of an incumbent president.

Similarly, a Washington Post-ABC News poll released over the weekend and conducted after Congressional passage found that 50 percent of the American people oppose the new health care law, while only 46 percent support it. According to the Post, “That is virtually identical to the pre-vote split on the proposals and similar to the divide that has existed since last summer, when the country became sharply polarized over the president’s most ambitious domestic initiative.” (The WaPo-ABC poll is of all adults, not likely voters, so it vastly understates the intensity of the opposition to Obamacare among those most likely to go to the polls in November.

Scott Rasmussen similarly finds in polls taken after the bill passed that opposition to Obamacare now stands at 44 percent—-the highest on record.

The same pattern prevails in 2010 battleground states. A Mason-Dixon poll in Florida found that only 34 percent of voters in the Sunshine State support Obamacare, while 54 percent are opposed. Among seniors the disapproval is a staggering 65-25 percent, and among independents it is 62-34 percent opposed. The same poll finds Obama’s approval number more negative by 15 points.

If Obamacare is this unpopular in the afterglow of Obama’s East Room signing ceremony (where Joe Biden proved he is the gift that keeps on giving when he dropped the f-bomb) and the media’s cheerleading, how unpopular might it be when the American people vote in seven months? There are no benefits for the vast majority of the population until 2014 or later, while the bureaucracy, taxes, and regulations begin now. Obama got it exactly backwards: he led with the pain, and saved the sweet stuff for later. There will be no class of federal beneficiaries voting to protect their benefits in November, only millions of seniors mad about Medicare cuts and small businessmen and women livid about their tax increases.

The process by which this legislation was cynical and corrupt. Democrats breezily insist the American people don’t care about “process.” They claim no one cares about the bribes, the bullying, the backroom deals. That is insulting and suggests voters don’t care about the integrity of their leaders. The Cornhusker Kickback, Louisiana Purchase, gimmicky accounting, eleventh hour executive order to pacify pro-life Democrats, hundreds of millions in Medicare and Medicaid hand-outs to the last few wavering voters, all made a mockery of Nancy Pelosi’s vow to run the most ethical House in history. Kimberly Strassel at the Wall Street Journal has catalogued the sad tale of corruption HERE.

When politicians insist that how a bill becomes a law is “inside baseball,” brace for a voter backlash. I was Georgia Republican party chairman when the Democrats in my state passed the most brazenly gerrymandered redistricting plan in modern times, carving up towns, counties, and communities for partisan advantage. After Governor Roy Barnes rammed the reapportionment plan through the legislature, I was on a panel with a lot of smart, erudite pundits at the Georgia Municipal Association who assured the audience that voters would not care because reapportionment was complicated and process-oriented. I thought they were wrong and that voters would resent the manner in which their representation in Washington and Atlanta had been distorted for raw political power. But I was clearly alone in that view. A few months later I bumped into then-Senator Zell Miller at an event at the World Congress Center. “I followed what you’ve been saying about redistricting,” he said. “When the voters go to the polls, they’re going to ask themselves one question: Who did this to me?” Zell cocked his head and tapped my chest with his index finger for emphasis. “You just watch,” he said. That November Republicans elected the first GOP governor since Reconstruction and gained control of the state Senate after winning an unprecedented number of seats and then having four Democrat state Senators switch parties. (Governor-elect Sonny Perdue was on the phone until the wee hours with his former Democrat colleagues persuading them to cross the aisle and Republicans promptly redrew the Congressional and state legislative districts to preserve towns, counties, and communities.) The pundits were wrong. Voters care about process, especially when they know they’ve been played for fools.

Obamacare is a disastrous law by any measure. Substantively, politically, and from as a legislative process it is an affront to the American people and an assault on our individual freedom and proper representative government.

Ralph Reed is founder and president of Century Strategies, a public relations and public affairs firm with offices in Atlanta and Washington. He is the former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party.