Augusta Free Press

The Pulse | The politics of health care

Column by Chris Graham

Health-care reform opponents speak as if it’s a given that the passage of reform including a public option and new mandates for private insurers will be an act of political suicide by Democrats.

Take comments from Bill Wilson, the president of the advocacy group Americans for Limited Government, released today on the topic of the U.S. Senate vote to move forward with debate on a reform bill under consideration in the senior chamber of Congress.

The vote was “completely out of step with public sentiment about the legislation,” said Wilson, citing a poll conducted by the right-leaning pollster Rasmussen Reports that suggests that 56 percent of likely voters now oppose the legislation.

“And yet the Senate is moving rapidly to enact this legislation in direct defiance of the American people’s express wishes. They are defying representative government, raising the question: If not the people, who do they represent?” Wilson said, offering the veiled threat that Democrats sitting on the political fence are no doubt getting loud and clear.

Vote for reform at your own political peril, is the threat.

Another poll from Public Policy Polling offers another form of veiled threat: Fail to vote for reform at your own peril.

“Clearly Democrats need to pass a health-care bill if they want to do well at the polls next year,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, which is registering a 46 percent-to-41 percent split in favor of Democrats on its generic national congressional ballot with the hypothetical that Democrats have been successful in getting a reform bill passed and signed into law.

The split if the reform fails – a 40-40 dead heat.

The movers are independents, who go from being +7 for Dems on generic ballots to +7 for Republicans in the early polling on 2010 if reform with a public option is passed and signed into law; and Democratic voters, whose intensity for Democratic candidates increases nine points with the passage of reform with a public option.

Another lesson for congressional Democrats comes from the history books. Remember 1993?