Bobby Jindal Declares Health Care Debate Over

By Chris Good

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) pronounces the death of Democratic health reform in an op-ed published this morning in The Washington Post: "Washington is the only place in the country that doesn't realize that this debate is over," he writes, after calling Dems' plans "passe" and proclaiming that "[t]he people don't want it. Believe the polls, the town halls, the voters."

Jindal may or may not be right about the ultimate fate of Democrats' broader plans, but, not to beat a dead horse, the polling doesn't say Americans oppose Democratic reforms. At best, we can say it's a mixed picture. Of the most recent, reliable, non-partisan major polls--a Sept. 12 Washington Post/ABC survey, an Economist/YouGov survey released Sept. 15, and a Sept. 25 NY Times/CBS poll--only the first shows Americans opposed to Democratic plans (48 percent to 52 percent); the other two show Americans in favor, though NY Times/CBS found that 46 percent say they don't know enough to decide.

A more crucial statistic for Jindal and his party, however, is that Americans think Obama has better ideas on health care than Republicans in Congress: the NY Times/CBS poll showed Obama beating congressional Republicans 52-27 on that question, which probably means the Democratic Party's "Party of No" attack on the GOP is sticking. The thesis of Jindal's op-ed is that Republicans should "join the battle of ideas" and offer some pragmatic solutions that Democrats could vote for (but not a thousand-page bill of their own--something Democrats have been hammering them for choosing not to produce). If Democratic health care reform fails, it could be a pyrrhic victory for the GOP, without anything to boost its own standing and credibility on the issue--and that's a scenario Jindal seems, politically at least, to be in tune with.

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus busts me up for missing two Economist/YouGov polls that came out since the Sept. 15 one, both of which report Americans opposing health care reform 51-49. But I still stand by the original claim. Those figures are well within the polls' margins of error, which are +/- 4/7 percentage points and +/- 5 percentage points. So, despite Kaus being right, I'd still say it's a mixed bag.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2009/10/bobby-jindal-declares-health-care-debate-over/27802/