The Gallup organization has produced a poll of American opinion on healthcare insurance, the results of which are above:
PRINCETON, NJ — In a recent Gallup survey, 89% of Republicans, 64% of independents, and 61% of Americans overall say Americans themselves — rather than the government — have the primary responsibility for ensuring that they have health insurance. Six in 10 Democrats say the government should be primarily responsible.
My interpretation of this, rather than asserting that such and such is right and so and so is wrong, is that there is a genuine and profound difference of opinion among Americans on this subject. A solid majority of Americans (and an even higher proportion of Republicans) don’t believe that the government is primarily responsible. Note that on this question independents are fairly representative of Americans, generally.
Many Democrats, particularly progressive Democrats will ask Don’t elections mean anything? Indeed they do. The winner of the election gets the job and has the ability to set the agenda. However, the government is the government for all of the people, not merely the victors and I believe that good governance requires that attention be paid to the views of most Americans.
I have seen this same result in polls of the public option. When asked whether they believe that the public option should be available alongside private insurance a sizeable number of Americans say Yes. However, when asked if they want to abolish private insurance in favor of publicly provided insurance, they say No. Americans want a choice.
That presents what I think are the legitimate questions about the public option. If the public option operates under the same rules as private insurance does, among which are that payouts are strictly limited to premiums taken in, can it survive? If it doesn’t operate under the same rules, can private insurance survive?
Meanwhile, I think that Congressional Democrats would do well to consider whether, even if they’ve got the votes to impose something on Americans that Americans don’t want, should they? A tyranny of a narrow majority is bad enough. A tyranny of a minority that through a combination of gerrymandered districts, safe seats, and an unpopular Republican president happens to have a majority in the legislature is much worse.
I am not arguing here for a mechanical bipartisanship. Honestly, I don’t think that bipartisanship has anything to do with it. I am arguing for good governance and sometimes good governance means foregoing your preference in favor of the will of the people.