The DNC Should Fire Its Health Care Pollster

by John Hawkins | March 16, 2010 12:13 pm

Obama’s pollster, Joel Benenson, has been making some utterly bizarre arguments for health care reform of late. If he really believes this stuff, he’s not competent enough to do his job. Of course, it’s entirely possible that he may be putting this nonsense out there because he believes Democratic Congressmen are stupid enough to buy it — and they just may be. So, who knows? Here’s the latest nonsense from Benenson[1]:

DNC pollster Joel Benenson, in a new poll and memo prepared for the Service Employees International Union and provided to POLITICO, is arguing that Democrats’ political woes stem not from the scale of their agenda, but from the perception that they’ve turned into deal-making insiders on their path to achieving it.

The memo argues that Democrats can repair their standing and recapture the mantle of “change” by passing health care legislation, by putting a new focus on a transparent, fair process, and by forcing Republicans to defend Wall Street.

“Among both [Democrats and Independents], dissatisfaction is not focused on the broad outlines and goals of the Democratic agenda,” write Benenson and his associate Danny Franklin. “Instead, it centers squarely on perceptions of a breakdown in the legislative process, exemplified by deal-cutting and special deals for the constituents of key swing Senators.”

The memo offers an argument that bolsters the White House’s commitment to press forward, despite the conventional wisdom that they face a backlash against expanding government and growing deficits. It also reflects the determination among the White House’s allies, led by the SEIU, to stay the course.

“Independents’ concerns about health care reform are not about specific provisions in the bills passed by the Senate or House, but instead reflect concerns about reforms’ stagnation and the backroom deal-cutting, particularly those that benefit the constituents of key swing senators or special interests, such as the pharmaceutical industry,” they write. “What’s critical is that Democrats do not mistake Independents’ dissatisfaction with the way Democrats are running Congress with a rightward ideological shift.”

First of all, this puts the chicken before the egg. The reason Democrats have acted like “deal-making insiders” on health care reform is because that’s the only way they have a chance to pass the bill. That’s what the bribes are about. It’s what reconciliation is about. It’s what the Slaughter rule is about. It’s about gaming the process to pass a bill no one likes. If the American public was actually clamoring for this bill, they wouldn’t have to give out Cornhusker kickbacks and Gator Aid because Democrats in Congress would want to vote for a popular, liberal bill.

Moreover, if you really believe independents are upset about “backroom deal-cutting,” how dumb do you have to be to use those tactics to pass a bill that would be the defining issue of at least the next two elections? If this bill passes, it, along with all the sleazy legislative chicanery that was used to pass it, will be front:  and : center in November. Additionally, the fact that most of the benefits don’t kick in until 2014 means the GOP will be running on repealing the extremely unpopular bill for at least the next two election cycles. The idea that you can pass a takeover of 1/6 of the US economy, with no Republican votes, via backroom deals, bribery, and arcane legislative tactics and then repair the damage by pivoting towards transparency is utterly delusional.

PS: You really think this populist “Republicans love Wall Street” trope is a big winner while the Democratic Party is funneling billions of dollars to Wall Street in bailouts that are openly despised by the conservative base? Good luck with that spin because you’re going to need it.

  1. latest nonsense from Benenson:

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