If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.


Between 'Inspiration' and Health Care

A Commentary by Froma Harrop

Friday, February 08, 2008

Why so many Americans want their president to be a personal motivator and religious guide vexes me. You do want a leader with dignity and self-control, but attending to the economy, national defense, foreign affairs, the environment and other aspects of the public's well being should be a full-time occupation.

For these reasons, I find President Bush's moral mouthing and Barack Obama's self-portrayal as the embodiment of hope both irritating. Their purpose is to lift the man above the grimy chores of formulating national policy. Aren't meeting those challenges part of the job description?

We are told that the primary voters don't really care about the issues. They are looking for someone who makes them feel good -- and consider candidates who muck around policy uninspiring.

But there are Americans who do care, and they came out on Super Tuesday. In California's Democratic primary, Latinos were 30 percent of the voters and preferred Hillary Clinton by a two-to-one margin. Hispanics are far more likely than other groups to lack health coverage, even when you subtract those here illegally. Given a choice between inspiration and health care, they chose health care.

Though Clinton prevailed in big-prize California, she and Obama generally divided the Super Tuesday spoils. The Democratic contest moves on to other states, many home to folks who are struggling economically. Apart from African-Americans, who have shown a special loyalty to the biracial Obama, the bruised workers seem to be supporting the candidate who grapples with the details. That would be Clinton.

From his Chicago headquarters, Obama ended the exhausting Tuesday night with an almost mechanical "we have to choose between change and more of the same."

How odd that when it comes to the Democrats' top concern, health care, Obama offers very much "more of the same" -- as in more of "no universal coverage."

Obama would make "affordable" medical insurance available but not require everyone to obtain coverage. "Senator Clinton has a different approach," he said in the Los Angeles debate. "She believes that we have to force people who don't have health insurance to buy it ... ."

That all sounds congenial and non-threatening. Problem is, lots of healthy people who don't have to buy health coverage won't. They'll avoid paying into the insurance pool until they get sick, at which point they'll claim their taxpayer subsidies. How about a state-government auto insurance plan that lets drivers buy coverage after they've wrecked the car?

Over in the Republican camp, John McCain calls for tax credits to help Americans buy health coverage. Making health

policy through tax policy is an ineffective approach, though for many Republicans, an ideologically gratifying one. But McCain deserves credit for this: He doesn't promise coverage for everyone. With McCain, at least you know what you don't get.

A coherent health-care system isn't just a matter of social equity. It's a dire economic need. Today's patchwork of coverage and non-coverage is enormously expensive, inefficient and a drag on America's ability to compete globally.

Obama's supporters say the Illinois senator is a very smart guy, and once he's in the White House, will iron out any flaws in the proposal. That could be, but it insulted many wonky Democrats that Obama didn't go to the trouble of drawing a coherent plan to cover everyone. He produced something that sounded half-Democrat and half-Republican but was 100 percent unworkable.

Ah, those pesky details -- far beneath the nobility of a man galloping to his date with destiny. Back in Chicago, Obama is telling his devotees: "We have to choose between looking backward and looking forward. We have to choose between our future and our past."

OK, but how about the present?



See Other Political Commentary

See Other Commentaries by Froma Harrop

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.

To learn more about our methodology, click here.