Patrick H. Caddell and Douglas E. Schoen have an editorial in today’s Washington Post that carries a warning for Democrats. And while the message is one that has been around a while, the messengers this time are different.

Caddell has been a thorn in Democrat’s side since 1988, with sharp criticism for the party’s direction. But his resume is impressive; he worked for national candidates and Presidents like George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Gary Hart, Joe Biden and Jerry Brown. Schoen was one of Bill Clinton’s pollsters, but is no stranger to controversy himself: his 2008 book Declaring Independence: The Beginning of the End of the Two-Party System angered partisans on both sides of the aisle.

Like David Frum in the GOP, the voices of those unhappy with their party are often much more important than the cheer-leading done by those toeing the party line.

Pundits tell us that some Democrats no longer speak of the benefits of reform, but only what will happen to their jobs if they don’t pass something, even if it won’t work. In other words, the American people will reward them for at least acting, even if they don’t like the act. Caddell and Schoen address that issue:

First, the battle for public opinion has been lost. Comprehensive health care has been lost. If it fails, as appears possible, Democrats will face the brunt of the electorate’s reaction. If it passes, however, Democrats will face a far greater calamitous reaction at the polls. Wishing, praying or pretending will not change these outcomes.

Nothing has been more disconcerting than to watch Democratic politicians and their media supporters deceive themselves into believing that the public favors the Democrats’ current health-care plan. Yes, most Americans believe, as we do, that real health-care reform is needed. And yes, certain proposals in the plan are supported by the public.

However, a solid majority of Americans opposes the massive health-reform plan. Four-fifths of those who oppose the plan strongly oppose it, according to Rasmussen polling this week, while only half of those who support the plan do so strongly. Many more Americans believe the legislation will worsen their health care, cost them more personally and add significantly to the national deficit. Never in our experience as pollsters can we recall such self-deluding misconstruction of survey data.

They point out that recent polling shows even the dreaded health insurance companies have higher favorability ratings than the government:

Scott Rasmussen asked last month whose decisions people feared more in health care: that of the federal government or of insurance companies. By 51 percent to 39 percent, respondents feared the decisions of federal government more. This is astounding given the generally negative perception of insurance companies.

The authors reject the Republican idea of “starting over”, favoring instead a change of focus to individual measures that will win at least some bi-partisan support and gain success for some legislative attempts that will address the voter’s concerns. The crisis of confidence the Democrats are experiencing will otherwise lead to an electoral blood bath in November.

Cross posted to

Politics Health Care Reform Millstone