In order to kill health care reform, conservatives spent August waging a corporate-sponsored astroturf campaign of harassment and intimidation. They protested, they demonstrated, they called Obama Hitler and they went to Congressional town halls and shouted down women in wheelchairs.
Despite all of the spittle-flecked sound and fury, though, Gallup found that public opinion on health care reform is unchanged from where it was before the August Congressional recess:
A month of town-hall meetings across the country during Congress’ August recess has hardly budged Americans’ views about passing a healthcare reform bill, or helped many more Americans form an opinion. The public is as divided over healthcare reform today as at the beginning of August (37% in favor and 39% opposed), with a large segment still undecided.
Remember, those conservative astroturf protests were supposed to kill reform–yet, the right’s summer of discontent failed to change public opinion at all.
But you know what did change public opinion? Last night’s speech by the President:
Obama’s Speech Moves Swing Voters to Support Reform
With his speech before Congress and the nation tonight, Barack Obama was effective in cutting through the misinformation and partisan bickering over health care and reaching swing voters, many of whom entered the evening harboring real skepticism about his plan. Obama succeeded in reassuring voters of all political stripes on some of their biggest concerns about reform while also energizing supporters and avoiding the kind of polarization that could drive away independents and Republicans.
These swing voters reacted strongly to Obama’s message. Support for Obama’s plan jumped 20 points, from 46 percent before the speech to 66 percent after. Importantly, Obama also achieved one of his principal goals of boosting the intensity of support. Prior to the speech, just 2 percent of these swing voters supported the plan strongly while 26 percent opposed it strongly; by the end of the evening those numbers were virtually reversed, with 28 percent supporting the plan strongly against just 8 percent strongly opposed.
In other words, Barack Obama did in one night what conservatives couldn’t do in a month.
Last night’s speech fundamentally changed the health care reform debate. At this point, it’s only a matter of time before the Baucus caucus falls in line and passes the reform that our country so desperately needs, with or without Republican support.
As Obama said last night, “the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action.”
UPDATE: CNN’s polling from last night found similar results:
CNN Poll on Obama plan: pre-speech 53% favor/36 oppose…post speech 67 favor/29 oppose.
CNN Poll: 72% of speech watchers said Obama “Clearly stated his health care goals“
UPDATE II: Here’s some info on Rep. Joe Wilson, the man who yelled out “you lie!” during the President’s speech:
Whether because of his outspokenness or in spite of it, Wilson is a major recipient of contributions from the health care industry.
In fact, over his entire congressional career, health professionals represent Wilson’s top industry contributors, donating a total of $244,196 to his campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics OpenSecrets.org database. He received another $86,150 from pharmaceutical companies, $73,050 from insurance companies and $68,000 from hospitals and nursing homes.
Among Wilson’s top contributors are the American Hospital Association, a lobby group that represents the interests of hospitals and health networks, and the American Medical Association, which represents physicians.
You couldn’t walk into a crowd of health reform opponents without bumping into someone taking campaign contributions hand-over-fist from the health industrial complex.
Also, I should note that the President was telling the truth and Rep. Wilson was lying.
From the President’s remarks:
There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms — the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
From the text of the House’s version of the health care reform bill:
(1) IN GENERAL. — For purposes of this division, the term ”affordable credit eligible individual” means, subject to subsection (b), an individual who is lawfully present in a State in the United States (other than as a nonimmigrant described in a subparagraph (excluding subparagraphs (K), (T), (U), and (V)) of section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) —
Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.
Pretty cut-and-dry there.
UPDATE III: Want to keep Joe “Liar” Wilson from disrupting any more Presidential speeches to Congress?
You can donate to Wilson’s 2010 Democratic opponent, Rob Miller, here. As of this posting, Wilson’s unhinged outburst has helped Miller raise more than $410,000.
[All emphasis mine]