As the Senate prepares to take up health reform, Senators should take note of the tremendous shift underway in the thinking of the American people.
Historians may record that the Obama Administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were the wake-up call which led Americans to recommit themselves to the core values of American civilization. The net result of the Obama presidential campaign and a ten month campaign for government control of health care has been a decisive shift away from reliance on government and toward personal responsibility.
A Stunning 22 Point Shift Away From Government Responsibilty for Health Care
Polling data released last week by Gallup show a startling shift in public opinion: President Obama and Speaker Pelosi are actually convincing the country to rethink their attitudes and move toward the right and away from government solutions in health care (the same seems to be happening on spending, taxes, and how to create jobs, but that will be a future newsletter).
Gallup's annual poll on health issues (taken every November) shows public opinion shifting against the values of the Left and in favor of the personal responsibility, limited government model which has defined America for 240 years (since the founding decade of the 1770s).
Gallup reports a stunning shift of 22% of all Americans who have moved from believing government is responsible for health care to believing health care is a personal responsibility.
One Out of Every Four Americans Have Changed Their Minds on Health Care
That means nearly one out of every four Americans have changed their minds on a fundamental question of who is responsible for health care. This is one of the largest shifts of its kind in such a short period in modern history.
The survey shows that even after the 2008 presidential campaign and the Obama Administration's concerted effort to sell government health care, support for non-government responsibility is at an all time high. In fact, for the first time in the decade that Gallup has asked the question, the survey found that more Americans (50%) favor non-government responsibility than believe it is a government responsibility (47%).
The high watermark for the Left's belief in collective responsibility through government was in November 2006 when by a 69-to-28 margin Americans said health care was a government responsibility (the choice is actually worded government versus nongovernment responsibility).
Thus in November 2006, partially in reaction to Republican failures and the absence of a coherent conservative message, nearly 7 out of every 10 Americans had chosen government responsibility for health care.
The Shift Away from Government Health Care was Actually Fueled By the Campaign
But November 2006 was when support for government health care peaked.
The shift away from government and towards non-government responsibility was actually fueled by the presidential campaign.
In the November 2008 survey Gallup found support for government responsibility had already dropped to 54% and support for non-government responsibility had risen to 41%. That meant there had been a 7% drop in support for government and a 9% increase in support for non-government responsibility in health care even during the presidential campaign - a campaign in which we were told candidate Obama was very articulate and charismatic and candidate McCain was not very effective. Yet the power of the culture seemed to be outweighing the articulateness of the candidate who was advocating the wrong position.
As President, Barack Obama's effort to articulate the case for government responsibility has seen support for government erode another 7% and support for a nongovernmental responsibility rise another 9%.
At this rate, after another year of the health debate, the American people will have decisively rejected government as a system for solutions.
Why Democrats Don't Understand the Shift
Within the Gallup data there are very important clues as to why President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid do not understand what is happening.
Whereas 22% of the country has shifted from government to non-government responsibility in health care, among Democrats support for government remains strong.
Democrats' belief in government responsibility peaked at 87% in 2007. That meant there was virtually no opposition among Democrats to government run health care.
Even today, when 22% of the American people have shifted away from government, Democrats remain firmly in favor with 74% favoring government responsibility and only 23% favoring non-government responsibility (among Republicans the numbers are now reversed at 21% government and 77% non-government).
So even today three out of four Democrats would reinforce what is now a declining position among the American people.
Keep the Current System or Replace It
A similar shift in public opinion is underway on the question of whether to keep the current health system or replace it.
Today a vast majority (61 to 32) favor keeping the current system rather than replacing it.
The margin among the two parties again reflects this schizophrenia about policies and values.While 86% of Republicans favor maintaining the current system and only 11% favor replacing it, among Democrats the results are very different. Democrats favor replacing the current system by 56 to 35.
Losing Independents, Losing the Country, Losing the Next Election
What these data show is that the Obama Administration and the congressional Democrats are losing the argument with independents, eroding support among their own party and consolidating Republicans into a firmly anti-government position.
This trend suggests that another year of debate over the Left's values, plans and policies will consolidate the center-right majority and lead to a crushing defeat for the Democratic Congress.
Two more years of debate on this pattern would make President Obama a one-term President.
It will be interesting to see if anyone in the White House reads Gallup data. It will be interesting to see if anyone in the White House listens to the American people.
Americans Are Probably Going to Become Even More Critical of Government and Supportive of Nongovernment Solutions
As the country learns more about government incompetence as a delivery system (read Jim Frogue's Stop Paying the Crooks) , the H1N1 flu vaccine fiasco and other failures, people will continue to move away from reliance on government.
As Americans think through the economic crisis (10.2% unemployment and growing), the Chinese ownership of $2 trillion in United States debt, the rising state government deficit (going up from $112 billion in 2009 to $134 billion in 2010), and the reactionary unwillingness to reform many of the public employee unions, they will become even more skeptical of turning problems over to government.
The final result of the debates President Obama is sparking may be a nation which polarizes 75 to 25 in favor of nongovernmental responsibility, turning to personal, corporate, nonprofit or faith-based institutions instead of government for solutions.
This would be a grand irony. But the Gallup data show an underlying pattern that should hearten conservatives and demoralize liberals.
Christmas is approaching, so here are some gift ideas:
Rediscovering God in America II: Our Heritage - From the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown in 1607, through the American Revolution, to the end of the Civil War in 1865, this DVD, which I co-host with my wife Callista, tells the story of the deep faith that motivated and sustained our great leaders, and dramatically presents our nation's belief in religious freedom.
Autographed Books, Including To Try Men's Souls - The Newt.org Store features autographed copies of many of my books, including Bill Forstchen's and my latest, To Try Men's Souls. A personalized autographed book makes a great gift.