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The newest study from Rasmussen confirms that the president has lost the battle for American hearts and minds. The main reason: Most Americans are satisfied with the employer-based or Medicare program they now have, and they’re not seeing any change they can believe in. They think the reform will make them change insurers, and the new system of care will be worse than the one they have now. They notice that the president only assures them their care can stay where it is for now, while remaining silent over what’s going to happen over the not-so-long term. A responsible view is that the employer-based system is regressive, provides perverse incentives in our dynamic economy, and is unsustainable over the long term. The real question, from that view, is whether health care should devolve to the individual (with often subsidized private insurance) or the government (which is scary in many ways—especially on the rationing and sustainability fronts). Most Americans don’t like either answer to the question, but their fear is focused, of course, on devolution to government.

From the point of view of good government, the best result would be for this deep distrust to lead to the Republicans recapturing Congress in 2010. (People, with good reason, distrust the Democratic Congress far more than the president.) That, it seems to me, would be the precondition for genuine negotiation that compromises conflicting principles and produces reform people can trust. From this point of view, I’m less inclined to diss Glenn Beck for not being classy enough to join us at our postmodern conservative club meetings, and even the Obamacons have to concede that what’s best about the president would shine forth more clearly with an adversarial Congress that earns his respect.

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