A new Pew survey should throw cold water on the logic behind the Democrats’ desire to to get bipartisan support for anything. The survey finds that only a thirf of Americans (32%) were actually aware that no Republican senators voted for health care reform (29% thought Republicans in the Senate had voted for the bill, while 39% said they don’t know).
Health care reform has been one of the biggest and longest debates over a piece of legislation in years. Republicans spent a lot of time trying to hammer home the message that they did not support this bill, and Democrats were “ramming this bill through” on a purely partisan basis. Even with all that, the vast majority of Americans are still unaware that health care reform was passed in the Senate with only Democratic votes. Roughly a third of Americans incorrectly thought the bill did get Republican votes. If people don’t know that health care reform failed to get bipartisan support, there is no other piece of legislation they are ever likely to be better informed about.
The low information level of the voters points to the the inherent problem with Obama’s insider strategy and obsession with Republican buy-in. Most Americans just don’t understand or pay attention to legislative procedure or vote counts. Only 26% of people surveyed even knew that it required 60 votes in the Senate to break a filibuster. An essentially, statically equal number (25%) of people think it only requires 51 votes.
What a large number of Americans only hear or pay attention to is the really big news. Not that Republican senator X cosponsered such-and-such a bill, or 11 Republicans voted to on a procedural motion to end debate. What they hear is that a “very big, important bill was signed into law” or “a very big, important proposal from the President failed.” What people hear about is results, not vote tallies or procedure. What they don’t want to hear is a lecture on how Democrats failed because Washington is broken. They know that, and that is why they elected the guy who promised to change it.