Great news for "the left" -- Politics Daily's Jill Lawrence wrote us a memo!
Who is Jill Lawrence, you may ask. She is the prognosticator who declared three months ago, "It may be too soon to write a requiem for the public option, but I'm going to do it anyway..."
Surprise, surprise, she now writes, "Memo to the Left: The Public Health Insurance Option Is Dead, Get Over It."
I actually don't care that someone would question whether the public option is dead. Ezra Klein -- a smart guy -- wrote just last Friday, "The public option: Very alive or totally dead?" (He also wrote, "the story of the public option's resurgence has been a mixture of smart organizing and Senate cowardice," much appreciated by the thousands of folks who have been organizing on this issue.)
What I resent about Jill Lawrence's "memo" is that she engages in journalism without facts. Check out her main three arguments against progressives:
First, a public option could complicate passage in the House. Pelosi is trying to balance potential loss of support from anti-abortion Democrats against gains that may come from moderate "Blue Dog" Democrats who prefer the Senate bill. They like it in part because it has no public option.
I spoke with Jill Lawrence and she said this on the phone. I asked her point blank, "What yes votes turn to no votes because of the public option?" Her answer, "Well, I don't know the names."
I suggested she find them. Evidently, she couldn't. But she threw this unsupported argument out there anyway.
One could just as easily say some members of the House are more likely to vote for the bill if it has a public option. Unlike Jill Lawrence, I can name names. The Atlantic's Chris Good wrote about Rep. Scott Murphy (D-NY) -- a former "no" vote -- in his piece, "A Moderate Dem For The Public Option." When signing our House public option letter, Murphy said:
"Our nation's health care system is broken. To have real reform we need to ensure three things; accessibility, accountability, and affordability. I support this letter because the public option would help achieve all three of these goals and help to keep costs down by giving the American public a competitive option to private insurers."
Jill Lawrence's first point goes down in flames. But, she took two more stabs at it. Here's the next one:
Second, although majorities support a public option in polls, it is unclear how it would actually play in elections. Democrats already are fighting off Republican claims that they are socialists trying to stage a government takeover of health care. That charge would be harder to refute, at least from a PR standpoint, if a public option were in the mix.
It's unclear how a hugely popular public option would play in elections? Seriously?
I wish someone had done some polling to find that out. Oh wait, we did. (Not that Jill Lawrence raised this point with me or asked for polling.)
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, and Credo Action contracted with Research 2000, which polls for dozens of media outlets including the Reno Gazette-Journal. They found that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is losing to both of his potential Republican opponents by 14 points and then asked this question of Nevada voters:
Would you be more or less likely to vote for Harry Reid this year if he fought for and won a public health insurance option that competes head-to-head with private insurance, or would it have no real effect on your decision to vote?
The results: By 4 to 1, undecided voters break toward Reid. Plus, over 20% of his opponents' supporters become more likely to support Reid. If you do the math, supporting the public option potentially lifts Reid from political disaster to a dead heat.
In state after state -- from Nevada to Missouri to Iowa to North Dakota to Virginia -- polling shows voters are more likely to vote for Democrats in 2010 if they fight for a public option.
Jill Lawrence's point about socialism was debunked by President Obama himself during his bipartisan summit:
"There were criticisms about the public option. That's when supposedly there was going to be a government takeover of health care. And even after the public option wasn't available, we still hear the same rhetoric..."
Perhaps the most authoritative validator for the public option as a political winner is a journalist -- coincidentally also named Jill Lawrence -- who wrote this back in October:
It's now settled that the health reform bill coming to the Senate floor will include a public insurance option...And for the life of me, I can't find much of a down side for Democrats.
...in making it part of the official Senate bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has aligned himself with frustrated liberals and majority public opinion, and he has given President Obama and other Democrats an opportunity to do the same.
If that Jill Lawrence ever calls me wanting to give political advice, I'm going to listen.
Here's the other Jill Lawrence's third and final point:
Third, assuming a package clears the House...Any amendments would start the bill ping-ponging between the chambers until final agreement is reached. And that process could implode at any time – which is why Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois has said he'll tell Democratic senators to oppose all amendments.
Memo to Jill Lawrence: That's why progressives are currently pushing for a public option to be added in the House bill.
Sen. Durbin and the rest of the Senate Leadership will be aggressively whipping FOR the public option if it is included in the reconciliation bill the House sends over...
Honestly, at this point in the memo, I just felt sorry for Jill Lawrence.
She was obviously struggling hard to come up with some argument against progressives urging Congress to include the public option, and the legislative minutiae was too much for her.
Fortunately, progressive activists are keeping up with the legislative minutiae just fine. We know that there are 51 votes in the Senate for the public option and it's a win-win-win all around if House Democrats include it in their bill.