Bloggers are supposed to hate Matt Bai, but I can’t remember why. I generally like his pieces and this one is no exception:
For all the shouting that has dominated these town hall meetings on health care lately, they have yielded a few important insights. The first is that the town hall itself has probably reached the end of its usefulness in the Internet age; if you’re looking for thoughtful dialogue, you might as well hold your next meeting on the stern of a Somali pirate ship. The second is that we now have a visual sense of the kind of voter who is militantly opposed to Obama’s health care agenda and, more broadly, to the president himself.
The typical anti-Obama activist tends to be white, male and — perhaps most significant — advanced in age. A poll conducted earlier this month by CNN and Opinion Research showed a rather stark age divide when it came to health care: 57 percent of voters under 50 said they favored the outlines of a Democratic plan, but that number was a full 20 points lower among voters over 65. In three Pew Research Center polls going back to April, senior citizens consistently gave Obama’s job performance lower approval ratings than did than any other age group.[….]
The good news for Obama and his party, of course, is that they still enjoy an enviable level of support among voters just breaking into the work force and among those now drifting into middle age. And that means that if reigning Democrats can manage to get health care policy right this time, and maybe even add some fundamental energy reforms, they might still be able to cement more hopeful attitudes about government for generations to come, much as Roosevelt did in his day. Today’s younger voters might never be as party-affiliated as their grandparents were, but neither may they turn out to be as cynical about their leaders as their parents often seem to be. If the president has his way (which is to say, if the worst nightmares of Republicans come to pass), those voters may someday live out their retirements in Arizona or Nevada, spinning stories for their grandchildren of the days when Barack Obama was twice elected president, when government managed once again to make things better instead of worse and when politicians still bothered with these things called town halls.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a solid health care bill combined with a solid immigration reform bill would drive a stake through the heart of the Republican party. That’s one of the reasons it’s going to be difficult to pass these bills. There may be a short-term political price to pay. But ask yourself this: in the 2020 election, which will people think about more, their current access to health care or what Obama’s approval rating was in 2009?
(Does everyone else hate the title “The Way We Live Now” as much as I do? Why does the Times use this annoying, boomerist, Newsweek magazine-style title for a series of mostly intelligent pieces.)