Back in the ’80s, Tip O’Neill famously observed that Social Security was the “third rail” of American politics — if you touched it, you were dead.
Is health care reform the new “third rail”? Although the specific poll results vary, the broad trends in the polls seems pretty clear. The focus on health care reform has caused President Obama’s approval ratings to decline, has caused general congressional approval ratings to decline, and has caused more Americans to conclude that America is “headed in the wrong direction.” It also is apparent that the health care reform issue has touched a raw nerve for many people who are showing up for town hall meetings, writing their Members of Congress, and taking other actions that indicate that they are engaged in the process and following the debate.
The 2010 elections are still far away. If health care reform is really the new “third rail,” we’ll know when those elections roll around. If health care reform is the subject of incessant negative television ads, that will be a good indication.