Surprise! Obamacare regulation aimed at Catholics is unpopular

I am certain several of my lefty friends will be stunned to read this (TWS):

CNN reports:

Half of all Americans say they oppose the Obama administration’s new policy concerning employer-provided health insurance plans and their coverage of contraceptive services for female employees including those at religiously affiliated institutions, according to a new national survey.

CNN’s results are roughly the same as two other recent polls: Rasmussen found that voters opposed Obama’s policy 50% to 39%, and Pew found that voters opposed the policy 48% to 44%. A CBS/New York Times poll seems to be an outlier: It shows 61% of Americans support Obama’s policy

CNN mentioned the CBS poll too, without mentioning a crucial caveat – there was no mention that religious organizations and individuals would have provide contraceptives and abortifacents in violation of their beliefs. Pew and Rasmussen were more specific on this (DC Examiner). Surprisingly, CNN’s question is much like the CBS version – and the Administration still ended up on the wrong end of the numbers.

How, exactly, did this happen? I humbly submit three reasons.

First, the Administration misjudged the lay Catholic response. I’m guessing Obama and Sebelius simply assumed that because most American Catholics use artificial birth control themselves, they wouldn’t be too upset at forcing their priests to provide it free of charge. In other words, they simply do not understand the relationship between priest and parishoners. Most Catholic parishes are small geographically (“mega-churches” are nearly unheard-of), and thus most Catholics know their priests quite well. As such, discussions on issues – such as artificial birth control – arise from time to time (my parents brought this issue up themselves with our pastor a few years back). The conversations vary from place to place, of course, but in nearly every case, the priest carefully and intellectually explains his point of view. How many lay Catholics are convinced is up in the air (my parents weren’t, as I recall), but we all come away understanding and respecting the priest’s view. For the Administration to show such callous disregard for our priests is infuriating to many Catholics. Whether Obama et al planned this or not (and I don’t think they saw this coming), they made it about our friends in the priesthood, and put themselves on the wrong side.

Secondly, they included abortifacents in the mandate, which all but insured the entire pro-life community would weigh in. It also changed the nature of the conversation for many non-Catholics. Pro-life Protestants may not worry about contraception, but chemically-induced abortion is another matter entirely. As such,every argument the Administration has used comes off as irrelevant and insulting to a large group of Americans – and that’s never a good idea.

Finally, the Administration made Obamacare an issue all over again. For months, Democrats have tried to hide or avoid Obamacare due to its unpopularity. This mandate just shoved it right back in everyone’s face. It’s as if someone decided the American people needed a reminder of how much they can’t stand the president’s “biggest domestic achievement.”

There is a deeper lesson in all this, however, namely that Saul Alinsky didn’t understand everything about American politics. Obama did exactly what Alinksy taught: he picked a target, froze it, personalized it, and polarized it (I should note that this particular little list in some form predated Alinksy by, oh, about 200 years). What he didn’t expect was that the target would stand up to him; freezing it meant nothing since it had no intention to move; personalizing it insulted everyone with personal ties to priests; and polarizing it drove tens of millions of uninterested Americans away from him.

In Alinsky’s world (and Obama’s), mobs win because “targets” are afraid of them. When the “target” does not have that fear, the Alinsky model breaks down. That is the critical lesson here.

Cross-posted to the right-wing liberal