Obamacare and Flat-Footed Republicans

Over the years I’ve had many opportunities to lobby candidates for office on which issues to emphasize and how to do so while on the campaign trail. More often than not it has been a frustrating experience, since many of those who have the skills to run for political office would rather not have to deal with a lot of policy substance.

Because the candidates are not interested in substance, they think voters aren’t either. Because they like to regurgitate shallow talking points, candidates are convinced that voters like hearing the shallow talking points as much as the speaker likes repeating them.

For many years there has existed a widespread culture of Republican candidates and officials preferring to avoid an honest treatment of the issues. It’s why the proposed solutions being pumped out decade after decade by conservative think tanks have failed to gain wider public support.

It’s not a lack of intellectual ability that drives most politicians’ to avoid the issues. Instead it’s part laziness, part a lack of understanding for how to let an issue gel in their own mind (so the candidate can better explain it), and part because they truly detest controversy. Because nearly everything in politics involves controversy, it’s easy to understand why both this state and nation are in this fiscal mess.

No better example of that exists than when it comes to health care reform.

Sixteen years after HillaryCare failed, elected Republicans today are flat-footed in their opposition to ObamaCare. On Monday I referred to Kimberly Strassel‘s Wall Street Journal column complaining that GOP leaders aren’t taking their message to the Main Street. The fact is that there has been a great deal of hard-hitting commentary originating from supporters of consumer-driven (as opposed to government controlled) health care.

Unfortunately those commentators don’t have bully pulpits as big as those held by Republican elected officials.

The last two “Consumer Power Reports” from Greg Scandlen from “Consumers for Health Care Choices at The Heartland Institute” are good examples (emphasis added on the second one):

Consumer Power Report #176

May 1, 2009

I have never seen the free-market proponents in a debate as discouraged as they are over health care. We had a conference call recently and the mood was bleak. This was compounded by the fact that there was no unity. Everyone has his or her own pet peeve in health care and is uninterested in unifying around a theme. For one person it is wellness, for another it’s insurance company abuses, for another it’s hospital pricing policies, for another it’s expensive prescription drugs, and on and on and on.

I’m sorry, but this is crazy. If one side is yelling ‘trust the government to decide,’ we have to respond with ‘trust the people to make their own decisions.’ More government is not ‘health care reform.’ It is more of what created this mess in the first place.

Consumer Power Report #177

May 8, 2009

At this point it is all about money. [The] liberal group Health Care for America Now has $40 million to spend on inflicting government health care on us. This is just one of many similar efforts on the Left. Compare that to Rick Scott’s valiant investment of $5 million in Conservatives for Patient Rights. And he is basically alone.

We don’t need as much money as the Left. Our arguments are better and we are more in tune with the thinking of the broad majority of Americans. Part of the reason the Left needs so much money is because what they are trying to do is so abhorrent to most Americans. It takes a whole lot of marketing to get people to buy something they don’t want and don’t believe in.

But to date the discussion has been one-sided. People are not even aware that there are two sides to this story. If you care about the future of health care in America it is time to pony up some dough. Do it now. Every day is vital.

[Click here] to find out how.

Greg Scandlen also included this in Consumer Power Report #177 (again, emphasis added in the last paragraph):

GOP Stumbling

[Politico.com] ran an article noting, ‘GOP Stumbling in Health Care Fight.’ The article points out that, “There’s no Republican plan yet. No Republicans leading the charge who have coalesced the party behind them. Their message is still vague and unformed. Their natural allies among insurers, drug makers and doctors remain at the negotiating table with the Democrats.”

Meanwhile, “The organizational strength behind Obama’s plan is enormous. The House speaker, the Senate majority leader and the committee chairmen have agreed to work together. The major labor unions have teamed up with business groups. An umbrella group for liberal organizations, Health Care for America Now, is spending $40 million on the fight.”

The article goes on to describe in depth just how disorganized the GOP is, and has been since the campaign when Obama bombarded McCain with health care advertising. The Democrat spent $113 million, or eight times that of his rival, running almost 200,000 commercials to McCain’s 11,300.

The article concludes, “Republicans cannot just oppose a bill, and they cannot simply recycle the old ideas like health savings accounts and tax breaks. ‘We could have come out with the same health care principles that we have always talked about,’ [one Republican spokesman] said Friday. ‘This group wants to come up with fresh solutions and not just party rhetoric–and that takes some time.'”

This is misguided. The Republicans don’t need ‘fresh’ solutions. They need to look at what works (consumer-driven care) and what doesn’t (bureaucracy-driven care) in health care reform, and make the case articulately and intelligently. But that would require paying attention.

Well said! For more information about Greg Scandlen’s work at the Heartland Institute and how you can support it, click here.