To listen to the intellectuals from the right, the Republicans in Congress, and the Senate, are playing this “healthcare debate/government shutdown” game wrong. In varying ways, Charles Krauthammer, George Will, and Bill O’Reilly have informed their audiences that if the Republicans would simply fund Obamacare, step aside, be quiet, don’t attract too much attention to themselves, and allow this 7,000 to 9,000 page law to go through, Americans will eventually see what an unmitigated disaster it is. The aspect of this argument that these intellectuals don’t factor into the equation is what the exact definition of is is.
Is Obamacare destined to become an unmitigated disaster? Can any government program, fashioned by well-intended officials, ever be called a disaster? It all depends on who you ask. Is Social Security an unmitigated disaster? Presidential candidate Rick Perry (Republican, Texas) didn’t go that far in his 2011 primary debate, but he did say it was a problem once… Once. Prior to that, President George W. Bush tried to reform it once… Once. Economic forecasters, from both sides of aisle, have called Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, ticking time bombs, but those people are usually needle nosed, numbers crunchers, that the population largely ignores. These people have no powers of persuasion, and the pain that they describe is usually in the form of theoretical forecasting that causes eyes to glaze over. Those more schooled in the art of persuasion, no longer have the courage to call these programs problems, after what happened to Perry and Bush. These programs are not causing immediate pain, so the political upside to calling attention their “ticking time bomb” status has largely been deemed negligible.
Obamacare is no different, in the present, and intellectuals from the right are warning Republicans to remain silent about it, until the numbers start to roll in, and Americans start to fully realize the pain of it. The question those of us in flyover country have is are Republicans supposed to wait until it’s fully implemented, or when it becomes such an institution in Americans’ lives that dependency is fully established? If Republicans don’t try to inhibit Obamacare now, even in a symbolic manner that gets a message out, when will it be too late? If Republicans don’t try to, at least, try to get some of the language back, at what point will they lose the language entirely?
“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” –Winston Churchill.
Republicans have lost the language on Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and all of the government programs instituted in the war on poverty. Even though all of these programs have been labeled failures, to one degree or another, they are all considered noble efforts, put forth by kind-hearted, well-intentioned politicians, seeking to help people. How can anyone ever call such noble efforts unmitigated disasters?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) could eventually be called an absolute disaster by a number of different barometers, from economic analysts on both sides of the aisle, and still be considered a success in that it helps “some” people, and aren’t “some” people important? Even if it’s deemed a failure in this manner, it can still be called a noble, well-intentioned effort that may require some tweaking. Tweaking. Don’t throw this program, that helps some, away. We have to help people, little people, veterans, and old ladies that will otherwise be pushed off cliffs by Paul Ryan.
Those that point out what is obvious if, and when, the ACA is a unmitigated disaster by every scientific model, could be called cold-hearted for pointing that out. They could be called a racist, for calling an Act that achieved passage during the tenure of a black president, and they could be called sexist, for criticizing an effort that was spearheaded by a female in Congress. It could be said that you’re an irresponsible, partisan for even trying to determine success or failure at some point. It could reach a point where it’s probably safer, both politically and socially, to just leave this thing on the books and hope that some future generation—that has more power than a little over one half of one-third of government—finally has the temerity to call it a disaster.
Most Republican voters believe that Senator Ted Cruz’s (Republican, Texas) twenty-one hour speech was, at the very least, an effort to try to get some of the language back that Democrats have owned for five years now. Most Republicans believe that while Cruz’s act may have been a little theatrical, he was theatrical in the manner Ronald Reagan was theatrical, and he was theatrical in a manner that captures national attention. It was foolhardy, say these intellectuals from the right. He didn’t have enough of an end game. At least he had a game. At least, he wasn’t on the sidelines, secretly hoping, with fingers crossed, that the American people would educate themselves and make it politically expedient to speak out against this Act.
When Obama won the presidency in 2008, the accepted mantra of the Republicans at the time, was that the American public had spoken, and we must respect their wishes, and we must show deference for the office. Most of those same politicians knew of the lack of respect the 2000-2008 Democrats showed for the office, but the goal of these 2008 Republicans was to be better than that. They also stated that the policies of newly elected President Barack Obama, Senator Harry Reid (Democrat, Nevada), and Congressman Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California) would eventually be exposed for what they were doing in the next election. Americans would begin to see how harmful these policies are, and our best course of action was to remain silently respectful, as that evidence began to trickle in for Americans. The evidence began as a trickle, and then it started to flow in. Capitalism was reigned in, and massive regulations from the EPA began to roll out, and capitalism was damaged. Still, the Republicans remained largely silent, believing that the American public would eventually see the light. In the 2010, off-year election, they were vindicated, thanks to the Tea Party, but in 2012, when the Tea Party was shut down by the IRS, this methodology was shown to be unsuccessful. Yet, the intellectuals from the right, still believe in this methodology.
Believing in the American people makes for wonderful rhetoric, and when Congressmen, Senators, and intellectuals from the right tell us to sit back and allow the American people to make the right decisions, it’s difficult to refute this notion. It’s especially difficult to refute these notions when they’re said in such wonderful, unwavering, and Reaganesque tones. The representative that makes such proclamations, appears to be a wonderful representative, and a great American.
The problem with this strategy is that it’s largely based on a stoic, silent belief in the American public. That silent strategy is then countered by the noisy numbers of people from the other side of the aisle, spinning the information as it rolls in. The point is that Ronald Reagan didn’t sit back and believe in the American public silently, he aggressively went after their hearts and minds of the American people with messages he knew they would appreciate. The point is that Ronald Reagan’s methodology was a lot closer to Ted Cruz’s than it is to Lindsay Graham’s (Republican, South Carolina) and John McCain’s (Republican, Arizona) desire to remain stoically and silently respectful, while crossing their fingers in the hope that the American public is paying attention.
Optimistic intellectuals from the right love to quote, and paraphrase, Churchill’s quote:
“Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing… After they have exhausted all other possibilities.”
Those of us that are more pessimistic, and less patient, find it difficult to speak out against the optimistic belief in Americans. We would love to stand proud behind the Churchill quote and say that we will eventually make the right decision, but in doing so we would also have to believe that most Americans are paying attention, and that they are results oriented, as opposed to apathetic, irrational, and wonderful people that can be duped into believing in a noble effort that may eventually yield so many unintended consequences that this country is—as promised by candidate Barack Obama—fundamentally changed by it.