Reform the Reform Debate
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve seen the ubiquity of the health care skirmish. I refuse to recognize it as a debate because debates are civil. While I don’t believe the raucous town hall meetings are an indicator of the overall American sentiment regarding healthcare, I do believe it illustrates the looming strength and cohesiveness of the conservative wing. Ultra-conservatives don’t even make up half of the Republican base however they are vociferous and unrelenting. Those are the only traits you need to make the news cycle. Because we see Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania (D) getting shouted at by an elderly man or Representative Kathy Castor of Florida (D) being silenced by an unruly mob, it’s easy to believe that the prospects for health care reform are dead. Not quite.
If the Democrats are truly serious about pushing a real comprehensive overhaul through both Congress and the Senate before the Winter holidays they ought to go back to the drawing board and re-craft their message. If they don’t they will be kicking themselves for years to come. It would be a very sad day in America if Health Care Reform lost to misinformation. Healthcare reform is a wedge issue that could potentially ravage their party and oust the President. Political scientists and analysts are already predicting substantial losses in the House of Representatives. Statistics guru, and University of Chicago alum Nate Silver (he correctly predicted the winner of 49 out of the 50 states in the 2008 presidential election), predicts that Democrats will lose anywhere between 20 and 50 seats in 2010 midterm elections. Moreover, he believes the GOP has between a 25 to 33% of taking back the house. Is this déjà vu? Are we seeing another Republican revolution like the one orchestrated by Former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich (R) in 1994? No and Yes. Similar to the Republican’s “Contract with America” which delineated key conservative principles that Republicans rallied around such as a balanced budget and tort reform; Glenn Beck’s 912 project (which appears to be gaining traction) demarcates 9 principles like the sanctity of marriage and individual responsibility. However, the key difference is that today Republicans aren’t proposing any alternatives to the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (HR.3200) they are just nixing the idea.
Clearly, many dissenters of the plan haven’t grasped the fact that Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and Tricare are government run programs. Or if they have the just don’t want anyone else getting healthcare at taxpayers expense. The fear mongering tactics of the GOP may be ludicrous, but terms like Nazi, euthanasia, death panels, and socialism are getting traction with many folks especially the elderly populations. So here is my 5 point plan to that I think could salvage the Democratic Party.
1. Legislators should emphasize to their elderly constituents (they are the main ones frightened by “euthanasia” and “death panels”) that if Congress does nothing to reform the system, they (elderly people) will be fine. However, their grandchildren will suffer. If they happen to get sick when the get older they won’t have access to Medicare because it will bankrupt.
2. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Representative Henry Waxman of California and other Democrats of the liberal wing need to make concessions with the Blue Dog Democrats. Ultimately, they need them to stay in power.
3. Let the public know that they don’t have all the answers to the health care crisis. Publicly challenge their Republican colleagues to join hands to fight for all Americans.
4. Be open to meaningful Republican input where it is offered. Ramming through legislation without Republican input would be a classic case of winning the battle and losing the war.
5. Explain how deficit spending now will help their children and grandchildren prosper in the future. The key is to make the debate personal.
I think if the Democrats employ these tactics they won’t lose as many seats in the 2010 midterm elections and President Obama may have a shot at a 2nd term.