October 30, 2009
Dodging the Label 'Party of No'By Lee Cary
- Satire -
While Democrats threw out more healthcare reform plans than a pitching machine on steroids, the Republicans took a different approach.
The Republican leadership anticipated that healthcare reform would be the key initiative of Obama's first term. Although TARP and the porkulus bill diverted much of the nation's attention in early 2009, that didn't hinder the GOP's effort to counter the multiple Democrat bills that would orbit the House and Senate.
The GOP had a plan. And while everyone's eyes were turned skyward as the trail of zeros rocketed up the national debt beyond mortal comprehension, the Republicans planned their work. Then they worked their plan.
There was nothing particularly brilliant about it...just lots of hard work. The task was to define healthcare reform according to the party's values in opposition to the socialistic approach sponsored by Obama's congressional leaders, Pelosi and Reid. The GOP would dodge the label of "party of No." And the best way to do that, the party leaders decided early on, was to put as much effort into their own version of healthcare reform as the Democrats had put into theirs. The Republicans knew that multiple Democrat bills were intended to obfuscate healthcare reform so that people would get confused, get tired, and turn the channel. They'd wake up one morning and -- voilà -- socialized medicine would have arrived.
The Republican leadership also knew that if the nation's attention were focused solely on deciphering the latest Pelosi/Reid proposal, the Democrats' fundamental presuppositions about healthcare reform would seep like groundwater into the public's porous collective mind. Most of it, anyway. Republicans knew they couldn't match the Democrats in congressional votes, but they could match them in effectiveness of organization...and maybe even exceed them.
So, not long after the inauguration, leaders of the Republican Party convened a "design group" to structure the task force that would oversee the GOP's version of healthcare reform. A big job for people with big brains, political savvy, and, above all else, solid political principles. Sure, they knew that a few lone Republicans would try to attract attention by proposing Senator Egoman's Healthcare Plan, or Congressperson Foghorns's Healthcare Amendment. But they'd be low-level background noise to the big trumpet of the Republican Healthcare Reform Plan for America.
Early on it was decided that there'd eventually be a book published, paid for with Republican National Committee (RNC) funds, entitled just that: The Republican Healthcare Reform Plan for America. It'd be written in English, not in the garbled fractured syntax of congressional legislation that not even the lawmakers themselves can read. It was written to be understood and, hopefully, embraced by ordinary literate citizens. Versions in Spanish, too. It would define the architecture of the GOP's plan built on a foundation of clear political principles, with only as much detail as necessary.
Select panels of SMEs (subject matter experts) were recruited from across healthcare-related industries. Mostly Republicans, some Independents, and even a few Democrat canines of the non-collectivist breed -- aka "Blue Dogs." Genuinely bipartisan, these working groups convened across the nation, occasionally inviting the public to attend and speak. They even studied healthcare systems in other nations, so when Democrats lauded such systems, the SMEs were quick with an educated rebuttal. Writers without bias were directed to crunch crystallizing but complicated concepts into simple language.
Under the aegis of the GOP, representatives of the healthcare insurance industry sat down with physicians -- not just physician lobbyists elected by medical associations, but docs who treat sick people daily -- along with ordinary citizen patients. Plus a few relatives of those who'd fought an unconquerable illness till the day they lost. Stakeholders all.
While this was happening, the RNC prepared its educational effort. Every County Republican Committee was part of a vast campaign. State legislators, and those preparing to run for office, were recruited to be schooled in how to explain the GOP's healthcare reform plan to their constituency, in their constituency's own language.
As this broad public education plan was spooling, a communications team designed a media blitz. When the time came to roll out "the plan," all the venues were good to go. The formats for TV ads, press releases, a few strategically located billboards (leased well in advance) in big cities, infomercials, and even bumper stickers were readied for launch in order to promote the Republican Healthcare Reform Plan for America.
Prominent Republican politicians rehearsed one consistent story to be told on news and talk shows. They explained why their plan was better than what the Democrats offered. None of this preparation was done in secret. It happened in full view. Anticipation built because the legacy media couldn't ignore it. These coordinated efforts would engage soon after the House rolled out its first healthcare reform bill.
It wasn't a cheap venture. But the RNC received enough in solicited contributions to fund it. It was an undertaking that would reestablish the bona fides of the GOP as a party able to address the hard issues, and not be seen just as the party of "No." Not a "reactive" political force, but one that speaks with, from, and to the people. An articulate and relentless loyal opposition that knew what it stood for, and why. A party fueled with the passion of the people who attended the town hall meetings during the August recess. The Grand Ol' Party, speaking with a strong, unified voice.
So while the Democrats kept throwing healthcare plans against the wall, the GOP got its act together. Sure, there were a few equivocators, a few Arlen Specter-type RINOs simpatico with Democrats, plus a couple of insufferable "I-gotta-be-me" pols. But most GOP lawmakers welcomed a clear and coordinated course to navigate through a complicated national issue like healthcare reform. They trusted their new leadership. And doing it alone just wasn't an option for a lone legislator's staff.
Later, it was said that the effort would spawn dissertations for doctoral students in political science for years to come. It was an example of how a party ejected from power snapped back to attention, reformed itself, chose new and bold leadership, banded together, and then took on a difficult issue with determination, clarity of purpose, and a compelling presentation based on its political values.
The GOP was aggressive, but not hostile. Resolute, but not dogmatic, unless it meant defiance against the spread of more big government control over people. Not just reactive to what the Democrats proposed. Not just the party of "No." But "No, and here's why, and now look at what we've proposed - The Republican Healthcare Reform Plan for America." (And when legacy TV people hadn't read it, they were handed a copy on-air.)
It was an important, historical undertaking at a critical moment in the nation's history.
Too bad it never happened.