The conventional wisdom during the health care rationing fight was that the Democrats wanted to pass their so-called "reform" legislation as quickly as possible so it could be swept under the rug and out of the eyes of the electorate, since they knew the American people didn't like it (oh, but we'd learn to like it later, once we found out what was in it).
Well, it appears to be working.
While those of us in the conservative political sphere obviously have not forgotten, the subject has virtually disappeared from the news pages, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Oil spills, Gaza-bound flotillas, illegal immigration, perfect games in baseball, and just about any other story has diverted attention from one of the most heinous acts ever perpetrated by the Democrats - legislation to dismantle our health care system.
Today, the editors of the National Review published an editorial calling out the GOP for their "retreat" on health care. Shortly after passage of the health care bill, the airwaves and news pages were rife with references of repeal (and in some cases, "replace") of the legislation. But now, all we hear are crickets. The NR focuses on precisely the point that I have been promoting: we cannot allow the Democrats' steamrolling of public opinion to disappear from the public eye. But the GOP has done just that.
Republicans ought to be seizing on each revelation to press the case for repealing Obamacare. It is, after all, the worst law the Democrats have enacted on Obama’s watch; and it is also the GOP’s best issue in this year’s elections. Instead Republicans have largely allowed the Democrats to switch the subject from their unpopular health-care legislation to financial regulation, oil spills, and immigration. They have been reacting to the news instead of trying to make it.
There is room for debate on the strategy and logistics for a repeal and potential replacement of the health care bill. Some support repeal without replacement - status quo with an eventual restart of debate and new legislation that is more free-market focused. Others believe that the GOP should push for immediate repeal with replacement legislation that pushes already-defined measures such as tort reform and cross-state-lines health insurance sales.
Whatever the approach, one thing is certain: we must return the issue to the forefront.
And the GOP must lead the way on this point. The NR identifies some interesting facets of the strategy, and a key problem:
We would, of course, be delighted to see such a bill enacted. But the principal effect of including conservative alternatives will be to make it easier for Democrats not to sign on to the bill. It thus sets back the biggest conservative health-care reform of all: the repeal of Obamacare. And it does so for no good reason. For one thing, all the House Republicans are already on record supporting conservative health solutions; there is no need for this piece of legislation to include them. For another, the number of incumbent Republican congressmen at risk of losing to a Democratic challenger this year is vanishingly small. The number of Republican congressmen at risk of losing their seats because they are not sufficiently vocal about their favored health reforms is zero. Is it really beyond the wit of House Republicans to say that they favor first repealing Obamacare and then enacting constructive legislation?
What is most worrisome about the party’s tactical mistake is the loss of nerve that explains it. That loss of nerve is apparent in the party’s other silences.
(bold is mine) Has the GOP lost their nerve? Are they now so focused on re-election and re-taking of Congress that they are afraid to bring this up? This has been one of my fears - that the specter of Democrat accusations of "pulling the plug on Grandma" by repealing health care socialization - would prevent them from promoting repeal and bringing up the topic during the campaign. Thankfully, the public is still angry and they are supportive of repeal: around 60% of Americans would like to see the legislation repealed, and support for repeal is growing, in spite of the lack of attention by many in the GOP.
The nomination of Donald Berwick to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provides a golden opportunity for the GOP and conservatives to move the battle for repeal back to the front burner. Berwick is a self-avowed fan of the British single-payer model and their National Health Services (NHS) - a prime example of socialized healthcare. GOP Senators should be howling about Berwick, who the National Review describes as "a man who describes his attachment to the British single-payer model of rationing health care in nearly erotic terms". A fight on Berwick would not only prevent a bad nominee from promoting a UK-style socialized medicine structure in the U.S., but it would also place a focus back on the disastrous legislation that the Democrats inflicted upon our nation.
If the GOP hopes to re-take the Senate and House, they must re-ignite the focus on health care rationing. They cannot turtle themselves into their shells and hope for the best. As the NR article concludes:
Failing to put advocates of Obamacare on the defensive arguably contributed to the Republicans’ loss of a special election in Pennsylvania. If their lassitude continues, Republicans will blow many more opportunities in the months to come.
Conservatives and Republicans do support the new form of health care reform: repeal. Let's ensure that the American public knows what party is listening to them and what party flipped them the legislative bird on March 21, 2010.