The GOP still has a majority in the House and Senate, and two weeks, a Republican* President will take the Oath of Office. Republicans promised the first order of business is to repeal The Affordable Care Act. The GOP is learning quickly, however, that simply having a majority is not all that is needed. There is going to be a political fight, and on that front, they are already losing. It’s about bad language.
No, not “foul” language, but rather bad, inadequate, poorly delivered words. An idea improperly articulated is an idea uncommunicated.
Republicans are great at selling their ideas and policies to their base voters, but awful when it comes to taking their case to independents and people not deeply involved in politics. The GOP is bad at telling stories. Chris Sacca, a venture capitalist and an early investor in companies like Twitter, Uber, and Instagram, says, “Good stories always beat good spreadsheets.”
He said, “Whether you are raising money, pitching your product to customers, selling the company, or recruiting employees, never forget that underneath all the math and the MBA bullshit talk, we are still emotionally driven human beings. We want to attach ourselves to a narrative. We don’t act because of equations. We follow our beliefs. We get behind leaders who stir our feelings.”
In this case, Republicans are pitching a product to customers and doing a lousy job. Democrats were ready. During their press conference today, they rolled out one of the slogans they’re using to fight back against the GOP. Democrats are accusing Republicans of wanting to ‘Make America Sick Again.’ Yes, it is puerile. Yes, it is stupid. But listen to these words: it is effective.
For their part, Republicans are employing much of the same rhetoric they always do. From a press conference that included Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Congressional leaders, read the following excerpt (it’s from the CSPAN transcript, and they didn’t identify the speaker):
We are also talking about a policy that has been about a failure virtually since its inception and we intend over the course of coming days and weeks to be speaking directly to the American people about that failure, but about a better future we can have in health care a future that is built not on growing government. Not on a mandate. Not on higher taxes. But also, but rather a future that is filled on giving the American people more choices in health care. Allowing the power of the free marketplace to flow in.
This is where they are going to lose people. “The power of the free marketplace” is fine rhetoric, if tired and over-used. But it does not tell a compelling story. Democrats are effectively responding with “People will die if you repeal Obamacare!”
Healthcare is personal. We are talking about the well-being of Americans and their families. If you have a family member in a dire medical situation, facing enormous costs, a lesson on the dynamics of the free market is not going to sell, however reasonable or accurate it may be.
Rather than talking about “growing government” and “the free market” and “choices in health care,” tell stories about people who are paying hundreds of dollars a month in premiums for plans with $12,000 deductibles. Forget about using percentages to talk about premium increases. Tell the story of the middle-class guy who had a plan that cost $200 a month that was canceled and now is paying $700 or more. Talk about how families are having to choose between child care and health insurance, between eating and insuring. Or how the mandatory coverage they are being forced to pay for fails to provide the actual care they need.
Tell the story of people getting shuffled into Medicaid and then not being able to find a doctor because so many are refusing to take new Medicaid patients. Talk about making America sick again.
As Sacca said, Republicans need to reach people on an emotional level. Facts, figures and talk of the free market are not going to do it. They have to beat Democrats are their own game. Because it isn’t a game. People are being hurt and made sick by the reckless decrees of a Democrat party interested more in burnishing their “historic” credentials than the actual well-being of average Americans.
If Republican lawmakers don’t connect with the people on this, the country is headed not for a repeal of Obamacare, but Obamacare-lite. A Band-aid instead of a cure.
Make the case, Republicans. Before it’s too late.