Republicans have developed a tendency of creating impossible legislative situations. It’s not good enough anymore to merely improve legislation by adding to it or refining it. No. The current GOP leaders require a complete overhaul and undoing of their opposition.
Healthcare is the latest example. Whichever conservative think tank intern came up with “Repeal and Replace”, set the GOP up for total and complete failure. In a bill that eclipsed thousands of pages, there was bound to be some good in it. Or at a minimum, some good that improved American lives. But, rather than “Heal and Rejuvenate” or “Medicate and Legislate” or some other digestible mantra, Republicans settled on “Repeal and Replace” – a motto that calls for total war.
We have already seen that a total and complete repeal in its strictest sense isn’t even possible or probable. Before passing the House, Republicans kept in sections of Obamacare like added funding for pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parent’s health insurance until age 26. Early indications from the Senate suggest that it will be a while before we see how truly “replaced” Obamacare will be. In the interim, the bill will continue to be shaped by special interests and partisanship will repackage many parts of the GOP plan after a prolonged time in committee and debate on the floor. The GOP may claim a rhetorical victory that they in fact replaced Obamacare with Trumpcare, but the victory will be in name only. Any substantive or even public perception issues with the bill, which we have seen there are many, will cost the GOP in the midterms.
The three word mantras of the GOP in the 2016 campaign would be difficult to pass even in the most one-sided political climates. In the past six months, Trump and the GOP campaigned on insanely idealistic promises: “Repeal and replace”, “Defund Planned Parenthood”, and “Build the wall” to name a few. The stances are complete and uncompromising. Anything short of a complete re-write of healthcare law, economic evisceration of Planned Parenthood, or a twenty-foot high wall from San Diego, California to Brownville, Texas, makes the Republicans total failures. Yet, these were self-inflicted wounds. Broader, more reasonable policies would have served the same purpose. It’s time to stop creating an unrealistic rubric for partisanship posturing.
As we look to the future, the GOP has a path to success. A majority in Congress and a Republican president grant an opportunity to lead. But first, the GOP must look beyond merely undoing the opposition and focus on improving the position of all Americans. The fact that there weren’t 2-5 GOP lawmakers with viable healthcare bills in a drawer ready for a Republican president is immensely troubling and perhaps speaks to a larger shallowness on the GOP intellectual bench. For years, in campaigning and under Obama, conservative lawmakers were outspoken critics of Obamacare and promised with another term or a Republican president, the GOP could solve its woes.
Now, the party of ideological obstructionism less than a year ago under Obama struggles to get together on improvements they have had eight years to think about and draw up. Character and leadership are not defined by the armchair critic, but rather by those who stand on principle and lead through humility, compassion, and ideas that benefit others.
Maybe all the GOP has are three word mantras. I hope not that’s not the care. Americans are suffering. Americans are dying of addiction. Americans hope for a healthier tomorrow. We owe our families, our friends, our communities, and our country more.
If the GOP truly wants to lead, they must refocus on lifting the American people rather than undoing their opposition.