Sunday, November 14, 2010

Put Up or Shut Up Time for the Republicans

It was a pretty depressing election for Democrats. From their viewpoint, the only consolation that evening was that Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell lost. But the Republicans as expected took control of the House of Representatives. Can you say Speaker John Boehner? I knew you couldn’t.

For the Republicans, it was good news and bad news. The good news was that they won enough seats to recapture the House. The bad news is that they now have to help govern instead of just criticizing and obstructing the Democrats from the sidelines.

Anybody can be a critic. But it takes a lot more to be a doer.

Not that there’s anything wrong with criticism. It’s an indispensable part of a free election system. The other guys stink. We can do things better. Vote for us.

But what made things so maddening for the incumbent Democrats during the election was the claim that if the Republicans were elected, they would do things better — but without ever giving any real specifics on how they would do it.

For example, we are now running a budget deficit of about $1.3 trillion which to Republicans is unacceptable. Their plan to balance the budget is to extend the tax cuts to all including the wealthiest 2% along with mostly unspecified “spending cuts”. We don’t know exactly what they have in mind but the most consistent story is that defense, Social Security, and Medicare cuts are not on the table which is the lion’s share of the budget. With precious little else to cut, how do they propose to balance the budget while not only refusing to raise taxes but also swelling the deficit with more tax cuts for the wealthy? The math just doesn’t add up! But then again, they now have a chance to propose their own budget in the House to answer these questions.

And then there is the pledge to repeal “ObamaCare” and replace it with something better. But no matter how one feels about health care reform, there were a number of significant breakthroughs that were a result of the passing of this bill. For example, children can no longer be rejected for insurance based on preexisting conditions. (For adults, this kicks in by 2014.) Children graduating from college who cannot find a job with insurance benefits can stay on their parents’ policy until age 26. And now those with health insurance cannot be dropped by their insurer simply because they got sick. Lifetime individual dollar limits for coverage have also been dropped.

So for those who wish to repeal “ObamaCare”, which of these benefits do they want to see taken away? Or maybe they intend to keep the good parts while getting rid of those parts that they (or more likely the health insurance companies that financially support them) don't like. Admittedly, the stuff about repealing health care reform is little more than blowing smoke. Even if it somehow got past the Senate, the president would be ready with his veto pen. But it would sure be interesting to see how they would do their own healthcare reform bill. And because of the Republicans regaining control of the House, we will finally get to see what substance they are offering behind all of the rhetoric.

But past history has not been encouraging. For example back in 1994, the Republicans defeated
"HillaryCare" and in the following years after gaining control of both Congress and the White House, the number of people without health insurance skyrocketed with no real attempts at reform during that period. Now that the Democrats have finally passed a health reform bill into law, the Republican game plan is to again defeat it but this time by repealing it.

Call it political spin, but I now believe that the Republican regaining of the House may well be a blessing in disguise for the Democrats — and maybe the country in general.

We know the Republicans are good at winning elections. But can they govern once they win? Or are they like the dog that chases after cars and then doesn’t know what to do when it catches one?

New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie in this
recent Meet the Press appearance sums it all up with his usual brutal honesty:

When you talk about the response from the voters on Election Day, something's very curious. We know some of the feelings about the Democrats, about President Obama 's policies, but look at this from the exit polls in terms of the opinion of political parties . Republicans didn't fare too well either; 52 percent unfavorable rating. What does that say about the Republican Party today?

You know, I think what it says is what I was saying all over the country, that's it's put up or shut up time for our party. You know, we lost our way last decade, David. We did, and people expect us to do better. And if the Republican Party wants to come back, they're going to have to do what they said they were going to do. I mean, because if they don't, we're going to be sent to the wilderness for a long time, and we're going to deserve it!


Brien said...

I couldn't agree more. I worry, though, that the Repubs will just spend the next two years trying to make Obama look bad instead of governing, and just biding time until the next presidential elections. I don't think that this will work, but failure to act on pragmatic concerns has never stopped them before.

CSI w/o Dead Bodies said...

I have a blog post about the pitfalls for Republicans and Democrats in the next two years. Check it out.