Crisis of politics: The opportunity in the storm

Let’s roll.

Each day brings new bad news about Obamacare.  Each day also brings another volley from one or both sides in the War Between the Republicans.  (See here, here, here, and here, if you must.)

This is silly.

A recap, to begin.  The Tea Party and limited-government folks are right that we are at a great crisis point in the life of the republic.  The “moderate” or “establishment” conservatives are right that there is a limit to what can be done at the moment within the constraints of law.

But two things really need doing.  One is dealing with the problem immediately before us.  Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster, and if Republicans don’t try to do something measured and reasonable about that in the next 12 months, we really are the Stupidest Party that ever put up a banner.  The people are feeling the hurt right now, today.  “Ted Cruz” is not an all-purpose excuse for GOP inaction or paralysis between now and November 2014.

Undoubtedly, Obamacare is a hydra-headed monster, and hardly anyone has a concrete idea of everything that’s supposed to happen with it in fiscal year 2014, beyond the deadlines for insurance-policy coverage conformity and individual enrollment.  But that, in turn, is not an excuse for simply throwing up our hands.  What a leader would do is stop staring at the cauldron, searching its bubbling surface for clues, and decide what he wants.  Then find a way, using due process, to make something as close to it as possible happen.

An interim plan: stop the bleeding

Here, in the broadest of strokes, is what I want.  I want a comprehensive postponement of almost everything related to the current Obamacare roll-out sequence, until after 1 January 2015.  I say “almost everything,” because penalizing people with pre-existing conditions who have already signed up for insurance under the new exchanges – federal or state – would be both inhuman and bad politics.  Provision needs to be made for them, to bridge the interim between now and Repeal-Replace.  (Congressional Republicans have introduced multiple proposals over the last two decades to provide health-care support for the hard to insure; it is no stretch to have a care for their predicament, and there are concepts ready to pull off the shelf.)

Some provision is also needed for graceful departures from a suddenly oversubscribed Medicaid program.  There aren’t that many people involved, however, and shifts away from current private insurance policies haven’t become effective yet; that happens on 1 January 2014.

Each day that goes by makes it harder to recover from the tailspin the Obamacare roll-out has put us into.  But it’s not too late, in early November 2013, to make sure that people’s current insurance policies don’t have to be cancelled on 31 December 2013.  Action must be taken now.

This is something Republicans could get at least some Democratic support for.  An important point about pushing for congressional action is that that’s the due process of law way to address problems with legislation.  Alleviating the body blows from Obamacare should not be left to the president’s highly selective “discretion.”

That’s why any Republican plan should address the entire FY2014 roll-out, and not just the “coverage” element that affects people’s current insurance policies.  “Piecemealing” the interim fix is a reactive approach that forfeits leadership and initiative; it should be a fallback for the GOP, and not the going-in proposition.

Could a comprehensive postponement attempt by Republicans fail?  Yes.  Obama and a coalition of enough Democrats could defeat it.  But it might not fail – and in any case, there’s no effort that would be more right to make, or that would make a bigger impression on the people.

Looking to the future

The other thing that needs doing is articulating a conservative, Republican message going forward.  The sheer scope of opportunity here is tremendous.  America is being confronted with a most remarkable development: a lurching, explosive, carelessly destructive attempt to institute a collectivist program in full view of a watching, still intact, still-undeceived middle class.  It’s a coup against our way of life, being perpetrated not with guns in the streets but with letters in our mailboxes.  What’s going on can’t be spun.  If you’re tuned in at all, whatever you can see of it looks wrong.  It doesn’t fit.

Americans, still essentially an optimistic, good-hearted people, want to see a way ahead that fixes the problem peacefully.  But more than that, they are reflective and concerned right now, uncertain as to how we got to this point.  If this isn’t a teachable moment, I don’t know what is.

Themes like how irrational Senator Ted Cruz is, or how complacent Mr. Rich Lowry is,  are of no use at a time like this, to people who are losing their health insurance and are just waking up to the fact that their government is making that happen.

Nor is there a high payoff, for effective political leadership, in harping exclusively on the tech aspects of the Obamacare exchange website.  Although Jay Leno can always find adorably confused citizens to interview, most people aren’t clueless.  They recognize, quite sensibly, that you address tech failures by hiring experts.  Tech failures are not a reason to vote for different political representation, or to change your view of what government is for.

Making the case for an idea of government is the central task that lies before Republicans.  Triangulated formulations – e.g., “Not the Democrats’ vision, but definitely not what those other [fill in the blank] Republicans want either” – are losers.  If you find yourself railing against the supposedly off-putting nature of your fellow Republicans, you’ve backed into an echo chamber, and it’s time to take a break.

Instead, Republicans should be focusing on the problems created by government, where the people are running into it every day and being stymied and discouraged by it.  In arguing against intrusive, hyperregulatory government, the basic message should be that the people will grow themselves out of most of our problems, if the regulatory clamps on their productive activities are loosened.

The leader of 2014 will address the places where people are hurting right now, without taking gratuitous swipes at things that can be left for later discussion (e.g., restructuring Social Security; competing philosophies of jurisprudence; auditing the Fed).  Nevertheless, he or she shouldn’t shrink from addressing the principles that might govern these issues, if constituents bring them up.  Americans are losing a common vocabulary for politics and public issues – consider, for example, what different meanings Democrats and Republicans assign to the concept of “leveling the playing field” – and a key element of leadership is defining terms. “Preparing the battlespace” for future debates will entail communicating principle, and thriving in a cycle of persuasion and pushback. 

Sticking only to talking points comes off as shallow and manipulative in the best of circumstances.  The people are unusually ready to talk about the philosophy of government right now, and the emerging leader will be not just prepared but eager to do that, recognizing it as an unparalleled opportunity.  Beyond comfort with philosophical talk about government, however, the leader who connects with the voters will be someone who genuinely loves what the people can do with freedom, and who speaks compellingly about it.

The animating idea of America is not government; it’s liberty.  If Republicans want to be the party of hope and a future, our politics and proposals must all map back to that.  Some amount of intramural discord is inevitable, in the party that actually is America’s Big Tent.  But public squabbles over strategy and personalities don’t look like hope or a future to anyone.  Neither infighting nor catering defensively to identity politics is the winning posture for the GOP; the winning posture is celebrating and protecting liberty.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.

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16 thoughts on “Crisis of politics: The opportunity in the storm”

  1. Excellent article, but I doubt they will listen. We haven’t figured out who can pee the furthest yet. Did you read that idiotic Jennifer Rubin thing today? She isn’t helping.

    1. Ms. Rubin is primarily concerned with one issue. And her opinions on all other issues of domestic and foreign policy are subordinate to that one issue.

      If President Obama had advanced his domestic agenda while simultaneously towing the Likud line in foreign policy, Rubin would be one of Obama’s most fervent supporters. If a democratic senatorial or congressional candidate advocates for increasing aid to Israel, nuking scorpions in Iran as an instrument of foreign policy, and is for more goverment spending and debt, as opposed to a republican candidate that is neutral on Israel and pro reducing goverment and debt, Rubin would support the former. Regardless of what calamities might befall the United States as a consequence.

      She cannot be taken seriously. Except for the comedic entertainment value of her posts of course. I always get a good laugh from them. So does the majority of the general electorate.

  2. By 2016/17 when everything settles in and hits the fan, I fear the reaction and the gov’t counteraction to the unrest down the road and in the wind

    1. The Obama administration of which Hillary Clinton was an eager participant, has been preparing for that reaction and any unrest for many years now. They know what they do and are fully prepared to use whatever level of violence is required to dominate the coming conflict.

  3. Am absolutely thrilled to be able to agree with just about every syllable, dot over an i and bar across a t. Generally part of the “Reconcilliation” oeuvre making the rounds this week. While I’m quite decidedly on Lowery side of the Lowery/Ponnuru v. Erickson debate (which in any case seems more in the spirit of this post), we should note Senator Lee’s Heritage speech, the introduction and conclusion in particular (havin’t given the policy prescriptions enough thought but, some good, some questionable, but they are not proposed as definitive) and Senator Cruz’s recent indication that he will no longer fund raise for the SCF, a very welcome indication of a capacity to learn (something he has demonstrated abundantly in the class room) in the political arena as well. The bottom line is that the Ocare fiasco creates both a tremendous opportunity and and urgency and I’m hoping that even the Republican party might be able to take advantage of.

    Meanwhile we can all celebrate a new low for The Barry in tonight’s NBC/WSJ poll (teehee) and hope for a freer and more prosperous tomorrow. FORWARD! (Okay, maybe not the optimal word choice. :-))

    1. Not gonna happen. The Establishment is not interested in any of this. They don’t want the responsibility,,, just the money and the prestige of sitting at the table of power.

      There will be a mega fight between a Conservative/TEA Party candidate and an Establishment flunky in 2015/2016. The Conservative will win, and the Establishment will undermine him.

      The moderates are their blessed middle, and they seek to placate themselves.

      They will continue to do what they have done to Ken Cuccinelli to every Conservative. Because Conservative thought and action are threats to their way of life.

      The Establishment is relentlessly pursuing it’s goal of neutering the Republican opposition. I saw it up close. They will enforce amnesty. They will quietly stand by while the Democrat/Fascists institute their “Single Payer” Socialized medicine. They will ensure the cash flow to the bankers and transnational conglomerates.

      They will be cause it is no longer worth it to be an “American” in the traditional sense. They’ll go to their offshore health resorts for their care. They’ll operate by their own rules in their bubbles of prosperity.

      Meanwhile the Bourgeoise, the largest threat to their power, will continue its collapse.

      The latest Chamber of Commerce push for Amnesty is the last straw for many of us. The Chamber is not Conservative, it’s Fascist.. and it pushes its schemes in both parties, waving around money and support like a Roman Patrician and his Senatorial Patron.

      I don’t expect anything good to happen out of this. The media will shape the message to benefit the Democrats, and the Establishment will skulk in the shadows waiting for its seat at the table for it’s lucrative scraps.

      1. I’m not at all confident that the conservative candidate will win the Republican party’s nomination in 2015, I expect Christie to be their choice. The refrain will be that he’s ‘electable’. There is no doubt however that should a conservative gain the nomination, that the Republican Establishment will undermine them to the greatest degree possible. I agree that is because the establishment views limited government as a direct threat.

        Karl Rove reportedly is currently joining with other RINO’s to create an organization whose purpose is to discredit and destroy the Tea Party movement in preparation for the coming elections.

  4. Too Late JE. The damage is unrepairable. The Establishment will only deal with the Conservatives if the Conservatives kowtow and surrender their principles.

    There is no compromise possible. The Republican Party is a House Divided; serf or free – Establishment or Conservative. It will to paraphrase the Great Abraham Lincoln, become one or the other, or it will cease to exist altogether.

    We will see. If Cooch wins on in November, we have a chance. If he loses, it will be cause of the actions and inactions of the RPV Old Bull Establishment, just like Ollie North, and Gilmore, Allen, Kilgore… When a Conservative runs, the Old Bulls vote for the Democrat, or vacation in Hilton Head for the election.

    Obamacare will become the ACA in the media… people will “get used” to it, just like they got used to paying $4.00 a gallon for $1.80 a gallon gas. No Establishment Republican has he stomach to repeal and replace it.

    Good Essay. Valid observations. But you might be up for the “Rodney King – Why can’t we all just get along” award. I wish we could… but they have poisoned the well. The fight is on and if the Establishment wins, the GOP folds.


  5. Either its a new found altruism, common sense, or he see the writing on the wall.

    More ideas like the above from the 1%, a steady reduction in government expenditures and entitlements, a smarter tax policy for the upper middle class, a modest tax contribution from the now untaxed middle class, a token contribution from the working poor, and maybe we’ll get out of this financial mess.

    Can the republicans make a compelling message outta that moving towards 2016?

  6. “Each day also brings another volley from one or both sides in the War Between the Republicans. This is silly.”

    That assertion presupposes that conservative criticism of Republicans is counter-productive because the Republican establishment is sincere in their opposition to ObamaCare. That proposition is demonstrably false.

    ” The “moderate” or “establishment” conservatives are right that there is a limit to what can be done at the moment within the constraints of law.”

    That proposition is demonstrably false as well. Republicans easily have enough votes to stop the raising of taxes and to end the raising of the debt ceiling. That would forcibly stop, the growth of both the Entitlement and Regulatory State. Republicans refuse to do so because they value business as usual and only pay lip service to constitutional principles. It is an indefensible moral obscenity for today’s adults to steal from their children’s children. Yet the Republican establishment consistently condones that action.

    “The grandchild, far from being incidental, is decisive. Civilization persists when there is a widespread sense of an ethical obligation on the part of the present generation for the well-being of the third generation —their own grandchildren. A society where this feeling is not widespread may last as a civilization for some time—indeed, for one or two generations it might thrive spectacularly. But inevitably, a society acknowledging no transgenerational commitment to the future will decay and decline from within.”—Lee Harris, “The Future of Tradition”

    That the republican establishment tolerates, condones and even participates in the theft from future generations is a decisive indictment of their actual motivations.

    ” hardly anyone has a concrete idea of everything that’s supposed to happen with it”

    Au Contraire, Obama and the left know exactly what they hope to accomplish with ObamaCare; the collapse of private health insurance and the unstoppable transition to government run, single payer nationalized health care. That is why they have now started to blame the insurance companies for ObamaCare’s faults.

    “Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the socialist state.” Vladimir Lenin
    A keystone is of course the final piece that locks in place all of the other pieces.

    ” What a leader would do is stop staring at the cauldron, searching its bubbling surface for clues, and decide what he wants.”

    He has decided what he wants and, did so long ago. Obama is on record as early as 2002 stating exactly what he wants, which is single payer, nationalized health care. With all due respect J.E. you appear to be in denial at the depth of his mendacity. And it is the breadth of his lies that confirms his motivations to be mendacious.

    What you, I and a large minority want is irrelevant. The left has the votes and is forcing upon us what they want. S.C. Justice Robert’s ‘logic’ that forcing Americans to buy something is a ‘tax’ sealed the door against legal redress of grievance.

    The support of some democrats is not enough, only a veto proof majority can trump the hand Obama holds…unless a large enough caucus of true conservatives stops the raising of taxes and debt ceiling. That would force the federal government to finally live within its means and prioritize spending with real cuts to government entitlements and regulations.

    “America is being confronted with a most remarkable development: a lurching, explosive, carelessly destructive attempt to institute a collectivist program in full view of a watching, still intact, still-undeceived middle class. “

    Still undeceived!!? When did they awaken and how then can the 2012 reelection of Obama be explained?

    It would be a teachable moment, had we a forum that could reach the low-info voter but the MSM has that venue rented…and they will carry the democrat’s water as much and as far as needed, to ensure that anything republicans and conservatives say is twisted in the minds of low-info voters into ‘proof’ of insincerity.

    Americans are not losing, they’ve lost a common perspective on political and public issues.
    Poll Finds Vast Gaps in Basic Views on Gender, Race, Religion and Politics

    Indeed, the animating idea of America is liberty, not government. Tea Party conservatives want to be the party of hope and a future by returning to Constitutional principles of limited government, which resulted in our greatness. The Republican Establishment is the party of maintenance of the financial status quo. That is why, when push comes to shove on principle, they always cave .

  7. “More ideas like the above from the 1%, a steady reduction in government expenditures and entitlements, a smarter tax policy for the upper middle class, a modest tax contribution from the now untaxed middle class, a token contribution from the working poor, and maybe we’ll get out of this financial mess.

    “Can the republicans make a compelling message outta that moving towards 2016?”

    No. The middle class will hear exactly one thing out of that summary: “a modest tax contribution from the now untaxed middle class.”

    The middle class is already taxed. People making $75-250K ARE the middle class. They’re the ones who make the economy go. They are taxed, in every way (not just sales tax, excise taxes, and fees), and they’ve been taking big economic hits over the last 5 years.

    People making $40-74K a year may not, depending on their life circumstances (e.g., lots of kids), pay net federal income tax in a given year. But they do pay other kinds of taxes, and many of them are aware of it.

    Moreover, these are the folks most likely to have FORMERLY made $40-74K a year. These are the people who’ve been losing their jobs right and left since 2008, or seeing their small businesses fail. Even if they haven’t, they’ve been losing their health insurance.

    Obamacare has now come along and made it too expensive to pay for individual private coverage — if they’re lucky enough to have gotten a wage job at Wal-Mart since losing the job with insurance benefits (or maybe the wife has gotten a good reputation as a substitute teacher, and can work a good 15 days each month so there’s at least some discretionary income). Now you want to tell them they haven’t absorbed enough economic blows, and they need to pony up “a modest tax contribution” on top of that?

    We can’t get out of our current mess by tweaking the tax code. We have to deregulate. Build that Keystone pipeline. Drill off our coasts. Retool old refineries and build new ones. Drill and frack where we’re not doing it now. Stop killing coal and the trucking industry with psychotic emission limits.

    Stop trying to disincentivize new single-family residential building, by driving up the price of it with draconian land-use limitations and tying it to high-density residential and light-rail hubs. Unload the whole Agenda 21 template and let people drive the cars they want to drive and live in single-family homes in the suburbs where the schools are better and the kids can be safe at the parks.

    Stop forcing long-term reorganization and shrinkage on American agriculture — killing off the family farm and the whole economy that centers on it — by artificially withholding water from farmers. (Stop with the federal subsidies to agriculture too, of course.)

    Stop driving ranchers one by one off the land with lawsuits against grazing — grazing that no one but a few clinically demented eco-activists think damages the planet.

    Stop requiring, with federal and state law, that it cost employers so much to employ the American worker — but that the money it costs go to the state, or the state’s designated recipients (e.g., insurance companies), rather than into the worker’s pocket!

    Stop burdening American businesses with the whole array of preemptive regulations they have to spend so much of their revenues to comply with. No one would have to borrow as much as everyone routinely does now, for any purpose, if government stopped taking such a big slice out of current-year revenues. Rampant borrowing gets us in a lot of trouble — creating a titanic and ever-present moral hazard for regulators as well as creditors and debtors — and everyone, literally everyone, would do a lot less of it if government didn’t cost us so much in so many ways.

    The most effective way to reduce that cost today is to deregulate. But deregulation would also open up colossal revenue streams we don’t tap today, from energy, transportation, construction, manufacturing, and even agriculture and husbandry. We’ve been slowly killing off our economy for the last 100 years; it’s mind-boggling how many more people would be better off today if we hadn’t been, and how much smaller our government debt would be at all levels.

    People can understand that message, if it’s put clearly. Don’t go out and tell the people they have to contribute more to a fatal enterprise. Tell them there’s a way for all of us to have more options and get more from our labors.

    1. Ok, agreed, strike the untaxed middle class contribution part the way I stated it, insert your comment, add some other incentives for today’s equivalent of the Reagan Democrats.

      See, we are well on the way of putting together a compelling message already 🙂

  8. This is a time that will be written about in books and academic articles. The President’s signature achievement will be his undoing.
    His place will be rightfully soiled by lies and incompetence.
    Obamacare will fail and have the added effect of derailing Clinton’s presidential bid.
    I bet she and her organization already understand that fact.
    Poetic Justice will be at hand soon.
    The President will be reviled by his supporters for all time.
    A very, very small library will do nicely.
    I will donate a plaque that states” If you like your plan, you can keep it”.

    1. Your posting to God’s ear.

      Reading OptiCon’s subsequent post re “The Russians Have Come,” I think Barry’s final capitulation will be virtual unilateral nuclear disarmament as he’s leaving office. “If you like your military, you can keep it — not so much.”

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