Has Walker's Giant Overreach Screwed Republicans? 3 Major Mistakes That Might Sink the GOP in November
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The weatherman on TV describes it every day. "A cold front will pass through our area tomorrow afternoon and with it, a major wind shift."
Historians may one day pinpoint the last several weeks as the time when the front passed -- and the political winds shifted decisively.
The combination of Governor Scott Walker's proposal to strip middle class union members of their rights to have a seat at the table in determining their wages and working conditions -- and the draconian cuts in services to average Americans promoted by Republicans in Congress -- have caused a fundamental shift in American public opinion and political momentum.
Three major Republican political mistakes have contributed mightily to their sinking political fortunes, and they could spell disaster for their candidates next November.
First, Republicans forgot the fundamental truth that it is much more difficult to take something away from people that they already have, than to prevent them from getting something for which they aspire.
It's one thing to campaign against the possibility of better health care -- or against legislation that would restrain the power of banks to sink the economy. It's quite another to propose measures that would cut someone's pay, eliminate their power to bargain, or slash services that benefit everyday Americans -- even worse to propose cutting Social Security or Medicare. Those kinds of proposals are downright personal. They really make people angry.
Nothing changes a political calculus like "facts on the ground." That's why the Republicans are crusading so hard to prevent the Affordable Health Care Act from being implemented. Once it's in force, millions of stakeholders will form a political army that will prevent it from ever being repealed.
For the year after Medicare was passed in 1965, support was pretty lukewarm. Once people started benefiting, support skyrocketed. Now, of course, it's the Republicans (who actually opposed Medicare) who tried to convince seniors that the Affordable Health Care Law would cut their Medicare benefits -- which of course it did not.
During the health care battle, Republicans banked heavily on the fact that those who aspired to get health insurance would not be as well organized or as vocal as those who feared that the law might cause them to lose the health coverage they already had. Their entire strategy was based on building fear among the vast majority who had insurance or Medicare. That is one of the reasons why it was so difficult to pass health care reform. It's also why -- even though Democrats won the battle to pass the bill -- we, temporarily at least, lost the war for public opinion.
Had a public option -- or Medicare buy-in for those under 65 -- been part of the measure, a large number of people would have been vested with benefits much sooner than the 2014 effective date, when most of the other benefits take effect. It simply would not have taken four years to construct a system that allowed people below 65 to buy in to Medicare, which of course is an on-going concern. That would have increased levels of public support for the law much more rapidly, and is one of the reasons Republicans fought these provisions so doggedly.
Of course there are, in fact, many Americans who already benefit from the health care law -- including hospitals full of sick kids who are no longer subject to the insurance industry's outrageous lifetime caps or limitations on coverage for pre-existing conditions. And more and more of the public is coming to realize that Republican claims that the law would degrade their current benefits are simply deceitful propaganda.