By Tom Cushing
Governing from BehindUploaded: Mar 5, 2017
Republicans were surprised to learn in November that they would control both Houses of Congress and the Executive Branch, starting in January of this year.
So far, the record suggests that they were ill-equipped to actually govern, after eight years of earning the nickname “Party of No.” The GOP-controlled House, for example, had voted more than 50 times in the last term to repeal the ACA/ObamaCare, but they never proposed anything to replace it. And in the four months since the election bestowed those majorities, they still haven’t.
Some suggest that’s because the ACA was actually a GOP proposal -- witness its roots in the rightist Heritage Foundation as an alternative to ‘single-payor’ approaches, and its earlier implementation under Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. Others believe that no proposal could ever lure-in the Freedom Caucus and other uber-conservative House members. Obstructionism, we are learning, is easy – it’s governing that is hard.
But this edition of the RC is not about the GOP’s inability to lead – it’s intended to chastise the Dems for not learning the GOP’s lesson. The current void gives them a perfect opportunity to present an alternative vision – something Hillary created but failed to articulate during the last campaign. Instead of sitting on their hands, GOP-style, they could be putting forward proposals from both Establishment and Progressive (read: Bernie) wings, to capitalize on the coming GOP civil war, and lay the groundwork for a 2018 resurgence.
Take infrastructure – EVerybody agrees that major upgrades are needed. Infrastructure is a bedrock governmental function, after only Defense in most folks’ minds. It’s a job booster, a pump primer, and it always pays off. Indeed, it’s likely that something could have passed during the previous six years of gridlock -- except for the fact that it would have had Mr. Obama’s name on it, which fundamentally offends the GOP DNA.
Not only that, but we’re not just talking about pot-holed roads and crumbling bridges – there’s plenty of evidence that other countries are investing aggressively, societally, in 21st century infrastructure around faster internets and universal availability. (In my own dampish reveries, we might even do something to directly address climate change, but realistically not yet).
Mr. Trump has made noises about some hybrid public/private initiative, but details are notably absent as he strives mightily to divert attention from his smoldering Russian scandalette (so far). So why not come up with an alternative that puts a stake in the ground – and might even draw-in a few GOPers concerned about their 2018 prospects, or even about good governance. Bernie and Hillary both had plans – put ‘em out there!
Or what about health care? ACA popular support now commands a national majority, and the Dems’ talking points have been laced with calls to “improve it, not replace it.” Okay, do it! Maybe national competition is a good thing. Or maybe a bill could address the Actual reasons why health care is so expensive, as in sky-high drug costs and an opaque medical services market that forecloses price competition (Steven Brill’s 'Bitter Pill' was, and is, right about that).
Why not take a shot at it? The Republicans are very likely to gridlock in the House (Ayn Rand vs. Milton Friedman, in a deadly intramural stand-off). The Senate is a close question, and the Administration is hopelessly flummoxed by the fact that policy is complicated (who knew?) and the credible economists have fled.
Further, if it was an alternative to a GOP plan that only addresses costs by effectively kicking millions of now-covered Americans to the curb, it might look mighty good when the Congressional Budget Office got through with a comparison.
Moreover, Resistance to the Trumpistas may be a civic duty, but fear is not inspirational, and might not sustain the necessary momentum. Why not give Ms. and Mr. Resistor something positive to rally ‘round?
Nature, but apparently not the Democratic Party, abhors a vacuum. If that doesn’t change, they deserve the consequences of consistently squandered Opportunity.
It’s a-knockin’ -- let it in!