It’s an election year. With Republicans gaining ground in the generic ballot poll question, with the president’s signature health care program still a steaming mess despite numerous fixes, with even liberal Politifact deciding the Democrats’ promise “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” was the Lie of the Year…what’s the party of progressivism to do? Why, go back to the tried-and-true: attack Republicans as cold, heartless white men in suits who won’t raise the minimum wage or extend unemployment benefits.
Please, someone tell me that GOP leaders will have an effective response to this nonsense. I keep waiting. And, as another year dawns, I’m ever hopeful.
Democratic leaders, such as Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), plan to bring up extending unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage in an effort to address “income inequality” when Congress returns from its holiday break. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) even believes these issues will matter more to people than the Affordable Care Act’s problems this year.
He and other Democratic leaders clearly hope that this is the way to divert people’s attention from the life-ruining ACA–start talking about suffering that Dems want to relieve and that those nasty penny-pinching Abominable No-Men (the GOP) will look away from. Some Dems might even have the chutzpah to point out that, despite its flaws, the ACA was at least an attempt to make health care affordable, while those cold-hearted GOP officials said “no, no, no” to a fix.
Clearly, that’s going to be the Democratic strategy–to hammer home the message that the GOP won’t support the working man and woman who need help with higher wages or extended benefits during this bad economy.
The GOP, in my opinion, never seems to adequately rebut these implicit and explicit accusations of heartlessness. It’s such a silly game, after all, the “who cares more” tally. I suspect many Republican leaders see it as a juvenile kind of playground taunt: “Wah, wah, you don’t care.” What’s the answer to that–“Do, too?”Because the claim seems so childish, Republicans largely leave the taunt unanswered.
This is a mistake. For decades, they’ve allowed Democrats, aided by a liberal and lazy media, to define them. I’m not suggesting that GOP leaders do get into a back and forth about their own compassion. That’s a losing game.
But I do think they need to steal a page from the Democratic playbook by pointing out the Democrats’ own lack of compassion for all those harmed by the ACA. If Chuck Schumer wants to talk about the 1.3 million whose unemployment benefits were expiring at the end of the year, Republicans have a right, an obligation, to ask: Where were you when millions more were losing their health insurance? Why don’t you care enough about them to make fixing the ACA mess a priority? Why are you running away from those people whose lives were ruined by your actions? Don’t you at least owe them an apology? Let’s fix the mess you created before we move on to more actions you want us to take.
Don’t let the ACA go as a talking point, GOP leaders. The media will surely weary of covering it as time goes on when most of them are ultimately sympathetic to its goals and probably a little too eager to forgive and forget.
Don’t let health care reform go, either. I’ve written before about how important it is for the GOP to put political capital on the line for a responsible health care reform policy.
And don’t get into a who-cares-more debate with Dems over the minimum wage and unemployment benefits. Instead, turn it into a who-cares-less about Americans suffering due to hasty, political-minded Democratic decisions on health care. The answer to that is clear: Democrats don’t care that much at all about those hurt by the ACA. They don’t want to talk about those poor, suffering souls.
Libby Sternberg is a novelist. On her blog now is the serialization of a new novel.