20 January 2010

Tales from the Other Side of the Crypt

As I wrote yesterday, I think it's important that Republicans take care to not over-reach following the the phenomenal win by Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special election. Hubris has brought the party low very recently. Nonetheless, the win should clearly signal that the public thinks that the Obama administration and Congressional leadership have moved too far to the left, and is particularly discontented with the health care reform bills, lack of transparency and the economic recovery proposals. Repeated polling, by non-partisan polling organizations, have demonstrated that voters are royally angry at the health care bill, security failures and general direction of the country.

Strangely, some on the left have reached the crazy conclusion that blue-Massachusetts elected a center-right candidate because Congress has not gone far enough left. If the administration buys 'move-left' drive, they may very well drive voters to vote for the GOP out of sheer reactionary anger. Those reaching this conclusion are calling for health care reform to pass through reconciliation, whereby the bill would be passed only on budgetary issues. Such a process would eliminate many of the current special arrangements in the bill, but arguments are being made to re-insert a public option, under the assumption that it could be massaged to (at least in the short term) be fiscally neutral under CBO assessment.

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Where does the GOP go from here? Elections over the last four years have repeatedly demonstrated that the voters do not want the extremes from either side. The majority of the country has been for some time, and looks likely to remain, center-right. This can play against both parties, where the tendency is to move to the extremes. Brown campaigned (and his voting record as a state senator bears this out) as a center-right candidate. He effectively captured voter anger over the economy, security issues and the health care reform proposals. He has never suggested that health care reform should be abandoned, but rather that Congress and the administration are going about it the wrong way. The GOP needs to do more than just say no to the left, it needs to formulate successful, well-thought out, counter proposals. If considered, detailed proposals are put up for debate by the public, we will have a much better chance of effectively moving policy, and of gaining seats in November.

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