“A majority of so-called Republican strategists believe that health care is a Democratic issue. They are wrong; health care is an American issue, and the Republican Party has an opportunity to demonstrate that conservative principles work when applied to real-world problems.” –Bobby Jindal, Governor of Lousiana
Today, August 1st, a number of ObamaCare provisions go into effect, and the administration has wasted no time in talking up the new benefits for women. And whatever we might think of the law as a whole, or how it was passed, many of those specific provisions are understandably popular. (What woman—or man—is going to complain about mammograms, diabetes screening, and domestic violence counseling?) Accordingly, the administration’s allies are driving home the advantages for women with graphs, figures, and lists of “anti-women” states.
As if on cue, the Senate Majority Leader appended a lengthy homage to ObamaCare in his opening remarks on the pending cybersecurity bill. The Minority Leader responded by offering an amendment that would repeal the healthcare act. Shockingly, it went nowhere. Republicans could hold 33 votes or 33,000 on repealing ObamaCare, and it would never get pass Senate Democrats, even if they allowed an up-or-down vote.
Whatever you think of the legitimacy of the “War on Women” narrative, it is part of very real perceptual problem for the Republican Party beyond the problems ObamaCare causes Democrats. It will be difficult for Romney to win—or even do better than John McCain—with a 21-point deficit among women voters. The newly effected ObamaCare provisions, coupled with yet another symbolic Republican push to simply repeal the entire law with no alternative, feeds well into the narrative of conservative indifference or hostility to women’s interests.
One way of attacking this problem is by including provisions women will support in a Republican-sponsored bill. There is, after all, nothing inherently liberal about women’s health, and we should remind voters of this. While any vote regarding ObamaCare is likely to be symbolic, at best, until after the election, conservatives can still offer new, more useful symbols. We promised America we would repeal and replace ObamaCare. To that end, we should put the Left on the defensive by pushing votes that specifically challenge what Americans don’t like about the law. Even if the votes must be piecemeal, they should allow for some political weapons.
Conservatives have already offered a number of thoughtful proposals to improve the healthcare system. Some include voluntary purchasing pools, interstate plans, tort reform, tax-free health savings accounts, incentives for healthy living, etc. Any conservative ideas already included in the Affordable Care Act can become part of the Repeal-and-Replace conservative bill. But the glaring differences between Obama’s law and the alternative—including the lack of a tax hike mandate or inclusion of conscience objections for employers—will give conservatives a stronger case to take Democrats in Congress to task, especially on the election trail, especially to women.
I’m tired of symbols; the inane $.07 rebate check my insurance company was forced to send me under ObamaCare was a symbol. I want to see bad policies defeated and better ones put in their place. Democrats hardly paused in pushing ObamaCare when the public turned against them, and they’re certainly not going to entertain Republican objections now. But if we campaign with a demonstrably better proposal built on bipartisan ideas and American common sense, liberals will have to respond. The Left tried to hamstring us with our ideas when they wrote the bill. Let’s really hamstring them with theirs—including opposition to the mandate—in the replacement. It’s a fight we can win.
As Bobby Jindal put it:
“In short, ideas matter. The public is interested in solutions that will improve America’s health-care system, not dismantle it. Republicans can lead on this.”
Conservatives, it’s time to lead.