Keep It Simple, Stupid. This worthy acronym applies in almost any situation, and the 2010 midterm elections are no different. After two years of the Obama administration and huge Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, Republicans are poised to make a comeback. In some sense this is no surprise, as the party in power traditionally loses seats during the midterm elections. What is surprising, however, is the apparent scope of the Republican victory. Republicans are already evoking memories of 1994, when their party gained over 50 House seats and retook the majority for the first time in 40 years. The party already has three major victories to point to in the last half year: A Republican was elected governor in both Virginia and New Jersey, and one was elected Senator from Massachusetts.
But lately Republicans have been undercutting their own momentum. They won in those special elections by keeping it simple: their candidates focused on the economy, jobs, the deficit and terrorism. These are common issues that everyone is concerned about. They stayed away from sensitive cultural issues and talked about what the voters wanted to hear. Part of the reason voters have become so turned off by the Democratic Party is the perception that, over the last two years, that party has not focused enough on the issues that really matter. The economy and unemployment have consistently ranked as the highest priorities in voters’ minds during this recession but the Democrats have insisted on spending all their time on health care, making them seem out of touch with the average American’s concerns. Republicans were gaining momentum by resisting the health care overhaul and demanding that the government focus its
attention on the economy.
But now Republicans are the ones beginning to seem out of touch. With the passage of Obama’s health reform bill, Republicans have launched a “repeal and replace” campaign, pledging to, you guessed it, repeal Obamacare and replace it with a conservative reform. Personally, I am not averse to this message, but politically it will hurt the Republican Party. Now Republicans are the ones focusing all their attention on the health care issue, trying to convince the American people that the bill needs to be replaced. I believe they would be better off returning to their focus on the economy.
Unemployment and recovery are still the most important issues to the American voter. Most of them just want to put this whole health care mess behind us. They want this not because they believe health care does not require reform or because they consider it unimportant, but because the constant debate over the issue has paralyzed our federal government and prevented it from performing the actions necessary to help our nation through the recession. Unemployment benefits that were supposed to be extended prior to Congress’ spring recess still have not been passed. Thousands of unemployed Americans are dependent on these benefits for their very survival, yet Congress was too busy discussing health care exchanges. Financial regulatory reform, which is desperately needed to prevent another catastrophic crash and government bailout, has likewise been stalled. Government efforts to increase hiring, such as loosening capital flows and providing tax relief to small businesses, have been subsumed within the health care morass. Put simply, the public is tired of health care because it prevents the government from doing anything about the economy.
That’s why the recent Republican focus on repealing the health care bill is so dangerous. Republicans need to keep it simple, and maybe steal a James Carville line from 1992: It’s the economy, stupid. Republicans should focus on issues that bring Americans together: economic recovery, reducing unemployment, controlling the debt and protecting the homeland, rather than issues which tear them apart (like health care). Instigate another partisan war over health care can only hurt the party’s chances this November. Republicans risk being perceived as the party stopping the government from helping the people. They need to keep it simple: stick with what’s been working, stick with what the voters care about.
This is democracy after all: the parties are supposed to focus on what the people care about most. Provide solutions to the people’s concerns and watch them reward you with political office. Insist on talking about something the voters have heard quite enough about, and they will not. The choice is yours, and to be frank, it seems like a pretty
Contact Henrik Temp at [email protected]