Finding North Without a Compass

A retired Army officer and retired Fortune 500 executive, Warren may be best known for making waves while serving on the Mequon Common Council and Ozaukee County Board. He's no longer an elected official, but he has plenty to say about local, state and national issues.



Act I of the Washington Follies has just concluded and our federal government has re-opened. Act II is scheduled to begin in January 2014 with the same roadblocks to be overcome. Before that curtain rises it might be worthwhile to review Act I. It began when a group of right-wing Republicans led by Texas Senator Ted Cruz were determined to defund ObamaCare in the 2014 federal budget. His 21 hour oration in the US Senate brought extensive publicity to the effort, not to mention substantial contributions to that cause. Of course, there was no way that any ObamaCare defund bill would be approved in the Democrat controlled Senate and even less that President Obama would sign it. Any logical American citizen who believes in our democratic system must have wondered by what rationale how the ObamaCare legislation, approved by both houses of Congress, signed by the President and defined as constitutional by the US Supreme Court, couldn't be legally implemented.

From my perspective this was just another example of the Republicans going over the cliff like the lemmings, with a principle strategy continuing to ride roughshod over a winning strategy. I became aware of that maxim back in 1964, as a neophyte to the political scene, when I asked a Republican official why the party had nominated Barry Goldwater to face President Lyndon Johnson knowing he couldn't win. He informed me that winning was not the goal of the Republican party but rather standing for principle was the intent. I thought this was nutty and a passing fad, but as time passed other examples continue to occur. Take the 2012 case where Tea Party Republicans defeated Senator Luger, a sure winner, in an Indiana primary, for a candidate who met their rigid principles, but lost the senate seat to a Democrat? Or, the Delaware Republican senate candidate Christine O'Donnell ("I am not a witch"), vehemently supported by the Tea Party, defeating nine term US representative and former Delaware governor, Mike Castle in the primary for an election to fill Joe Biden's senate seat. Castle was another sure winner, but again his principles did not qualify for Tea Party support, and predictably, O'Donnell lost. I could go on with the senatorial Tea Party candidate facing an on-the-ropes Harry Reid, losing in Nevada. Or,Todd Akin winning the Missouri Republican primary by averring he was the most conservative and blowing up in the campaign by his comments about a women's body preventing pregnancy if it was "legitimate rape." Result, the vulnerable Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill was re-elected. On and on it goes, with conservative Republicans always determining that purity of principles was the enemy of winning elections. If that philosophy persists, Republicans will continue to be the minority party at the federal level. 
What those Tea Party Republicans, advocating defunding ObamaCare, should have done, is accepted that ObamaCare was going to be implemented. If they wanted to take a position it should have been to vote "present" on ObamaCare funding. Then, the entire program, voted into existence without a single Republican, would remain clearly a Democrat program. Instead, they hung up the budget bill and held up an increase in the debt limit, leading to the shutdown. With a compromise reached, the government has re-opened and the budget and debt ceiling punted into 2014. (Please Note: I refuse to use that overworked idiom "kicked the can down the road")
ObamaCare has now taken effect with the sign-up phase for the individual mandate. The software glitches have been well publicized, with just a handful of sign-ups being consummated. President Obama and other officials have pooh-poohed the problems comparing them to Apple's start-up problems with their smart phones that were overcome with time -- hardly comparable. Republicans have taken up the call to delay the individual implementation for one year to get the glitches corrected, equating to the one year exemption given to 1,231 companies and other organizations regarding the law’s restrictions of annual benefit caps. 
On the other hand, some opponents of ObamaCare support its implementation for individuals on the theory that it will self-collapse of its own weight. They allege it is too complicated; will not attract younger insurers needed to balance the costs of older participants; will increase insurance costs far above current rates; will create a shortage of doctors and force medical rationing; will decrease medical research precipitately affecting quality of life and on and on. If these allegations prove accurate the American public will abandon ObamaCare in droves and demand the repeal of the ObamaCare carcass, with concomitant support increasing for Republicans.  
That result would be a gigantic blow to the entitlement state concept advocated by American liberalism these past 50 years. It will be challenged in all its aspect and subject to fundamental change. The American quality of self-reliance and individualism that guided the country for its first 175 years would be restored. Republicans are bound to benefit but only if they can get their act together to agree that winning elections is their primary goal, not purity of principles emanating from losing candidates. 
Like most scenarios, the abandonment of Obamacare comes with a serious warning. The liberal establishment will not leave the battlefield as losers graciously. They will easily convince their entitlement constituents that the answer is not ObamaCare abandonment but a revision to a single payer system, run exclusively by the federal government -- ala Medicare. In all honesty, that's what President Obama and the liberal establishment actually wanted but they had to accept a lesser solution, ObamaCare, because a single payer system could not have been passed by Congress. Now, however, if may be possible, if a majority of the great middle class can be convinced to give them another shot with Hillary Clinton as President and Democrat majorities in both houses. Republicans and conservatives will have to present the American public with attractive alternatives that can carry the day. It's a substantial challenge that requires unity in Republican ranks -- and if they are serious they need to get underway today. Not tomorrow, but today!

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