What’s really behind the GOP’s rejection of health care reform?


by Myles Spicer | August 24, 2009 • Lately I have been baffled by some of the actions of the Republicans which appeared to be self defeating and strategically dangerous. Now I think I have a clearer understanding of their motives, strategy and goals – as well as the reasons for their adamant stand on health care reform. And the very actions that baffled me are shaping the direction in which they are moving, and the path they have elected to take in general.

Graduate U of Minn 1954. Flying officer USAF 1954-57 honorably discharged from reserve with rank of Capt. Owner several ad agencies in the Twin Cities and San Diego for over 45 years. Won several national creative awards in my career; and was a published author. Active politically entire adult life, and civil rights activist since age of 21. 76 years old…and an unrepentant liberal!

Let’s start with a macro view of the “baffling” actions, before we tackle the health care issue. First, consider the position all but a handful of Republicans took on the Sotomayer Senate approval. Then there was the “birther” controversy. Also, the continual bashing of immigrants and immigration. And finally, this giant flap about “death panels”, town hall disruptions, and rejection of virtually any health care reform let alone the public option. In its totality, this is not about the Supreme Court, Obama’s legitimacy, or health care – I am now convinced it is about 2010 and 2012. This is the Republican strategy to win the next elections. It is also about the changing demographics in America which is scaring the hell out of the Republicans, and their ability and reactions to cope with it. Further, it is about race, religion and the right.

Take the Sotomayer issue. A report in August 2008 from the U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2042 non-Hispanic whites will no longer make up the majority of the population. This is a revision of earlier projections that this would occur in 2050. Today, non-Hispanic whites make up about 66% of the population. This is expected to fall to 46% in 2050. The report foresees the Hispanic population rising from 15% today to 30% by 2050. Today, African Americans make up 14% of the population; in 2050 they are projected to comprise 15%. Asian Americans make up 5% of the population and are expected to make up 9% in 2050. The U.S. has nearly 305 million people today, and is projected to reach 400 million by 2039 and 439 million in 2050

Given these facts, it would seem like suicide for the Republican Senators to oppose Sotomayer and offend a growing base of their constituents (especially in the border states). But, maybe not, if their strategy is to concede that group to the Democrats, and focus their efforts on their white right base. Clearly, that is exactly what they have done.

Similarly, their position on abortion and antipathy to immigrants takes the same tack. Enhance, strengthen, and deepen their hold on the religious right. But for now, abortion, immigration reform, and other such issues have fallen in priority to the “hot” issue of the day: health care reform. Here the strategy is clear: oppose any reform whatsoever for the 75% of Americans who want it, and instead focus on the 25% who do not want reform – generally folks on the far right who dislike any government program or intervention, and have an innate dislike (hatred?) for Obama as well. The view, I believe is, that if they can “lock and load” that hard core group…deepen and widen it a bit…motivate them to hit the polls in extremely large numbers, they can win elections over the more sanguine and less motivated electorate in the coming elections. Using tactics combining fear and fiction, they seem to be gaining some traction with this approach.

Michael Murphy, a well regarded GOP political consultant and writer noted a similar dynamic in a Time magazine article last June. While I agree with his analysis, I believe his conclusion is wrong. Murphy wrote:

“It is true that attitudes change. A magnificent Republican renewal may still be possible. Conservatism is traditionally energized by a reaction to liberal excess, and the unabashedly leftish tilt of the Obama Administration’s domestic agenda does give hope. But demography is a powerful force. Waiting and hoping didn’t do much for the Whigs. I prefer a Republican reformation right now.

Young voters need to see a GOP that is more socially libertarian, particularly toward gay rights. With changing demographics come changing attitudes, and aping the grim town elders from Footloose is not the path back to a Republican White House. The pro-life movement can still be a central part of the GOP — it has support among all ages (and a slim majority of Latino voters) — but the overall GOP view on abortion must aggressively embrace the big tent. Saving the GOP is not about diluting conservatism but about modernizing it to reflect the country it inhabits instead of an America that no longer exists.”

True as that may be, it is obvious that is not the direction the GOP is taking. Indeed, it is quite the opposite – do not make the tent “bigger” make it smaller – but with a reliable base they can count on to be vocal, energetic, and VOTE. How else can you explain actions that offend a growing minority population, and bizarre objections to a health care program most Americans want and need? The only conclusion is they are going to rely on their white, right, religious base. Look who are their spokespeople now: Limbaugh, Palin, Bachmann, Gingrich, Beck, et al – and they all speak in the same tongues. Further, not a single responsible Republican has disavowed the town hall disrupters, further evidence of their appeal to the right.

If this conclusion is true, the question remains, will it work? Maybe…if half of Americans do not vote (as they have in past elections); if the minorities who came out to vote for Obama stay home now that the euphoria of a black president has passed; if the young voters return to their habit of staying away from the polls; if the GOP fear tactics gain traction; and if the GOP has sufficiently rallied their base to the level they believe can win elections. Meanwhile, America is the victim of subtle racism, lots of fear and shouting, paralysis in the legislative branch, and the stonewalling of programs that could and would improve the well being of us all.