Health care vote will tell us whether the GOP is ready to win and lead


Gary Abernathy - Contributing columnist



Will the Republican Party finally demonstrate that it is ready to win, lead and govern, or continue to shoot itself in the foot?

That’s the question that will be answered in the U.S. Senate when the effort to repeal Obamacare comes to a vote, probably sometime very soon.

Apparently, not a single one of the Democratic Party senators will even consider supporting the GOP alternative, meaning that only two Republican votes can be lost and the measure still pass. At last count, there were at least five Republican senators waffling or declaring their opposition to the repeal effort for a number of stated reasons.

The House of Representatives went through similar drama, first embarrassingly falling short of enough votes to pass a health care bill earlier this year before finally passing one.

As usual, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is a leading objector to the GOP bill, and being against something appears to be his major platform whatever the subject. Other Republican senators express concerns about rolling back the Medicaid expansion that was a major part of Obamacare.

Nevertheless, as imperfect as the Republican plan might be, it will without doubt be an improvement on Obamacare. If the GOP plan does nothing but eliminate the individual mandate – the law that, for the first time in history, forced Americans to purchase a private product for no other reason that being alive – it will be worth the vote.

One of the most misleading objections to rolling back Obamacare is the claim that millions will lose health insurance, which completely ignores the fact that millions only signed up for health insurance because their government forced them to do it, under threat of a penalty enforced by the Internal Revenue Service. Many, if not most, will be happy to be rid of it.

To be clear, any Republican who votes against the GOP health care bill is in essence casting a vote in favor of Obamacare, because keeping Obamacare will be the end result of a failed vote.

More important than the details of the health care bill is the long-term fallout of failing to pass the bill. Let’s be clear about what the stakes really are in this current drama.

The national media is ready (and in most cases hopeful) to pounce on the outcome that sees the GOP failing to pass the bill, not because media members think it’s a bad bill, but because they love nothing more than promoting the narrative of a dysfunctional Republican Party and a dysfunctional White House.

To move on from the media’s preferred narrative that President Trump has not accomplished any major legislative initiatives – as though doing so in the first six months of an administration is par for the course – and that his party is separating from him, it is important to pass the bill.

As noted here before, Democrats understand such things. That’s how Obamacare became law in the first place. They understand the bigger picture, the importance of victory over defeat.

So far this year, Republicans have been slow to demonstrate the same level of understanding when it comes to long-game politics. Their devotion to “principle” leaves them boasting about their codes of honor and adhering to their beliefs, but no progress, and victory after victory for the party out of power.

The GOP has it within its grasp to completely change the narrative in Washington and beyond. For instance, it is only because there are enough Republicans pretending that the Trump-Russian allegations might be anything more than a political attack by Trump’s opponents that they remain in sharp focus.

It is well documented that Russia and China accomplished virtually the same level of interference in the 2008 and 2012 elections as in 2016, but since Trump won in 2016, well, the national media makes it their lead story for months on end, with no end in sight. Republicans playing along gives the media the cover it needs.

If the GOP had within their ranks the fortitude to grab control of the narrative from their opponents, they would be progressing at a pace that would result in one victory after another, thereby creating an entirely different perception nationally.

Holding out hope for that kind of resolve on the Republican side is probably an exercise in futility. Even most Republicans seem at a loss to understand the landscape that led to Trump’s victory, and the reality that Trump voters hold in their hands the electoral fate of Republicans next year and beyond.

If Republicans in Congress fail to pass legislation supported by President Trump, the midterm elections will result in Trump voters returning to the polls, particularly in primary elections, to replace those who won’t back the president with those who will. This is the midterm result few are forecasting right now, but as those elections draw closer this reality will become clearer.

That sentiment does not reflect a hope, a threat, or a guess; it represents a reality, based on what happened in 2016, which, as time will demonstrate, was a beginning, not an end.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at gabernathy@timesgazette.com.

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Gary Abernathy

Contributing columnist