Issues & Insights

The RBG Replacement And Obamacare Forever: GOP Must Play The Long Game

Jarek Tuszyński

The decision on whether, how and why to push through a successor to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underscores how – for all the mystique and glamor ostensibly surrounding the biz of spinmeistery – sometimes the politics, PR and narrative in a given situation just don’t matter.

Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Once upon a time, for example, a youthful practitioner of the art worked with a megabillions-bucks investment client raking in – and trying to explain – getting free government money simply for taking over a failing savings and loan. 

Surely, the rhetorical magician suggested, we can talk about upfront resources being put into this institution. Or long-term investment. Or even management expertise.

Not really, came the response. It’s really just free money. 

So how do we deflect criticism?

We’re perfectly happy to put on our big-boy pants and take it.

Oh.

That’s what this Supreme Court seat is about: sucking it up and being ready to take a potentially painful short-term PR hit for substantial long-term gain. The Grand Old Party has the White House and, one must hope, the Senate votes to push through a 40-something, reliably conservative RBG replacement to serve for a generation.

GOPers needn’t spin, apologize or explain. Nor differentiate Merrick Garland in 2016.

And not even give pause about the electoral considerations – whether pushing through this nomination will cost them Senate seats, their Senate majority or even the presidency.

Rather, they should do what Democrats have done for years: play power politics in the present, no matter the short-term PR or electoral cost, to effect lasting change for the future.

The most recent example: Obamacare. It was a political loser. The week of its passage in 2010, 59% of the public opposed it, with just 39% in favor. But Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid made vulnerable Democrats “walk the plank” to squeak the bill through. 

The result? First: an electoral bloodbath: 63 net seats lost in the House that fall, six in the Senate and 675 state legislative seats. “Blue Dogs” took the biggest hit, as just one white Democrat from the Deep South won reelection. 

Second: Obamacare is still with us, and even an electoral plus for Democrats. Because that party damned the torpedoes and the spin, knowing that short-term sacrifice spelled generational change.

In fact, Obamacare is about to get bigger. Don’t tell us you’ve fallen for Joe Biden’s promise to merely shore up the ACA with a “public option” instead of going for Sanderscare (now there’s a double entendre) – also known as “Medicare for All.”

Smarmy Mayor Pete Buttigieg gave up that game some time ago: “We’ll see Americans walk away from the corporate options into that Medicare option, and it will become Medicare for All without us having to kick anybody off their insurance.”

Then Democrats will be happy, right? As if. 

Just take a gander at Sleepy Joe’s subhead on his website: “Supporting Health, Not Rewarding Wealth.” It’s not about health care at all. It’s about redistributing income.

Someone will question why rich and poor should pay the same for health care. It will be means-tested, with the wealthy soaked not only with unthinkable tax rates but with hidden levies in the form of massive premiums for substandard care.

Bam. Obamacare for All and Forever, with wealthier earners subsidizing “lower-income beneficiaries,” just as some middle-class folks are now paying the hidden tax of $20,000 a year in premiums for two people, plus thousands more in deductibles, being priced out of care. 

Until, of course, you get into a situation akin to what Margaret Thatcher said about socialism: “Sooner or later, you run out of other people’s money.”

Close, but not quite. Sooner or later, people start questioning why they should make any money at all just to have it siphoned off. So you have no one’s money, or health care: in other words, Venezuela.

Another reason Obamacare’s not going away any time soon, despite the case now before the Supreme Court declaring it unconstitutional, is that “conservative” Chief Justice John Roberts rewrote the law from the bench to save it. Think he won’t do it again?

Now the Republicans have their own opportunity for sacrificial short-term action yielding generational change. And maybe even short-term. If a confirmation happens fast enough (and it needs to happen very fast even by long-past historical precedent), there could be a real, Roberts-proof conservative majority in time to reconsider Obamacare’s constitutionality.

The Rs cannot mess around this time. No O’Connor, Souter, Kennedy or even Roberts “stealth” nominees. Candidates must be on-the-record on issues such as overturning Roe.  

No shock, incredible charges from the past (look out for faux racism or religious extremism charges to replace the sex card with a woman nominee), calls for fake investigations, or inevitable screaming protests or riots in the streets dragging out the process past the election.

And at least one senator may have to take a painful electoral hit to secure the appointment.

It’s time to put the big boy (and girl) pants on. Forget the rationales and spin. Choose a real judicial conservative. 

And take the vote.

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Bob Maistros

Bob Maistros, a messaging and communications strategist and crisis specialist, is of counsel with Strategic Action Public Affairs, and was chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, three U.S. Senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at bob@rpmexecutive.com.

3 comments

  • Yep. Time and again Republicans have made “short term sacrifices for long term gains” which came NEVER. Take the win – and know that a demonstration of backbone is more likely to yield victory than appeasement.

    • Actually, just the opposite. The GOP has refused to make the short-term sacrifices for long-term gain. They temporized, equivocated, and shot their own in the back so they can look “moderate.”

      • “ Actually, just the opposite. The GOP has refused to make the short-term sacrifices for long-term gain. They temporized, equivocated, and shot their own in the back so they can look “moderate.””

        Who says it has to be just one? They’ve done both.

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