Debacle, disaster, disgrace: just three of many descriptors used to characterize the president’s attempted implementation of ObamaCare.
Each week offers new cause for alarm: whether a dysfunctional website rife with opportunity for security breaches, health care cancellation notices, or sharp increases in health care premiums, ObamaCare has quickly devolved into a political third rail for the Democratic party.
Out of the ashes of ObamaCare, however, rises a golden opportunity for the Republican party – so long as the GOP’s leadership has the presence of mind to grasp the full implications of this historic moment.
As President Obama’s approval ratings sink, Republicans have a narrow window of opportunity to begin the process of rebranding themselves as true defenders of the middle class.
And boy, do they need it. Though aligned with most Americans in opposition to ObamaCare, Republicans are sinking deeper and deeper into a hole of their own digging.
No matter how hard they try to align themselves with a majority of Americans, Republicans simply aren’t connecting with the middle class, who view them as a party of “old, rich, white men,” or “the party of ‘no.’” These perceptions are reflected in recent poll numbers, which show GOP approval ratings hovering below 30%.
As someone who manages brands for a living, I can assert with confidence that all successful brands stand for something. It is not enough to merely be against something, no matter how unpopular that “something” is. All durable brands are associated with at least one positive attribute in the minds of consumers - or in this case, voters.
That is certainly not the case for the GOP right now.
Americans want leadership on the issue of health care, and they will reject politicians who delay the hard work of problem-solving.
As such, the GOP’s anti-ObamaCare rhetoric has gone stale. Republicans must abandon their “party of ‘no’” moniker, by sharing their vision of what “no” should be replaced with. In other words, Republicans must explain to voters what they stand for, as well as what they’re against.
A party that controls only one chamber of the legislative branch cannot make public policy. But the House GOP can facilitate the collapse of ObamaCare by aligning Republicans with the interests of hardworking Americans, and forcing Democrats to side with the special interest groups that are poised to profit from them.
In order for this to work, actions taken by the House GOP should be accompanied by simple, straightforward messaging, so that voters can connect with the Republican narrative on a visceral level.
Visceral connections require visceral emotions -- and only two things stoke the ire of Americans as deeply as Congress: trial lawyers and insurance companies. If Republicans leverage this antipathy to their advantage, Democrats will find themselves in the unenviable position of being defenders of both.
The House should pass two bills, recognizing that Frosty the Snowman has better prospects on a Hawaiian vacation than these bills do of ever becoming law. Nonetheless, they will set the stage for Republicans to become day-saving heroes for most voters on the issue of health care.
First, the House should pass a tort reform bill aimed at reducing medical malpractice premiums, for the sole purpose of reducing health care costs. GOP messaging points should target trial lawyers, framing them as special interest groups, explaining how they’ve influenced the architects of ObamaCare and how they plan to profit from it.
Concurrently, Republicans should explain how tort reform would decrease doctors’ costs of doing business, and how those savings would be passed on to hardworking Americans.
A few weeks later, the House should pass another bill permitting interstate competition for health insurance companies.
Doing so would force Democrats to defend ObamaCare’s protection of these quasi monopolies.
GOP messaging should highlight Democrats’ crony capitalism at the expense of free-market competition and individual choice.
ObamaCare is a “teachable moment” in this regard. Americans will always choose freedom and choice over being told what to do, so long as Republicans connect the dots for them.
Will these two bills and messaging points represent all that is needed to repair the GOP’s brand? Absolutely not. There is far more work to be done on that front.
But these initial efforts represent a meaningful first step in the right direction: one that recasts Republicans as defenders of the middle class, rather than merely an unpalatable alternative to the left.
John Jordan is CEO of Jordan Winery, co-founder of Labrador OmniMedia (creator of Tastevin, a tablet-based restaurant beverage list software), and is a member of the Hoover Institution's Board of Overseers at Stanford University.