On July 3, the administration announced it was delaying the employer mandate of Obamacare for a year.
In the messaging war that ensued, the frustrating theme of the last eight years continued: Republicans are playing checkers; Democrats are playing chess.
The administration announced it had failed to create a good process and so it was delaying implementation. A week later, the administration used a similar excuse in announcing it wouldn’t bother verifying whether applicants for Medicaid subsidies were qualified.
Republicans pounced, calling the decision a transparent attempt to shield Democrats from exposure in the 2014 election, with the rules being delayed from effect until after Congressional elections were completed. Republicans then proceeded in a fruitless attempt to delay the individual mandate.
Don’t get me wrong. Those were nice wins for the GOP’s messaging, but they could have hit a homerun rather than just a single.
There is something unsettling about a president constantly asking for more federal government control in virtually every aspect of our lives while simultaneously admitting government incompetence on major legislation.
Yet Republicans have decided to win the battle — Obamacare bad — rather than the war — big government never works.
The American public likes President Obama despite his policies. They like him so much they re-elected him even though a majority of Americans want smaller government. Moreover, President Obama isn’t ever going to be on a ballot again.
Calling him names just turns off low-information voters and moderate Democrats, as they like him personally. A better answer would be to use his own popularity against his ideology. Such an argument could go something like this:
“President Obama talks about making big government smarter and more competent. He’s not corrupt. He is genuinely trying to make the government a better place. According to his advisors, he’s the smartest guy in the room in every meeting. But even he can’t seem to make our government run well. It seems like our government is incapable of doing everything we want it to. Given this failure, it is clear that we need to scale back the size and scope of what our government does.”
They could finish with a quote every American will easily understand:
“If government can’t do today’s job right, we can’t give it more to do tomorrow.”
If messaging like that took hold, liberals across the country would take to media outlets to call Obama corrupt or incompetent themselves. Criticism from within his own party would be far more damaging.
But the real benefit would be exposing the fatal conceit of Obama apologists, and likely the 2016 Democratic Presidential candidates, who claim Obamacare is a moderate compromise. Implied in those claims is that they want more government control.
But if government can’t implement these “moderate” health care regulations, how can it take more control?
The government is struggling to program and populate a series of nearly identical e-commerce websites in three years. That might be a daunting task for a (poorly trained) individual, but for a government with billions of dollars? The same government that put a man on the moon, defeated communism and used a worm to set back the Iranian nuclear program by years really can’t build a healthcare exchange and copy it 37 times?
The technology isn’t the issue. The government red tape is what’s causing the problem. And what caused that red tape? Three things:
- A corrupted process that prevented representatives from reading, debating and amending the final bill before passage. As a result, the bad parts of this law weren’t reviewed or ironed out.
- A hodge-podge of gimmicks designed to make the bill look cheaper than it really was (see The CLASS Act).
- Superficial attempts to avoid political pot holes that could have derailed passage (i.e. businesses with less than 50 employees exempted).
But Democrats don’t want to admit those things are the real problem. So they call government incompetent.
In chess terms, they put a queen in jeopardy to save a pawn. And the checkers-playing Republicans, who can’t distinguish between pieces, opted to take the pawn rather than go for the queen.
That’s the price of playing the wrong game.