The accepted post-election narrative in NY-26 is that the Republicans overreached on Ryan’s Medicare reform plan and the voters socked it to them. Make no mistake, this is the Democrats’ narrative that the media was anxious to adopt. However, there appear to be some inconsistencies with this story.
First, why did the newly-elected Democrat Kathy Hochul denounce support for Obama’s health law? If this was such a victory for the Democrats’ protection of Medicare and their new health law, why would the Democratic candidate not only steer clear of it but even voice her disapproval?
Second, the Tea Party candidate was a wealthy, liberal Democrat that for all intents and purposes seemed to be an impostor trying to co-opt and sully the Tea Party brand. This might be a successful strategy for Democrats going into 2012 but it doesn’t say much about the Ryan Medicare plan.
Third, a steady rule in politics is once you own something, you better defend it. This holds true even more so if it is a bold reform plan – taxes, immigration, entitlements, for example. George Bush got clobbered for his attempts to create private accounts for Social Security when he was unable to rally Republican support. This occurred despite the fact that it was solidly a Republican idea. His failure to rally, and Republicans’ failure to engage in the debate, left the party open to attack on the issue without a real defense of their position. Similarly, John McCain did not invest enough time and energy learning his health care plan in 2008 and got beat up at every turn because of it. This was not because it was a bad plan. In fact, it was a very good one. But it took explanation and impassioned defense. The Republican candidate needed to more forcefully own and defend the Medicare reform plan in NY 26, not present a mealy-mouthed defense for what her party is trying to do.
This is the future Republicans face in 2012 if they do not choose to embrace their own ideas. They don’t have to applaud every detail and say it’s perfect but right now the Ryan plan is the only game in town. And it’s pretty good compared to what the other side has, which basically lets Medicare become either insolvent or vastly rations care.
Democrats have 756 days without presenting a single budget proposal. Moreover, to the extent the Democrats have a plan to save Medicare, it can be found in “Obamacare” and its rationing board made up of 15 bureaucrats (IPAB). It is the ultimate fatal conceit to think that 15 health care professionals are going to be able to effectively and humanely make health care decisions for all of America’s seniors. But this is the current law! So why aren’t Republicans out there making sure America knows that until another alternative plan is presented, this treatment denial board, IPAB, is set to make their health care decisions for them in a few short years? We can be sure America has no clue of this board’s existence right now, nor that this is the new “status quo.”
So to recap, yes, yesterday’s election had a lot to do with Medicare and its need for reform. But the lesson is not that Republicans need to run from Paul Ryan. Rather, they need to put their running shoes on and JOIN Ryan as he defends his plan to save Medicare. Republicans will abandon him at their peril. Or to quote Ben Franklin, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”