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Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Lies, Failed Leadership And President [Barack] Obama.

Brad Cummings | Lies, failed leadership and the president

“Liar.” My head turned in shock as one of my lifelong friends said this one word under his breath while we were watching President Obama’s Veterans Day speech just last month. His uncharacteristic attack on the president was based on the promise that under Obamacare, Americans could keep their insurance and doctors if they liked what they already had.

I’m a Republican and a conservative so it may not shock you that a friend of mine held this view. But my background far from fits into a stereotypical political box. My first career was as a stage actor and many of my closest friends are still part of the American theater community. It’s no secret that most artists are liberal-minded (I even identified as a Democrat in my early 20s) and my aforementioned friend falls into this category.

He’s not a hardline Democrat but left-of-center nonetheless. He’s predisposed to support the Democrat in any election and voted for President Obama twice. But because he’s not a blind partisan, he’s also interested in hearing from both candidates in any contest and is the type of voter Republicans can win in wave elections. He’s my completely anecdotal barometer for the mood of the swingable Democrat. So when negative words come out of his mouth regarding a Democratic president, I listen. And in a more general sense, so should Republicans.

Voters that Republicans haven’t been able to reach for years are open to another path forward but our ideas won’t resonate with mere opposition to a destructive policy, even one as botched as the Affordable Care Act. Republicans must present a clear, easy to understand alternative to fix our health care system if they are to maximize this opportunity.

This moment is bigger than just a political victory for Republicans. It exposes the misguided beliefs of those on the left who think government can effectively accomplish big things with multiple moving parts like private companies do so often. It illustrates how important profit motive is to innovation and efficiency because only when the bottom line doesn’t matter do simple things like end-to-end testing of a centerpiece website somehow slip through the cracks. Progressivism is a well-intentioned political viewpoint that ultimately ignores what motivates the human condition beyond mediocrity.

 But winnable voters don’t care about political victories or the triumph of one ideology over the other. They aren’t ideologues and tend to believe there is more than one way to find a solution to a problem. These voters need to be given a better alternative or they are likely to support the devil they already know. And they have much distaste for partisanship.

This disgust for division (one can see a 6 percent approval rating for Congress as Exhibit A) also presents an opportunity for the GOP, a chance to shed the recent Republican image as “the party of no” and obstructionism.

Imagine if you heard this from Republicans: “Thank you, President Obama. Thank you for making health care reform such a priority. We’ve failed to prioritize this important problem even when we had majorities in both houses of Congress and the presidency. While we disagree on how to get there, we agree the health care system as we knew it before was broken and in desperate need of repair.” This would cause a nationwide, unison jaw drop for the ages.

The follow-up to this would necessarily be a cohesive, workable and compassionate plan for health care reform. It would include ways to cover those with pre-existing conditions, drive down costs through portability and the ability to sell insurance across state lines. Take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Work toward common-sense tort reform and empower doctors to treat their patients as individuals, not as a mandated checklist of universally approved procedures.

Most importantly, it’s important to remember that it’s not even enough to lay out a plan. Republicans must develop a communication strategy not unlike the Contract for America from the mid-90s that swept the GOP into power under a then-rudderless Clinton administration — an administration that also lost political capital from its own failed health care solution. This new plan and communication strategy must extend beyond health care and include big solutions for the myriad issues facing the country.

President Obama’s biggest failure is one of leadership. It’s his unprecedented inability to work with elected officials from across the aisle. (His current health care issues have more to do with the fact he could not convince a single Republican to sign onto Obamacare than any other singular factor.) Republicans must learn from his mistakes and model the importance of being bigger than your political opponent. Then build a vision for the future of America that is solution-oriented and inclusive of all our citizens. That’s the path forward for the GOP.

It’ll be hard work. The messy art of compromise while staying true to your principles will be essential to any success. It’s the way our system is designed. And it’s what winnable voters want to see. They don’t care about ideology. They care about results. And they don’t want to be lied to in the process.

Brad Cummings is COO of PM Advertising, and he previously served as Jefferson County Republican Party chairman. His column appears every third Wednesday. He can be reached atbradford.cummings @gmail.com

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