The GOP has no interest in going to Barack Obama's proposed health care summit. With limited power in both the House and Senate their strategy of obstructionism has brilliantly allowed them to weaken and slow just about every proposed major policy of the party in power -- the Democrats.
This is the ultimate waiting game. Say "no" to every major policy; send out massive uniform, opposing talking points that infiltrate the 24 hour news cycle; insight fear in the public; keep the country in a halt of all progress understanding that the Democrats will not mirror the actions of Bush to force policies through; and casually wait until the next election. If successful, in the next election the result of this waiting game will be exactly what you saw in Massachusetts with the election of Brown.
The progressives will have very low voter turnout because they are disappointed by not getting what they voted for. They can be the ultimate fair weather fans and if they are displeased, will stay home because they don't believe exerting any effort for the sake of voting for the "lesser of two evils." They have a history of cutting of their nose to spite their face.
The independents will begin to vote conservative because they view an inactive party with a supermajority as weak. They want to vote for the party that will actually get things done, move the country in another direction, and get frustrated if things appear to continue to be the status quo especially if the status quo is obviously not working.
Lastly, the conservatives will remain tried and true, unwavering in their support of their candidate. It is very rare that they switch sides and will be even rarer now because those that voted for Obama, with the absence of a major policy victory since the passing of the stimulus, are probably regretting their decision.
Elections are not won from the left or right, they are won from the middle. The party that can sway the independents to their side will be victorious.
If the conservatives learned anything from their "Question Time" with Obama, it was that their obstructionism doesn't work well when televised, especially with someone who is as intelligent as Obama. It exposes the obstructionist game to the public, and more importantly to the independents. The GOP thought that they would be able to nail Obama down with their ideas. However, what they forgot was that they really didn't have any strong ideas. Tort reform and selling health insurance across state lines were both very popular ideas to conservatives and repeated multiple times by the GOP party as THE answer. However, not only did Obama explain why those notions would not have a significant impact on controlling costs, he basically agreed to discuss inserting them into the legislation. He did the same thing at the State of the Union address when he brought up offshore drilling, tax cuts, and the funding of nuclear energy development. The fastest way to weaken an already weak argument is to agree with it.
Obama understands that many of the ideas of the GOP would have an insignificant impact on any policy; therefore, there is no threat to inserting them into legislation. The GOP is now fully aware that at Obama's proposed health care summit, they could possibly get much of what they ask for inserted into the bill. Washington working together -- it would be a beautiful thing for the country. However, as great as it would be for the country, it would be a political disaster for the GOP party. For health care reform to pass would mean that the administration actually got something done. This would bode well for the independents who are thirsty for progress. The GOP's position would be weakened, and their chances of gaining back power would be lessened.
So the plan for the GOP, that they are formulating right now, is to think of reasons to back out of this meeting. Over the next few weeks you will hear arguments such as the following:
- "If Obama really wants to work with us he would start the process over. If he doesn't start the process over he really is not sincere in being bipartisan so there is no point to coming to the meeting."
- "Obama is just posturing for the cameras as usual because he has always wanted to be a celebrity. He has no desire to work with the GOP party so we are not going to play into his grandstanding for the cameras."
- "Obama is just trying to use this event as an opportunity to prove that our ideas are no valid or significant. Why give him a national platform to make us look like fools?"
1. If they attend they will be forced to become bipartisan and work with the Democrats. This is a disaster because their obstruction strategy, the strategy that they need to regain power, will be defeated on the spot. For them to use the obstruction strategy on TV would mean a certain defeat in 2010 and 2012 because this would turn off Independents and motivate the Progressive base.
2. If they actually become bipartisan and work with the Democrats on TV, this would mean actual progress and this would also mean a loss in 2010 and 2012. The independents would see the progress they are looking for in the country and would attribute this progress to the party in power.
3. They find a way to back out of the meeting AND portray the President as an arrogant, stubborn individual who only wants to fulfill his own agenda which has nothing to do with the progress of America. They run the risk of not successfully convincing independents, but if they do, they can return to their obstruction strategy and most certainly win in 2010 and perhaps 2012.
It is sad that it comes down to this, but this is the way that Washington has worked for far too long. One party putting their interests above and beyond the interests of the country is far too commonplace. I believe that Obama, more than any policy he has a desire to pass, understands that he needs to get Washington working again. He campaigned on this and I believe that he knew it would be extremely difficult, but nonetheless it was much harder than he thought it would be. The system is broken and I am glad that we have a president that is willing to take the bumps and bruises to fix it. If this meeting is successful, we will not only achieve health care reform, we will be a step closer to a new Washington. I will be very interested in seeing how this chess battle plays itself out as it will determine the direction of our country. Twenty years from today, when we have a system that is more efficient and full of people in government who actually work together, we will thank Obama for the many gray hairs that he is earning through his efforts of today.