These days, politicians never stop campaigning. They can’t, really. With round the clock news coverage noting every single vote, idea or soundbite, elected officials must always be cognizant of public opinion at all times. Likely the last time they looked away even for a second was leading up to the 2010 election when a number of incumbents were beaten by political newcomers riding a Tea Party wave of angry voters who were done accepting status quo. And then it happened again when all the polls failed, and Donald Trump
won the Oval Office, defeating a candidate everyone – even most members of the GOP – thought would win. So, if they can’t trust the polls, and they can’t expect incumbency to protect them like it once did, representatives have to be able to read the pulse of the people and vote accordingly … or they might be the next ones ousted. This can create quite a conundrum when it comes to making and passing sweeping legislation. For years, when they knew there would be no actual results, GOP leadership railed against the Affordable Care Act. Now that they have all the power and votes they need to knock it out and, presumably, replace the ACA, Congress is moving very slowly. They began with a series of town hall meetings in which sitting legislators favorable to repeal and replace were met with open hostility by voters who swore ballot box vengeance should they “take away their health care.” All of this was happening as pundits on both sides were making overarching comments and dropping soundbites in an effort to stir up their respective bases. Republicans were told the ACA was unfairly taxing them, and Democrats were told women would see health services denied or restricted should the new bill be passed. These messages, and other similar narratives brought people out of their respective corners ready to fight again, even as the House prepared to deliver its first draft of a “repeal and replace” bill. With all the noise, rage, and contentiousness, it’s difficult to get a strong, honest, and factual narrative through, so it’s likely any bill coming out will be a political goulash, enough in it to squeak out a win come election time, but enough more thrown in to make everyone fighting mad. At present, a lot of promises are being made, and some are, literally, being shouted over all the noise. It’s a cinch that much of what’s being said is not being heard, or it’s being misheard … and remembered wrongly. But at least one voice is making clear, concise and direct promises. “Lower costs, more choices not less, patients in control, universal access to care,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said. This has been Ryan’s mantra for years now. He wants to restrict some entitlement programs and replace them with what he calls “sound market-based solutions.” For supporters, he’s singing to the choir, and they are loudly shouting, “AMEN!” For others, they are trying to read between the lines for messages that are there, but not very clear. To know what any new bill will actually accomplish, folks in DC will probably have to trot out an old soundbite: “We have to pass it to know what’s in it…” Until then, they will likely carry on with the shouting and hope to keep enough of their base mollified to pull their lever in 2018.