Health care reform is rapidly becoming a real ‘Kobayashi Maru‘ test for Republicans. Star Trek fans will recall this test as being the ‘n0-win scenario’ from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. The test is a computer simulated training exercise that centers around a stranded ship in the neutral zone between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. The test itself is rigged for failure and consequently, absent a winning scenario, is more of a test of character.
Medicare has more or less become the Republican version of the Kobayashi Maru and as Newt Gingrich quickly found out when he referred to the Paul Ryan plan as ‘right-wing social engineering’, there are certainly losing scenarios. Romney and Pawlenty have taken the middle road by tentatively praising the Ryan plan with the caveat that it is imperfect and that they will offer their own solutions as the primary campaign unfolds. Romney is doubly handicapped with his being the ‘father’ of PPACA, or Obamacare as conservatives like to call it (as distasteful as I find using the pejoratively coined phrase, it is becoming easier to keep up with competing health care plans by putting the word ‘care’ behind the author’s name). RomneyCare even got his Republican plan (backed by the Heritage Foundation) passed through a Democratically dominated Massachusetts legislature in 2006. Now he wants to walk it back?
The Medicare issue has taken on national attention as part of the Republican fiscal faux-emergency but in reality, it’s part of the larger Health Care reform debate. How can you insure all Americans while simultaneously bringing down the costs of health care? The Health Care industry has remained silent throughout most of the debate hoping that the whole issue would become politically toxic as it did in the nineties when Hillary Clinton tackled it. When it became clear that Obamacare was going to pass congress the health care industry geared up for round two. It’s now a battle between Congress and the insurance industry over who gets to make the rules. And industry hates not being team captain.
The difficulty for the Republicans in the 2012 election lies with the ideological divide within the party voters. Any candidate that wants the Republican nomination is going to have to keep tacking hard to starboard. But once they become the nominee, they’ll have to turn back towards the center if they want to have any chance of picking up independents and moderates. They’ll need them because that’s where this election is going to hinge in 2012. The trick will be to do that without looking like a flip flopper and hope that the moderates don’t notice and the ultra conservative Tea Party that got them nominated won’t jump ship in the general election the minute they discover they’ve been hoodwinked.
Which means there may yet be a best case scenario for Republican candidates but it is a fine line. They need the Tea Party and despite the voter angst, the Tea Party needs them. So any Republican candidate needs to be mindful of those Klingons off the starboard bow.
- Halperin’s Take: Why Romney Needs a New Narrative (thepage.time.com)
- Mitt Romney’s Other Health Care Hurdle: Abortion (huffingtonpost.com)
- Mitt Unveils RomneyCare 2.0 (bostonist.com)
- Romney’s Dilemma (The New Yorker)