I can’t help but feel saddened by the way the race in the 26th Congressional District of New York played out. Democrat Kathleen Hochul’s upset victory in a district that has been reliably Republican for decades means that we have lost an important opportunity to change the discussion in Washington regarding entitlements in general and Medicare in specific.
Having used “Grandma” and the potential effect of the Affordable Care Act on her care as a campaign tool in the run-up to the 2010 mid-term elections, the GOP faced Grandma themselves as Democrats trotted her out as a “victim” of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget plan. (Many found Ryan’s plan to be “courageous”, but I wasn’t one of them. Being courageous means taking on your party’s sacred cows. Ryan’s plan does none of that.)
Few things are more disturbing to me, a voracious consumer of news and information, than seeing someone (typically elderly) holding a sign that says “Keep your government hands off my Medicare”. Ugh. Ignorance is the new black.
So the Democrat Hochul tattoos her Republican challenger Jane Corwin with the Ryan Plan, specifically the Medicare plan and pulls off an upset. As a result, we now know the playbook for Democrats across the country for the 2012 election. Keep Your Hands Off Medicare. Run against the Medicare portion of the Ryan plan.
And in that, we have lost an opportunity. Medicare and Social Security and every government program needs to be reassessed. Putting an electric fence around the two biggest programs the government runs will prevent us from solving our country’s fiscal problems. Promises were made in the past that can no longer be kept. Narrow-minded, parochial interests that advance a political and “power-oriented” agenda will keep us from fixing these problems.
When you’re in the business of politics, your job is to win elections. You’re not much of a politician if you’re out of power. As a result, the priority is on winning elections, not solving the country’s problems.
So long as the Grandma formula works on voters, we’re in a bad place with no hope of getting ourselves out of the mess we’ve made of our finances. We have to get serious about this and quickly. We all have to sacrifice and change the paradigm of what we expect government to deliver.