The New York Time suggested Monday that some of the Republicans running for Congress in 2014 have moderated their rhetoric, embracing a gentler, kinder tone “in favor of a narrower focus on the Affordable Care Act.”
Some of these candidates — particularly those who ran in 2012 and lost — have “shelved their incendiary remarks about President Obama and the national debt” and hope to use the health care law to “attract moderate voters from both parties, even in heavily Democratic districts, who are disenchanted with its rollout.” The administration’s troubles in implementing the Affordable Care Act may have actually had the effect of mellowing out Republicans, the piece argues, providing them with a singular issue on which to focus their ire:
The campaigns, if successful, could be an indication of change in some corners of the Republican Party as many former firebrands mellow their messages and people like Mr. [Bob] Dold, who benefited from the Tea Party but was one of the more moderate members of the House, try to capitalize on the center. At the very least, their campaigns show that some people who ran vociferously against Washington appear eager to get back there.
But the shift — however slight — is rhetorical; it doesn’t signal any real change in policy or an effort by Republicans to stop obstructing the implementation of health care reform. Quite the opposite: even as millions of Americans are signing up for coverage — and are preparing to go to doctors and hospitals with their new insurance plans on Jan. 1 — the GOP sees undoing the ACA as the key to electoral success in 2014. That, after all was the impetus behind the short-term budget resolution. As GOP strategist Ford O’Connell put it to the Washington Times, “This was the establishment wing of the party telling the base that elections have consequences. Because Obamacare is the golden goose for 2014, they don’t want to have anything interfere with making as many gains as possible in Congress — particularly in the Senate.” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) agreed, telling Meet The Press on Sunday, “On our side of the aisle, we like the fact for the economy, no shutdowns. We also don’t want to have shutdown drama so we can focus on replacing Obamacare, so we can focus on showing better ideas and what this is coming in.”
Republicans have tried to showcase these “better ideas” in 2010 and 2012 but have failed to rally around anything but repeal — a position that the candidates in the Times story — Bob Dold, Nan Hayworth, Martha McSally — all proudly support.
So yes, some Republicans may try to distance themselves from some of the inflammatory rhetoric that dominated the 2010 Tea Party surge and the ill-orchestrated government shutdown three years later. But the party is still working to deny or take away health care coverage from millions of Americans. And there is nothing “moderate” about that.