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Speed Is Key To House Republicans’ Blowback Containment Strategy: Progressives Should Learn

Xuan Thai reports on the rough reception freshman Representative Patrick Meehan (R-PA) got from constituents at a town hall after he voted to privatize Medicare, gut Medicaid, and steadily destroy America’s technological edge. And earlier this week, my colleague Scott Keyes got video of Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI) being booed by constituents after informing them that upward redistribution of wealth is the key to prosperity:

These aren’t the only incidents of Medicare privatization backlash facing proponents of the Republican budget strategy. But I do think it should be conceded that the backlash hasn’t reached anything near the fever pitch that we saw during the debate over the Affordable Care Act and I think there’s an important lesson there — speed matters.

When Republicans reached basic consensus about what they wanted to do, they then delegated the details to a small group of people who fleshed out the plan, it was then presented to the caucus and within a week they had the vote. Democrats, by contrast, put their health reform plans through an agonizing months-long process of public intra-party disputes. That gave people who didn’t care about the details tons and tons of time to organize a backlash while tending to signal to low-information voters that Democrats were doing something controversial even among their own partisans. The backlash against Medicare privatization is overwhelmingly likely to grow over time, but it’s also the case that between today and November 2012 other events will intervene and crowd the agenda space possibly letting members off the hook for an unpopular vote.

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Speed matters. As Napoleon said, “When you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.”