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Guest opinion: Negative politics doomed to fail | Columnists

The miserable failure of this year’s Republican Congress to pass meaningful health care reform legislation has not been a surprise.

During the last several congressional sessions these same Republicans had no trouble at all voting 60 (yes 60 times) to kill Obama Care — ludicrously proving again and again that voting “no” is really quite easy. However, thoughtfully writing legislation that would create real solutions to serious national problem of health care coverage is very difficult, despite the claims of our woefully uninformed and deeply troubled president about how “easy” it was going to be.

Since the 1980s, the Republican model for getting elected to Congress was to simply campaign against everything and anything federal. Congressional candidates followed the campaign low road, criticizing “Washington, D.C.,” at ever turn, taking campaign contributions from both the rare 1 percenters and the abundant PACs of the major corporations.

The national Republican Party’s three-decade-long strategy of condemning government at every turn was finally successful last November in winning them both the presidency and complete control of the Congress. Now, a brief eight months later these Republicans find themselves in the majority, with a Republican in the White House and the opportunity to pass “repeal and replace” legislation. Can they do it, particularly acting alone and without the Democrats?

Of course not. Their political negativity has frozen them in place. They can’t even write a bill anything remotely resembling workable and caring health care reform. You know, it’s an old story. Sixty years ago Republicans voted against the creation of Medicare. It simply isn’t in their political DNA to support national assistance to people in trouble.

The chickens have come home to roost now and frankly many Republican members of the U. S. House and Senate have been unmasked for what they are: incompetent legislators and the most common, garden variety of political complainers and hypocrites.

We are witnessing something else, too: The politics of negativism compared with the politics of achievement lead to very different results. With this crowd, meanness is in and caring is out. Negativism has become a sad legacy for the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.

Because of this health care debacle, we may be entering a time of real achievement: candidates searching for results rather than recriminations, campaigns relying on fact instead of angry fiction, and candidates who talk truth about the nation’s challenges and honestly inform us about both the value and cost of a progressive government that gives a damn.

Pat Williams represented Montana in the U.S. House from 1976 to1997. He lives in Missoula and teaches at the University of Montana.


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