The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 25, 2013

Zachary Hubbard | Republican Party is in need of a facelift


JOHNSTOWN — Thirty-nine House Democrats facing re-election in 2014 recently jumped ship and sided with Republicans to vote for changes in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. The vote came in the wake of the Obama administration’s titanic failure in the launching of the website.  Nearly all of the Democrats who sided with Republicans are facing tough re-election campaigns in 2014.

The day after the vote, Americans awoke to a headline reading, “GOP sees health care law as big 2014 opportunity.” Indeed it is an opportunity for the party, but what it has in mind is not what the American people want or need. Republicans see the ongoing health care debacle as an opportunity to bash their opponents in next year’s elections – their favorite play in recent years.

Here’s my response to the Republican Party: Any candidate who thinks he or she can win the next election by simply bashing his or her opponents is a simpleton. Sling mud at your opponent and mud will be hurled back. Americans are weary of mean-spirited campaigns.

Voters have grown cynical of politics as usual. They’re tired of lies, half-truths, mindless attack commercials that insult their intelligence and endless political robocalls dripping with venom and hatred. A Gallup poll conducted during the recent federal government shutdown suggests that American confidence in government is at the lowest point ever. Only 42 percent of those polled indicated they had at least a “fair” amount of confidence in the government’s ability in domestic affairs.

Proverbs 12:15 reads: “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” Republicans badly need a party makeover. If they’re wise, they will welcome this advice.

-- Republicans need to stop being so depressing. Times are tough for average Americans, and they need encouragement. GOP leaders on Capitol Hill make “Saturday Night Live” character Debbie Downer look like an optimist.

As Philippians suggests, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” It will help ease your mental depression.

If Republicans want to blame anyone for the country’s problems, then begin by looking in a mirror. The party’s track record in recent years speaks for itself. Republican neocons devised a pre-emptive, perpetual war strategy that left America at war in Iraq for nearly a decade and still mired in Afghanistan today. Thousands of Americans are dead or maimed as a consequence. It has also contributed significantly to the nation’s economic nosedive.

-- The GOP playbook is outdated – start looking forward instead of backward. They let their majority in the Senate slip away in 2006 and they’re clinging to the House by their fingernails today. They handed the Democrats the presidency and the Senate. Republicans should focus on today and the future.

-- Stop speaking in generalities. Republicans should tell voters their plans and be specific. More importantly, tell the truth. That might take some practice. Americans are so accustomed to hearing politicians of all parties stretch the truth that they’ve grown to accept it.

Voters want the specifics on how the GOP is going to fix the biggest problems plaguing the nation. Don’t begin sentences with “We need.” Americans already know what they need – good jobs, health care, safe food, affordable college education and places to live, fair and reasonable taxation, public safety and the freedom and rights guaranteed us by the Constitution. What they want to hear are affordable, plausible details of the GOP’s plan(s) to fix the mess the country is in.

Speaking of the Constitution, some Republican politicians wave it in the face of their opponents like a madman waving a gun in church. Party leaders should ensure that every Republican politician has read and adheres to the document they so esteem.

The GOP platform draws lines in the sand on several key topics, including education, abortion and gay marriage. As the party so correctly points out, the Constitution does not address education. Therefore, it is a matter that should be left to the individual states, as the Constitution states in Article X.

Most Americans have opinions on abortion and gay marriage. They’re totally irrelevant in national political discourse. The Constitution is silent on both topics. It therefore falls upon the individual states to establish laws on these.

If Republicans don’t like Obamacare, then show voters a better plan and convince them it is the right path to follow. Then get the voters behind the plan before the 2014 elections. When the GOP regains control of the Senate and retains control of the House, the Republican health care plan can become law. Until then, forget about it.

-- Don’t waste time on things you can’t change. Obamacare is the law and has already survived one challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. Without question it needs to be changed, perhaps it should even be repealed. But Republicans have allowed their party to become too feeble to do anything about it. The House can pass as many Obamacare amendments as it likes. It will never get a single one through the Senate.

Stick to the current playbook and the GOP will remain weak and irrelevant.  

Improve or implode.


 Zachary Hubbard, formerly of Johnstown, is a freelance writer and retired Army officer residing in the Greater Pittsburgh area.