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A Winning Slogan for a Winning Agenda

Repeal, and then real reform.

12:00 AM, Apr 14, 2010 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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Now that Rasmussen shows that, yes, Americans really do want Obamacare to be repealed, one hopes that Republicans will shelve their pessimism and advance this crucial and winning agenda with confidence. But now is also the time for the GOP to make sure that its slogan is clarifying, rather than obscuring its goal.

A Winning Slogan for a Winning Agenda

Rasmussen shows that Americans support repeal by a whopping 20 percentage points (58 to 38 percent), with 50 percent of Americans “strongly” favoring repeal and less than a third (32 percent) strongly opposing it.  Even before the release of this poll, most Republicans — especially such members as Rep. Paul Ryan, Rep. Mike Pence, Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. Steve King, and House Minority Leader John Boehner — seemed to be strongly on board with the repeal message.  But there has been a surprising amount of confusion in the press corps about the GOP’s actual goal.

Plainly, most Republicans want to repeal Obamacare, and then replace it with real reform.  Yet, judging by the reaction in the press, this message is not being captured very well by the slogans that have been advanced.  CBS News writes, “Right-wing members of the Republican party continue to push for a full repeal of the Democrats' new package of health care reforms, even as GOP leaders have blunted their message to one of “repeal and replace.”  I doubt that most Republicans who use “repeal and replace” think that they are blunting or watering down the message, but that’s what CBS News thinks. 

The Hill writes, “[Rep. Steve] King told The Hill...that he intends to press his leadership to sign on to a call for a full repeal.  In the days following the enactment of Obama’s sweeping healthcare reform measure, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed to pursue a ‘repeal and replace’ strategy as lawmakers headed home for the Easter recess.  That has frustrated King and other conservatives.  ‘Sell the repeal idea.  We can debate the replace idea.  That’s what I would like to see our leadership do,’ King said.”  Again, “repeal and replace” would seem to require repeal, but it doesn’t seem to have come across that way to The Hill. (Rep. Boehner, who's clearly a conservative, has since removed any doubt about his intentions, emphasizing that “repealing this bill has to be our No. 1 priority.”)

If Republicans' slogans are causing confusion among prominent reporters, and presumably among many other Americans, it’s important to fine tune the rhetoric to clarify the goal.  These appear to be the leading options for describing the GOP's agenda in response to Obamacare, with one man's two cents on each:


“Repeal and reform”:  This slogan invites confusion.  It vaguely represents Republicans' goals, but only vaguely.  It can easily be read as promoting simultaneous goals (working on reforming some provisions, while also working to repeal the whole law), rather than sequential ones (repeal, and then enacting real reform in Obamacare's place).  It, therefore, too easily suggests that reform of the existing legislation is a prominent part of the goal, when it shouldn’t be. You don’t reform arguably the worst piece of legislation ever passed in America; you scrap it.  (This isn’t to say that congressional Republicans shouldn't offer partial bills to highlight particularly egregious sections of Obamacare and to help fuel momentum for repeal, but such tactics should be used in support of the overarching goal and shouldn’t be part of a slogan.)  This slogan is problematic. 

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