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December 31, 2013

Fair, reasonable politics unlikely

WASHNGTON — It seems fairly obvious now that the Republicans are going to have to ride into the midterm election year on an issue other than the Affordable Care Act, which more and more looks like a dead horse not worth beating as political campaigns go.

That’s not to say that flaws in the “abominable Obamacare” — as the GOP has labeled it for the last five years — won’t offer some fodder for electioneering. But if one succumbs to the reality that once something is given by the government, it is difficult to take away, it becomes easier to accept that the opportunities for repeal are next to nil.

Even if the Democrats should manage to lose the Senate next fall, not terribly likely at this stage, doing away entirely with the giant health reform bill would face doubtful success. A two-thirds’ vote of both houses of Congress needed to override a sure veto would be nearly impossible to achieve especially with the outcry one might expect from those already benefiting from the program.

The smart money in the Republican firmament seems willing to bet on another strategy, shying away from the most radical tea party approaches of the far right and coming back toward solid conservatism that has a more general appeal. That would include concentrating on convincing voters that economic problems and immigration and tax reform can be achieved without disruptions that seem to want to turn the clock back a century or so.

The question becomes now whether the GOP’s still powerful fringe groups understand that winning a primary is not the end goal — that preserving some outdated ideology at the cost of winning office is not desirable for the long- or short-range health of the party. That may be more difficult than it seems considering more moderate (make that more politic) candidates are facing tough primaries from the outer reaches. Rigid doctrinaire challengers obviously didn’t get the message sent by voters in the likes of Indiana and Missouri during the last election when certain Republican victories suddenly turned to ashes in the firestorm of self-destruction.

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