Now that the shutdown has ended, I think it is a good time for Republicans to start thinking what went wrong and to learn from their mistakes. What were some of these mistakes? Two of them jump out.
The first one involves the law of timing. John Maxwell in his book, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” defines this way,
“When to lead is as important as what to do and where to go. Every leader makes a move; there are really only four outcomes that can result:
The wrong action at the wrong time leads to disaster;
The right action at the wrong time leads to resistance;
The wrong action at the right time is a mistake;
The right action at the right time results in success.”
With hindsight always being 20/20, I think this is the first question that needed to be asked, “Was the timing right?”
Upon further reflection, the answer is no. If the Affordable Healthcare Act was more than six months old, then the timing would have been perfect, because more and more people would have been angry about the fact that their premiums will be more than doubled. More and more people are feeling that they have been lied to, once again by their elected officials. For more on the law of timing, but through the lens of game theory, Kristen Soltis Anderson had written an interesting post about the outcomes of the shutdown. A link to her article is found here. (H/T Jim Geraghty, National Review Online, Campaign Spot). As Jim Geraghty, pointed out, in commenting about Mrs. Anderson’s post, you would need either 21 Senate Democrats and 58 House Democrats to join the Republicans in order to override any Presidential veto or you would need 5 Senate Democrats and convince the President not to veto the bill.
The problem is that no Democrat has the incentive to admit that the Act was bad because as the President once commented that there are glitches in the system. However, when glitches persist and more people continue to see their premiums double in costs in this tight economy, especially in an upcoming election year, then House and Senate Democrats will be accountable for their support on a poorly written legislative bill.
The second and final mistake involves one on not focusing on the real issues. The real issue is that we had to increase the debt ceiling once again due to the mandatory spending required in our entitlement programs. Here, Congressional Republicans should have argued that a nation cannot continue raising its debt ceiling indefinitely. To use a real world example, if a business is continuously requesting a refinancing of the debt, there will come a point where the bank, will say, “Enough is enough. No more.”
There will come a time where those who hold our debt will believe that we will not meet our obligations to pay them. When that happens, what will Congress do? During this shutdown, our focus should have been on the long-term financial health of this county and not on the Affordable Healthcare Act.
So, where do Republicans go from here? In one word: solutions. Focus on identifying the spending problems and begin to offer solutions. Frame the issues. When Democrats challenge the solutions as heartless and cruel, challenge them to offer their solutions to these problems. If their response is that there is no problem, expose their foolishness. Challenge the media as well. Become proactive, not passive. Learn from the mistakes of this shutdown and move on.