“With public sentiment nothing can fail, without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who molds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions” – Abraham Lincoln
In Arizona, the swing demographics, those voters likely to move in a general election, are well defined: Republican women and Independent voters. When Republicans are able to attract these swing constituencies, we are successful. When we fail to attract these groups, we lose. This is how President Clinton prevailed in Arizona in 1996 and how former Governor Napolitano won election in 2002.
A more recent example of the power of these demographics is the fall election of 2010. Much to the chagrin of some members of her own party, Governor Brewer led the charge on Proposition 100, the temporary 3 year tax, to protect education and public safety. In the wake of the largest budget cuts in state history, Republican women and Independent voters were very concerned about education. Surveys showed that 53% of Republican women and 54% of Independents supported Prop 100 which passed with more than 64% of the vote.
Republicans were rewarded with to overwhelming victories in the 2010 cycle including 2/3rds majorities in both houses of the Legislature and a sweep of every statewide office. The key to this sweep were the pick-ups in the close races where these swing demographics made all the difference.
A recent survey conducted by the St. Luke’ s Health Care Initiatives on behalf of our clients the Arizona Health Care Coalition found that a majority of Republican women and Independent voters support Governor Brewer’s Medicaid restoration plan.
Kicking 60,000 Arizonans off AHCCCS a week after Christmas and 11 months prior to the next gubernatorial election will certainly lead to litigation. Arizona voters have twice mandated AHCCCS overage for childless adults making 100% or less of the Federal Poverty level. The Courts permitted the State to freeze this population because the State was broke. Today, Arizona has over $400 million in its rainy day fund and Uncle Sam has promised to pick up 90% of the program’s costs for the first three years.
Some Arizona Republicans are saying that the Courts will sustain the freeze and that the Obama administration will approve an additional waiver (the State’s expires at the end of this year). There is simply no possible way that either of those things will happen.
What will most certainly happen is that if Republicans fail to follow the Governor’s plan, litigants will ask the court to reinstate these populations as required under Proposition 204. Then, next spring or early summer, the Courts will certainly order the State to reinstate the program during the middle of an election year campaign.
Democrats will have a field day making Arizona Republicans look foolish and cold hearted, moving the key constituencies of Republican women and independent voters into their column rather than ours.
The Governor has said she is opposed to Obamacare and believes the program is financially unsustainable as it exists today. But that fight belongs to the United States Congress and the President. The current law is settled, the cards have already been dealt. You must play the ball as it lies, not as you wish it.
In the Spielberg movie Lincoln, there is a scene where the bombastic and powerful House Ways and Means Chairman, Thaddeus Stevens privately debates the president. Stevens, a staunch abolitionist, is concerned about Lincoln’s apparent equivocation on the issue of slavery, and urges unwavering adherence to a moral compass that points unambiguously toward “True North.” Lincoln counters that this is all well and good, except when your moral compass steers you into a swamp. Your True North doesn’t matter much then. You’re stuck in the swamp. (Summary provided by Steven Snyder, 11/18 2012)
The tension between principles and pragmatism is at the root of many dilemmas facing leaders today. As our first Republican President observed, “with public sentiment nothing can fail, without it nothing can succeed”.
It is time to navigate around this swamp.