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“If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them,” suggested Sun Tzu in the Art of War. Speaker John Boehner gets half of that concept right. He excels at creating division on his own side. He just has a hard time when it comes to dividing the other side.
Polling data released by FreedomWorks on Wednesday offers some guidance as to how Republicans ought to govern if they want to be on voters’ side before the next election. According to the numbers, 58 percent of voters believe jobs and the economy should be the number one priority in Congress this year, followed by 46 percent who believe it should be healthcare.
Delving deeper into the healthcare issue, voters said a “start over and reform health care” message made them 34 percent more likely to vote for a hypothetical candidate, while a “give it a chance to work” message made them 16 percent less likely to do so.
That’s great news for candidates willing to reform Obamacare. There are an ample number of reforms that Republicans could pick to pursue that include delay of the individual mandate; the creation of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) that allow consumers to put their money into a tax free account to cover healthcare costs; and eliminating Obamacare subsidies for members of Congress and their staff.
These proposals would unify Republicans and voters at large who want a healthcare system that works. They would create division between Democrats who want a more expansive role for government in healthcare – regardless of the consequences – and those who just want to win re-election.
The data further shows that voters did not even mind the October shutdown over ObamaCare. Only 7 percent of voters weighed it as one of their top two issues. When Sen. Ted Cruz led the shutdown fight, various Republicans on Boehner’s team attacked Cruz for it, saying the fight could never be won. It ended with Boehner and 86 House Republicans voting with 198 Democrats to support ObamaCare, against 144 Republicans who voted to stop Boehner and his (mostly Democratic) team.
Granted, it seems unlikely that Boehner will take a cue from voters or the data. Who can forget last year, when secret e-mails from Boehner Chief of Staff Mike Sommers emerged that showed him begging Sen. Harry Reid’s office to help Republicans keep ObamaCare subsidies in place for congressional employees? When Boehner’s team is hell bent on keeping Obama’s policies in place, there's not much hope of pushing any sort of reform-oriented agenda.
Instead of focusing on issues that voters prioritize, Boehner is trying to focus on an agenda that they are not as interested in and that will divide his party. For instance, the data found that only 8 percent of voters prioritized immigration as their number one issue at this time.
That should be a helpful thing for Republicans as immigration is something that often divides the party’s voters. Unfortunately, Boehner does not look inclined to act on the data. Republicans have already begun moving five pieces of immigration legislation through the House, and Boehner is set to unveil what he believes the party’s “principles” on the issue should be by the end of the month.
This comes in spite of the fact that up to 70 of the 233 Republicans in the House began leading a revolt against Boehner on the immigration issue just last summer.
FreedomWorks’ polling suggests that voters want candidates to focus more on economic freedom and freedom in healthcare. Those are messages that will unite Republicans under a banner that is going to win elections. It’s unfortunate that House Republican leaders like Boehner are more focused on working with Democrats than on promoting freedom or winning elections, but it should turn out to be good news for the conservatives seeking to depose them this year.