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Coro Fellows

As part of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, these 12 Southern California fellows are engaged in a full-time, nine-month, graduate-level leadership training program that prepares individuals for public-affairs leadership.

If you can't beat 'em...

Q: Having failed to stop health care reform, Republican leaders have vowed to make repealing it their rallying cry in the November elections. What lessons could they draw from political history and the experience of leaders in other fields?

It seems that the Republican party is gunning for a new version of Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" to take back the House and Senate. I'm sure we'll find out in November if that's a viable plan, but I see three possibilities moving forward: Republicans could win and fight on; they could lose, but still have the momentum to drag the fight on for decades (much like the fight over abortion); or health care reform could turn out to be as popular as Democrats hope and eventually this stance would no longer serve the Republican party. If that happens, I'd like to suggest one of the oldest political tricks in the book: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, and make their idea your own.

In the height of the Great Depression, Huey Long was gunning for FDR's position as president. He was proposing a radical program that would have redistributed wealth in America by capping the amount of money a person could have at $50 million (about $750 million today) and taking the surplus to fund public work projects to employ America's poorest people and to fund "old-age pensions." His message resonated with an increasingly desperate public that blamed Wall Street greed for the economic meltdown. Sound familiar?

Roosevelt responded by "stealing Long's thunder" with the passage of another, much more liberal, New Deal. The new New Deal proposed creating the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Social Security--two of Long's biggest issues--without capping personal wealth at $50 million. Actually, my high school history teacher credits FDR with "saving capitalism" in that one move. She believed that if Long had actually been elected president, he would have made America a socialist country. Her basic point was that by adopting some socialist policies, FDR prevented the United States from becoming a fully socialist nation. Interesting theory, is it not? --Liz Willis

By Coro Fellows

 |  March 23, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Category:  Political leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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DGSWEET couldn't have said it better.

Posted by: letztry39 | March 23, 2010 12:54 PM
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Kevina2 -- I don't mind a bit that health-care is the Dems' alone. As people's lives are saved and people's economics are rescued from the brink, more and more Americans will know of incidents among their family and friends when this bill made the difference. Experience trumps abstract theory and even nutcase ravings about socialism. This will end up being a very popular bill because it will swiftly be seen to make a difference in a lot of people's lives. I am more than happy to have this viewed as a Democratic accomplishment. And I am not particularly saddened that the vituperative, foam-at-the-mouth opposition (accompanied by racist and homophobic support by people the GOP members are afraid to disavow) will be identified with the Republican Party. Maybe this will shake you guys up to get rid of the loonies and illiterates and encourage some genuine conservatives as opposed to the corporate apologists and xenophobes who dominate the party now.

Posted by: dgsweet | March 23, 2010 11:03 AM
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Health-care is the Democrats and the Dems alone. They voted in this horrific legislation and now the American people can either live with it or fight it. Check out the numbers now that you know what's in the bill but you still don't have a clue as to how much in additional taxes each person will be paying to cover those who currently do not have insurance.

Posted by: kevina2 | March 23, 2010 9:10 AM
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