Hoping for a Huntsman surge –at least to up the quality of the GOP health care debate

I’ll concede right upfront that I’m one of those Massachusetts liberals certain Republicans love to rail against. Ivy league educated (at least for trade school), in favor of progressive taxation and a role for government in the economy. I support my Congressman, Barney Frank. So I’m certainly in no position to suggest to Republicans how they run their primary campaign. Still, with the country in crisis and such fundamental, consequential issues at stake in the 2012 election I would really like to see a serious debate on health care and other issues, and especially the emergence of a general election candidate I could consider supporting.

So far, the Republican frontrunners have not engaged in a credible debate about health care. Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann have nothing to say on the topic of any consequence. Trying to pin Romney down as the father of ObamaCare doesn’t really count as a bold policy. To Romney’s credit, he defended the Massachusetts reforms last night and pointed out there’s a million uninsured kids in Texas and very few in Massachusetts.

Those further back in the pack, namely Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman are more substantive from what I can tell. Paul is a doctor and a principled guy, but his health care positions are mainly the usual Republican ideological pap. Gingrich is a thinker –and though he’ll self-destruct every chance he gets– he certainly has a lot to talk about on health care. But most of all I’d like to hear some substance from Huntsman, who has gone well beyond the others in contrasting his health reforms as Governor of Utah with those of Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.

Given a chance, reasonable, thoughtful votes may well come to the conclusion that Massachusetts’ plan was right for it, while Utah’s approach fit better with that state’s needs, but that neither flavor is exactly right for the country as a whole. In fact, federal reform is a lot harder to do. I’d love to see Huntsman, Romney and Gingrich go at it.

I know it’s wishful thinking to expect a primary campaign to be so substantive, but I can dream if I want.

October 12, 2011

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