Guest speaker and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Ronald (Ron) Brownstein encouraged surgeons to stay politically engaged and focused on priorities, despite the deepening divide between parties, as the pace of activity and level of divergence becomes more intense.


Published 9/2/2021
Kristen Coultas; Brittany Starr

PAC Luncheon Thanks Donors, Offers Analysis of Polarization in America

Members of the Orthopaedic Political Action Committee (OrthoPAC) attended the Donor Appreciation Luncheon yesterday and were provided an update on the PAC’s standing and activities in 2021, as well as a political analysis from journalist and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Ronald (Ron) Brownstein. Guest speakers discussed the resiliency of the OrthoPAC during the COVID-19 pandemic, how it rose above numerous challenges at the start of 2021, and the importance of political engagement from orthopaedic surgeons despite the deepening divide ahead of the 2022 election.

AAOS Immediate Past President Joseph A. Bosco III, MD, FAAOS, began by thanking donors for gathering at the luncheon. He noted that the PAC set several ambitious goals for 2021 to drive legislative success and offer unprecedented access to lawmakers, both of which could not have been achieved without the steadfast support of the people in the room. “Our organization is truly fortunate to have a PAC with such engaged folks,” Dr. Bosco said. “Your passion is truly evident.”

Together, the PAC, its members, and the AAOS Office of Government Relations were able to:

  • provide 1,760 orthopaedic practices across the country with more than $300 million in grants from the CARES Act’s Provider Relief Fund
  • work with Congress to mitigate Medicare payment cuts to specialties that are slated for 2021
  • find solutions to surprise billing, including an independent dispute resolution process
  • repeal the Mc- Carran-Ferguson antitrust exemption for health insurance companies

Find a full summary of PAC accomplishments in the OrthoPac’s 2020 Annual Report.

Next, John T. Gill, MD, FAAOS, chair of the OrthoPAC Executive Committee, continued by sharing impressive highlights from the 2020 election cycle. OrthoPAC raised $3.77 million (hard and soft dollars combined) from nearly 5,000 contributors, helping it achieve a win rate of 92 percent in the House and 85 percent in the Senate for the candidates it supported. The PAC also attended close to 1,200 political events and hosted more than 230 events in Washington, D.C.

“We are making it through COVID-19, we are almost through 2021, and we are going to make it to 2022 because our PAC is resilient, and we have stuck with it,” said Dr. Gill, reassuring members that the PAC would make up ground and get close to its $4 million record-breaking cycle.

Dr. Gill closed by reminding donors that “every aspect of how you practice is affected by those who are in office and the decisions they make”—which is why the PAC recently added additional criteria for political giving and makes decisions based on candidates’ alignment to the AAOS Code of Ethics and Core Values. Click here to learn more. 

Finally, guests had the privilege of hearing from Mr. Brownstein, who The Economist called one of America’s best political journalists. Mr. Brownstein explained that turmoil is the new normal in today’s political climate, as the pace of activity and level of divergence becomes more intense.

“It can feel like you are out in the ocean, being hit by wave after wave. You aren’t able to get your head above water or even a sense of your bearings,” he said. “It is not unreasonable for people to feel his way.”

Mr. Brownstein described society as being simultaneously closely and deeply divided. He noted that for 58 of the last 72 years, one party has controlled the House, Senate, and the Presidency. Although the two parties are virtually the same size, they are more divergent in their make now than at any other point in American history. Those margins are expanding between urban and rural areas as “the trench is deepening.”

“No matter what angle you are looking at, we are sorting out. We are producing political parties that are much more inherently coherent, yet distant from each other,” Brownstein said. He cited people’s positioning on mask mandates and vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic as an example.

Mr. Brownstein ended by offering a prediction and advice for 2022: Structural forces deepening the divide between Democrats and Republicans are very real, as are their differences. But disagreement is often the beginning of a conversation, not the end.

“What will be clear, regardless of which side narrowly prevails, is that the fundamental 50/50 divide will stay,” he said. “The only way for this polarization to improve is for people to find common ground, stand up for the truth, and defend democracy.”

Following his remarks, Mr. Brownstein took several questions from the audience, which largely focused on how to induce bipartisanship and the 2024 presidential election. He expressed that moderate members of Congress will be influential and that organizations like the OrthoPAC must remain focused on their highest priorities.

OrthoPAC continues to be the second-largest medical PAC in the country and the only PAC dedicated solely to representing orthopaedic surgeons in Washington, D.C. It looks forward to engaging new members in shaping the future of musculoskeletal care and working with existing donors to achieve its goals in the year ahead.

To learn more, visit OrthoPAC at booth 4035 in the Exhibit Hall, open today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., or online at

Kristen Coultas is a director of advocacy communications for the AAOS.

Brittany Starr is a senior director of political affairs for the AAOS.