Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Recapturing the Agenda

Can the Republican Party recover their missing mojo? Is it possible for them to once again bask in that golden era of Ronald Reagan and the soon-to-be-unfulfilled promise of the Contract With America? Is it reasonable to think that if they define a positive and constructive agenda that a rational middle-class will once again embrace them? What do they need to do and will it work?

I discussed the need for grand coalition building last week. You’ve got to expand the tent and it isn’t done with demands for ideological purity. It particularly won’t work when your successful candidates very obviously don’t walk the walk once getting into office. You’ve got to build coalitions on what you offer, not on how bad the other guy might be…even if he and his party are demonstrably and obviously wrong. People might just be ready for a positive political posture. Sell ideas not criticism.

Abandon the morality-by-fiat model of government. There is nothing at all wrong with an agenda based on family values, a strong sense of morality and a demand for ethical behavior. But it would be more palatable to work toward those goals through a program of education, opportunity, reasonable choices and outreach than by draconian Constitutional amendments or restrictive legislation. In the short form; don’t outlaw abortion, make it a less preferable choice than the other alternatives available. This is a methodology which will attract rather than repel voters.

Get big on success and opportunity in America. Don’t try to out-Santa the other side. They are the party of despair and handouts. They are the party of welfare and food-stamps. They are the party of government make-work jobs and programs of misery abatement. Republicans should be the party of achievement, success and keeping the profits of your effort as a just reward. Free enterprise should be explained at every town hall meeting as the means to achieve the American dream. Rather than demonize success, profits and accomplishments, express the open possibility of everyone aspiring to similar status. Work hard, succeed and reap the profits. There may still remain in this nation a slice of the electorate that wants more for themselves and their families than a government stipend at the end of the month.

Redirect your priorities in Congress from bringing home the pork for your district to a nobler goal of doing what is right for the nation. Cut earmarks, stop kickbacks, eliminate waste and get serious about reducing the size of government. That is fundamental conservatism at its best and it doesn’t turn off any voter. Smaller government inevitably leads to lower taxes and who wouldn’t like that?

Take pride in your country. Contrary to what the mass media says, most of the world still respects us and aspires to be what we are. They may express disagreement with some of our policy choices, but they don’t have to bear the responsibility for the actions. We have fought wars and left our blood on lands around the world and in the process we have not established any empire. We don’t colonize; we attempt to provide a framework for democracy to thrive. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails. But we’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. We have immense power and most of the world knows that we use it for good. They might be envious, but they don’t hate us. Be proud and stand up for the role of America in the world.

Be willing to let failures in the economy occur. There is little evidence to support a conclusion that government economic intervention is anything but a stop-gap. If a company cannot compete in a world market economy, let them fail. It is brutal and it may result in some workers hating you for it, but the country at large will be better off in the not-so-long run. You will gain voters by doing what is right.

These ideas aren’t new, but they’ve quite obviously been abandoned as the Republican Party and elected Republicans had opted over the last twenty years to wrestle with the pig. The old fighter pilot maxim is that you don’t do that:
You can’t win, you both get dirty and the pig loves it.

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