With recent polls showing Democrats in trouble in November’s elections, and voters likely then to take out their anger on all in- cumbent public officeholders, Republicans have an op- portunity to make electoral headway. But this will only happen if they devise a plan to give voters confidence that they can — and will — solve the nation’s problems.
Voting is an emotional act. We vote our fears and hopes, but mostly we vote our impressions. Right now, voters have negative impressions of officeholders and the big-government policies coming out of Washington, D.C. They don’t like the leadership that has created the economic mess that plagues the United States, led by a stubborn 9.5 percent unemployment rate. The president’s mishandling of the Gulf oil spill and the economy hasn’t helped him; it’s shown him to be weak. By significant margins, the public believes Barack Obama doesn’t really know what to do — except spend taxpayer money.
Right now, the public’s faith in our national leaders is shaken. Democrats are perceived as big spenders (which they are), piling up trillions in new deficits atop a mounting national debt. Republicans are perceived as “no” voters who don’t have their own plan (and they don’t — yet). Voters think Republicans are unimagina- tive (and they are), using “tax cuts” and “smaller government” as their primary answer — their mantra — to national problems. Some Democrats will be re-elected just because voters can’t stand the narrow-mindedness of their Republican opponents. Tea Party-supported candidates, while principled in their simplistic approach to issues, frighten many voters, even though their ranks are growing across all demographics.
Here are three basic concepts for Republicans to run on in 2010 and 2012: Freedom, Security and Competency.
Republicans should pledge that every issue coming before Congress will be viewed through the prism of whether passing it will provide more or less freedom for the individual. What national interest is promoted if individual freedom is restricted?
NATIONAL HEALTH CARE Obama and the Democrats jammed this legislation through just because they could (they had the votes), but post- passage analysis shows that the law will cost more than estimated and reduce individual freedom to control one’s health care destiny. That’s why 53 percent of the public in a recent Rasmussen poll favor repeal.
FINANCIAL REFORM The measure recently signed into law will hit Wall Street financial organizations, but simultaneously imposes burdens on small investors and financial institutions. The Treasury regulations to follow will be as important as the provi- sions of law adopted, except Obama administration bureaucrats will be writing them, and they’ll likely overreach.
GOVERNMENT SPENDING The federal budget has ballooned to $3.55 trillion (it was $2.3 trillion in 2005). Voters should remember that when government controls money, it also controls policy, and tax money is being spent in ways most Americans can’t afford and don’t understand. The $787 billion stimulus package, auto company bailouts, Cash for Clunkers and other big-spending programs adopted by Congress have not created sustainable private-sector jobs; hence, our painfully slow economic recovery.
If Republicans can tie every bureaucratic spending program to the essential question of whether it makes us more free, a plausible argument can be made for leaders to start saving our money, remembering that all government money comes from individuals somewhere along the economic chain.
A July Gallup poll showed 79 percent of Americans believe that terrorism is a serious or extremely serious national problem. And a non-scientific Homeland Secu- rity Group poll showed that 86.6 percent of Americans believe America is not safer with the Obama administration in charge. National security officials recently spoke publicly in a Senate hearing about their concerns for homeland security. All stated they expect serious attempts to attack the U.S. in the months ahead.
As a member of two recent defense policy panels, I’m not convinced we’re adequately prepared for such attacks — either as a government or a people. Federal agency plans are not mature. Communications between federal and state entities need attention.
While our nation would survive such an attack, the costs would be staggering. Americans want and expect our government to at least plan and be prepared for catastrophic incidents. Republicans should reassure voters that their party will restore homeland security preparedness as a national priority.
By a wide margin of 68 percent to 32 percent, Americans believe that the “political class” doesn’t care what most Americans think — a sure sign that decision- makers have lost touch and are incompetent to lead. The task for Republicans is to reveal a plan that will instill voter confidence that Republicans will govern differently than Democrats and President Obama.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has achieved remark- able success in governing his state without deficits and with fewer state employees, in part by instilling in government workers the philosophy that their jobs are a privilege and they exist to serve the public — not the other way around. Competency and courtesy in governing, whether at the highest or lowest levels, should be the standards for any public servant, includ- ing Congress.
Too many Americans simply don’t like our country’s misguided domestic path and are increasingly concerned about world tensions. They’re hungry for new, capable leadership.
Republicans can provide
it if they stress Freedom, Security and Competency in the run-up to the
November elections. These timeless principles of governing will appeal
to Republicans, conservative Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and
Tea Party members. After all, these three principles are all-American.