More curious than right-wingers’ anti-immigration, anti-same-sex marriage complaints about the Republican National Committee report was the grousing that it wasn’t addressing the economic message of the party — or maybe it was and was watering down conservatism or maybe not watering it down enough.
As to the first set of complaints on immigration and marriage, there are segments in the party that will forever inveigh against appealing to all Americans. There are those who refuse to wake up to reality (11 million illegal immigrants here and overwhelming public support for gay marriage). Fortunately, skilled and popular conservative pols can ignore them, as Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have all done.
Regarding the economic complaints, I don’t think the critics have looked carefully enough at the report or at their own conservative superstars. What the RNC did was to parrot and summarize the most successful conservative messengers.
Consider a phrase like “to be successful, we have to be optimistic, we have to be relevant, and most important we have to be courageous.” The RNC? No, that was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at CPAC, who then proceed to outline how his policies helped create jobs, keep quality teachers and cut taxes.
Let’s try this: Look at the country from the perspective of a modest-income family that would like more take-home pay, better schools and affordable health care. The RNC? No that was Rubio’s CPAC speech.
Well, then, there is this: “We’ll advance proposals aimed at producing results in areas like education, health care, innovation and job growth. Our solutions will be based on the conservative principles of self-reliance, faith in the individual, trust in family and accountability in government. Our goal is to ensure that every American has a fair shot to earn success and achieve their dreams.” The RNC? No, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) at the American Enterprise Institute.
Take this one: “We need a Republican Party that shows up on the South Side of Chicago and shouts at the top of our lungs, ‘We are the party of jobs and opportunity. The GOP is the ticket to the middle class.’” That would be Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
All of this was what the RNC latched onto and set forth in its report. There is no statements pro or con on tax-raising or budget-expanding there, but there is an appreciation for the notion that conservatism must be about people. If it is not, then it is an interesting political theory but not the basis for a national party.
Our job as Republicans is to champion private growth so people will not turn to the government in the first place. But we must make sure that the government works for those truly in need, helping them so they can quickly get back on their feet. We should be driven by reform, eliminating, and fixing what is broken, while making sure the government’s safety net is a trampoline, not a trap.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)? No, that is the RNC report.
Candidates can formulate whatever economic policies they please (the report does not comment on tax rates or percent of GDP devoted to government or any other specifics on economic policy), but if they want to win in other than off-year elections when the electorate is at its widest, they must make the case that their brand of conservatism (different from government per se) is of benefit. If not, why put conservatives in office?
As the report notes, its formula is precisely what governors already do, why Republicans get elected and why so many state legislatures have GOP majorities. Do the complainers not like the results of those 30 governors? Or the electoral victories they bring?
In recapping the RNC proposals, free-market advocate and American Enterprise Institute Jim Pethokoukis writes: “Shorter: Numbers are important, but the party needs to tell compelling stories — like how education reform is about helping kids, not smashing unions — built around a new agenda of improving education, increasing social mobility, lowering the cost of living, and fighting crony capitalism. A push for faster economic growth (and an entrepreneurial agenda) is a necessary element here, but not sufficient.”
If you prefer, take the RNC report as a plea for no-more-Romneys. Mitt Romney was mocked as robotic, was rabidly anti-immigration reform and anti-gay marriage, wrote off large parts of the electorate, refused to take on Wall Street and spoke in catchphrases. To one degree or another, each of these characteristics is criticized in the report. In addition, almost all of the polling, data collection, ad buying and mechanical items listed in the report relate to failures of the Romney team. At the very least, the report is an excellent recap of all the possible reasons he lost. The GOP will make mistakes in the future, but the report is a sensible attempt to stop making the same ones over and over.
I must admit I am stumped by some of the punditry on this. Maybe they didn’t actually read the report. Or maybe their job is to be eternally critical of everything from anyone with political experience or know-how. Perhaps they have fallen into perpetual victimhood, where everyone in any position of authority is out to sell them down the river. I don’t know, but these voices on the right aren’t making a lot of sense.