One of the few bright spots for Republicans in the 2012 election was keeping the House majority. What lessons can be derived from this?
1. Mediscare should not be a worry. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) showed that a reform agenda can be defended by articulate and persistent candidates.
2. Loud mouths in the grassroots and conservative media demanding no agreement on continuing resolutions or debt-ceiling increases, in essence a never-make-a-deal philosophy, can be ignored. They carry no weight with actual voters. Conservative deal makers get reelected. This block-any-deal mentality wound up weakening the Republicans’ hand in the debt-ceiling fight.
3. Setting forth a specific agenda, taking risks on entitlement reform and not waiting for the president to lead are a formula for success. Had the Senate Republicans done the same perhaps they would have fared better. Whether on the fiscal cliff, education reform or immigration reform, House Republicans should be in the lead.
4. The “tea party freshmen” of 2008 governed maturely and supported their speaker. The attempt to paint the House leadership at war with its caucus failed because it just isn’t true.
5. Oversight properly done is good for the country and essential for the GOP. On Fast and Furious, House congressional investigators hung tough even while the mainstream media ignored or derided their efforts. They succeeded in uncovering a genuine scandal. The same devotion to serious oversight should continue on Benghazi, Libya, endemic leaks of national security secrets and green energy corruption.
6. House Republicans should continue to utilize new media, talk radio, conservative publications and whatever other avenues are available to connect with voters and explain their policies. The series of YouTube videos put out by Ryan on the debt and budget deals were exceptionally successfully.
7. The voters sent a mixed message, some would say a thumbs up for the status quo. That doesn’t mean House Republicans are obligated to rubber stamp the president. Republicans ran on an actual agenda; the president and Senate and House Democrats by and large did not.
8. More time needs to be paid to explaining the conservative approach to fighting poverty and promoting upward mobility. Reform for the betterment of recipients should be emphasized (over simply cutting expenditures) as it was in the welfare reform battle during the Clinton era, and accusations that they are balancing the budget on the backs of the poor should be rebutted. Ryan needs allies in this endeavor and cannot be the only congressman giving speeches.
9. Reform education reform. One of the more thoughtful and well received aspects of Romney’s agenda was his stance on education reform. Consider turning Title I into a voucher problem. Rethink whether No Child Left Behind is a proper and effective function of the federal government. Champion school choice. In expanding the appeal of the GOP there is no more important subject than education.