Herbert London: The Republican Contract for 2014
The Republican strategy for the 2014 November election has been cast in stone: “Obamacare, Obamacare, Obamacare.” Leadership in the House, the Republican Study Group, the National Republican Committee and a variety of pollsters are persuaded that the Affordable Care Act, and the president’s name attached to it, represent a winning formula. Speaker Boehner is so convinced of this claim that he systematically refuses to consider other campaign issues. After all, other issues would dilute the message and confuse the voting public.
But suppose this view is wrong, suppose all the pollsters have relied on the opinions of Megyn Kelly viewers. The danger in a one issue campaign is that it suppresses other matters that could gain national traction. Benghazi has been withdrawn from news accounts in large part because Speaker Boehner has not organized a special House committee for further investigation of the issues. The transparently weak foreign policy of the Obama administration evident from Crimea to Syria has not elicited a public spirited debate. And this won’t happen with Republican leaders sitting on the sidelines.
As I see it – without any reference to polling data – the Republicans should aspire to a multi-pronged attack, not unlike what Newt Gingrich organized in 1994. This new contract with America should feature: healthcare that relies on free enterprise and openness; a foreign policy that respects and defends American interests; the maintenance of global equilibrium through the reacquisition of American strength; a tax system that is fair and politically neutral; a respect for the Constitution, specifically the separation of powers; the balance of security concerns and personal privacy; forcing Congress to abide by the measures it imposes on all Americans; urging the Courts to interpret the law, not make the laws; a return to the 1965 Act which said race and ethnicity should neither be an advantage nor a handicap and a flat tax that stimulates economic growth and opportunity.
This Contract should be reprinted in every newspaper, repeated on every television station and revisited on every social media site. Here is an invitation to a Republican future, not one race, not one campaign, but a pathway to political success. Of course, it is bold and different from the “one issue wins it all Republicans.” But it is a runway that gives direction for a party that often seems befuddled. So often Republicans act like 65 percent Democrats which prompts the response, “why not vote for the genuine article.”
This Contract challenges the Democrats where they are most vulnerable. Of course, it would help if there were a Newt Gingrich to lead the charge. But even without him, repetition and the power of instant media can make the proposal fly. Most Americans wonder what kind of “service” the Internal Revenue Service provides. There is a curiosity about the death of four Americans serving their country in Benghazi without the reinforcements that were requested. And there is the intractable concern about a healthcare system that adds seven million to the medical roles without the provision for one additional doctor. The questions abound for Republicans and many Democrats.
As I see it the Republican Party is insufficiently bold. It is so battle-shy that it can only espouse one issue at a time. It underestimates its own base constituency and it refuses to look and act like a party that wants to assume national leadership.
So here is a game plan. Adopt a Contract for 2014, nationalize it and make it the banner of party and purpose. Modify it if you must, but do not lose sight of basic principles – these are not simply party principles; they are the first principles of this nation. Wear them proudly and remember, they are the footprint to the future.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries atwww.londoncenter.org
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