The Republican Party used to stand for something that people could easily identify with including low taxes, strong national defense, law and order. Our leaders did not negotiate with terrorists, they eliminated evil doers and those that supported them. We were the Party that unabashedly championed the private sector and corporations as the source of solutions, governments and government-based “solutions” as, more likely than not, the problems. Law-breakers were held accountable based on current laws, not given second, third, or more chances with new legal schemes. The Republican brand was good.
Known well in the grassroots, the Republican brand catapulted our party to local, state, and national elected offices. With some notable exceptions during the late 1990s, we betrayed that brand at the federal level, especially during the past six years. We veered from our ideological moorings out of sheer political laziness. Domestic entitlement spending grew at a disproportionate rate from other spending, adding new federal programs as if were constructing a “federal Wal-Mart” of government services: prescription drugs for everyone, gimmicky tax rebates for people that do not pay taxes, federal election regulations, illegal alien amnesty, excessive minimum wage increases, and out of control earmarks for pork barrel spending, to name a few.
We started to sound like the very Democrats we criticized for decades before we won the majority. We sure governed like it. Our brand was muddled. And, with the help of the mainstream media, the Democrats did a fine job of further destroying the GOP brand. Despite the fact that the Democrats have just as many, if not more, salacious-like scandals to contend with, it was the Republican Party that took the brunt of the criticism and media attention for these matters. The DNC ran Democrats that sounded like the old Republicans and won majorities in Congress. Has the Republican Party learned its lesson? There are pockets of political hope, but now it seems as if we have some work to do at the state level too.
Several Republican Governors have decided to join the Democrats war on free markets and capitalism. This war pits liberal trial lawyers against consumers and businesses. More reminiscent of today’s Communist Cuba, Socialist Venezuela, or China, the advocates of the nanny state want to tell us what we can eat and what food restaurants can sell. We have seen these fights before. Last time it was the war on tobacco. Republican Governors and state legislators should be defending consumer choice and free markets, not aiding and abetting the political left in this food war and, in the process, further destroying the Republican brand.
In New York two years ago, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended a band of bureaucrats that banned trans fat from New York City restaurants. A few weeks ago, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that would do the same in the California. Rather than standing firm against the food police, New York City and the State of California, led by Republicans, have become de facto food police. Unless voters remind them that the government has no business meddling in the markets or telling people what they can or cannot eat, it will not stop at trans fat bans. It will expand to other foods and issue areas.
The food police example should be a dramatic example, to any Republican that cares to take a sober look, that something is terribly wrong with how our party has devolved during the past few years. What began at the federal level with Congress, has seeped to our base. Granted, California and New York City are not the best examples, but neither Ronald Reagan or Rudy Giuliani would have even contemplated the food police nonsense when they held those posts. If we want to win more elections, we must act like Republicans, not lead, or allow the media to portray us as, liberal Democrats.
Our policy proposals need to focus on low taxes, strong national defense, law and order. The consumer and the free markets should be our focus, not the bureaucrats. We do not need to sound like Democrats to win elections, or water down our core values to win the imagination and support of younger voters. If Texas Congressman Ron Paul, age 72, can attract millions of young people with a very conservative platform, then why can’t the national GOP do the same with a solutions-based model that reflects our party’s core values? By the way, Ron Paul is one year older than Sen. John McCain.
Finally, we have been handed a golden political opportunity with Sen. Barack Obama. He is one of the most liberal candidates for president ever fielded by the Democrat Party. He has no substantive record to run on, no experiences to speak of that have prepared him for this office. Obama and the Democrat left that support him are tax and spend liberals, the government-knows-best crowd. If you think that the food police is bad, can you imagine what they will do if they win?
We do not have to go negative, quite the contrary. We can not only win, but in the process, re-make our Republican brand by reminding voters of why our party will keep America strong here and abroad. We should not be ashamed of defending our work in the Middle East, protecting our borders, or our intelligence community. We should robustly defend free markets and businesses, the engines of prosperity and ingenuity. We must resist the gloom and doom brigade, another tool of the left, and focus on what makes our country great. Obama and the Democrat leadership have political glass jaws, let’s take aim.