Republicans, how could people who are so right be so wrong at the same time? Your essential philosophy of governance is indisputably wise. But lately, your execution has been all wrong. We therefore urge the following retool of the Grand Old Party.
First, the policy platform. It's three words plus a phrase. They are:
- Virtue. This has to come first, and this has been most missing in the message. We're not talking about culture-wars virtue issues like placing the Ten Commandments in public places. We're talking about personal virtues widely embraced in the Western cultural tradition: hard work, thrift, personal discipline, commitment to family, commitment to community. How does this work in political discourse? Don't just blame Fannie and Freddie for making a mess of home mortgages and so of global finance. Applaud those who exercised the discipline to save for a downpayment and stay within or below their means in buying a house. Propose programs to encourage not just home ownership but saving and budgeting for home ownership. Propose programs to encourage not just college education but studying for and saving for college education. Propose programs to encourage not just health care but healthy living. The Republic needs a challenge to be a virtuous Republic, not just a selfish one.
- Liberty. It's time to end "big government lite," trying to give people the pork they demand at a cheaper price. Stress that every government program that "meets a need" does so at the price of individual liberty. Stress that Americans will be empowered to handle their own health insurance if restrictive mandates and discriminatory tax laws are eliminated. At the same time, stress that liberty is the God-given right of every human being, and pledge that you'll do all that a government can to promote liberty globally. Make accommodationists and nanny-staters on the other side look like unfeeling, ethnocentric brutes and condescending snobs.
- Prosperity. Talk about a rising tide for all Americans. Aim to communicate that a virtuous and free society inevitably becomes prosperous. Attack the politics of envy that harps on unequal distribution with the politics of opportunity that stresses the initiative and adaptability of all people, those very human qualities that make for a better material and social life when consistently applied. Pledge resources to reach into those communities that are dysfunctional to reach those who are willing to be reached with a different way of life.
- For all. Here's the trickiest part. To avoid becoming the regional party of the white South, it's time to restore the GOP's historic commitment to extending opportunity to all. That means two very specific things which may be costly in the short term: (a) apply absolute party discipline on all expressions of racism; (b) announce that the GOP is committed to welcoming immigrants who are willing and able to work, introduce legislation to legalize the presence of those undocumented workers who are present and productive, and warn party members that anti-immigrant demagoguery will be subject to party discipline. The future of America is a future of ethnic diversity, and so is the future of the party, which begins now. So anyone who sends around emails with watermelons on the White House lawn or who talks about immigration a la Tom Tancredo will be politely escorted out of the party. This is not only right, it's necessary if there is to be a GOP by 2024.
One is Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Dull as dishwater on the stump, we think Daniels makes sense when he talks about what government ought to do for all its citizens. Let him speak truth to the body politic.
Another is Defense Secretary Robert Gates. A proven change agent and excellent administrator, Gates has gravitas. This would be his first run for office, so he's in a position to mean what he says.
Both these guys have been far enough from the political spotlight to offer a retooled message with credibility, and both have the resume to prove their competence. They may not win, but they will help get the message back on a track that will win in the future.