The political and social tension is so palpable in America these days, it almost feels like one could cut it with a knife. The Obama Administration has been plagued by a number of crises and scandals, some self-inflicted, some not. According to Gallup poll, President Obama’s approval rating for Feb.3 through Feb.9 was about 41 percent. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for January was at about 6.6 percent. That is certainly not the highest unemployment has ever been and, to be fair, it has decreased a significant amount since the recession. However, the unemployment rate does not take into consideration people who are not actively searching for jobs, so the real number is likely higher. Then there are issues such as the national debt, seemingly unchecked domestic surveillance, and more. It would seem that America is in need of a breath of fresh air. The Republican Party might not be able to prevent some major problems in the near future, but it does have a great opportunity to make up lost ground if it plays its cards right.
First of all, the Republicans need to establish what the identity of the party is actually going to be. This seems painfully obvious, but it is actually a major issue. Between the Tea Party and people such as Rand Paul, there are quite a few under the Republican umbrella who do not seem at all satisfied with the status quo. Very roughly, the party lines are divided between Libertarian leaning Republicans and those who are more mainstream. It would seem that a divided Republican Party has a major disadvantage, but the opportunity is there to put the spot-light on issues that need to be addressed.
If the Republicans want to have success in the next election cycle, they need to pick their battles as far as what issues to focus on. Social issues like gay marriage and the role of religion in public will always be divisive, hot-button topics. Perhaps Republicans would do well to avoid such things and focus instead on key long-term problems.
For example, total outstanding national debt currently sits at over $17 trillion. This is a problem that is not going to simply go away on its own. While the government cannot erase this number, it can take steps to address the spending issue. Of course, this requires making hard decisions that might be rather unpopular.
However, it is not enough to simply point out problems. If the Republican Party wants to have success then its candidates need to offer solutions. This starts by pointing out why problems exist in the first place. For example, the housing crisis of 2008 is old news, but what causes things like this in the first place? Some have indicated that artificially low interest rates were part of the problem, along with banks becoming insulated from their risks. Perhaps actually analysing the causes of economic issues like this can lead to practical solutions. Simply opposing the party in power doesn’t do much good in itself.
The Republican Party has a major opportunity to address key issues and help move America forward. Whether the Republicans can truly take advantage of this issue remains to be seen. It will require a lot of work and perhaps a little soul-searching.
Editorial by Zach Kirkman