Republican presidential hopeful in his speech at Liberty University Monday, March 23 called out his fellow party members on their incompetence while highlighting his agenda to shed that image. On the national level, he is right. The Republicans have lost four out of the last six national elections, and won the popular vote once out of all those times with a narrow margin. Even when running their campaigns, they fail to appeal to their voters outside the extreme right who would never switch party lines.
Republican candidates spent millions of dollars on hiring consultants to advise on their campaigns. These consultants basically groom and censor their agenda to the point where it appears that they have no real vision, agenda or any type of appeal. Furthermore, they coach them into not saying anything too controversial and advise them to campaign in their own Red turf rather than approaching Blue swing states as in the case with Vice Presidential hopeful in 2008 where he was advised by the McCain team against campaigning in Michigan, and lost as a result. The Republican way of campaigning seems to be having the party paint itself as the establishment, touting a moderate viewpoint in order to pull some of the more conservative Democrats away from their opposition. However, this defensive approach has become so mundane and white-bread that based on the electoral college the outcome is so predictable that all the candidate needs in order to win is Florida.
Cruz believes that the only way they can captivate the swing voters is by throwing away their old manual in favor of a more aggressive one; he is ready to demonstrate his moves on the playing field. While the Republican party will need an overhaul in order to shed their present image of incompetence, they additionally need to focus on the issues which will most resonate with their target audiences, after all it wasn’t so long ago that Republicans seemed to be a solid party.
In 1980 Reagan soundly defeated then President Jimmy Carter by laying out a clear agenda. Rather than go on the defensive against the accusations of the opponent, he instead gave people hope through his plan of growing the economy, shrinking the size of the government and promoting home and abroad. On the same token Obama followed some of these cues, also providing timelines and capitalizing on the faults of the previous administration. Although most of these goals were not fulfilled, he was able to get re-elected due to the failure of the Romney campaign to provide a clear alternative that resonated with voters.
Critics like to point out that Reagan’s victory was a fluke but that really was not so. His campaign team knew which issues to address and how to win over the hearts of the issues. Even women’s issues like abortion were marginalized in favor of more pressing ones. While Cruz argues that the Republicans are trying to play the moderate card, that is only part of the problem. Their inability to pull off a Reagan-esque type victory is due to the fact that the die-hards in their parties off-set them with their ultra-conservative views making the mainstreamers seem incompetent and silencing in the face of the voters they are trying to win. This was in fact the case when George H.W Bush lost the 1992 election to his successor Bill Clinton, with the keynote speech of Patrick Buchanan not being of much help and alienating much of the moderate base. Hence, the responsibility for repairing this negative image falls in same hands of moderate Republicans who need to make more of an effort in marginalizing the far-right while remaining consistent with their own values
One area in this is religion itself. While religion plays an important role in people’s lives, providing them with a foundation of faith in a higher power and a feeling of community, the idea of science contradicting religious faith is wrong. There is no harm in placing value in faith and supporting the idea of creation while using science to prove how everything came to be in existence. When moderate Republicans silence themselves in the face of fundamentalists who mock science, despite all the research that has been done, it only helps to bolster the stereotypical caveman image displayed in the drawings of so many liberal publications.
The caveman image used to generalize Republicans especially holds true when it comes to female voters. Today there are more women in the workplace, including single mothers. These women work hard to provide for their families without the help of a spouse to help share the burden. Because of this, many of them need to turn to the government for assistance, and it does not help or reassure them when most vocal of the Republicans are from the extreme right denouncing them as sluts or moochers, while the more moderate ones stay silent out of the fear of splitting their party. On the contrary, the Republicans must show their support for women as an integral part of the workforce and an appreciation for their dedication in raising future generation of citizens. This extends as well on the topic of abortion. Most people in principle are pro-life, meaning, we all place value in the life of a human being. Life extends to the health of the mother and respect for her decision whether or not her life is at danger. When mainstream Republicans kowtow to their ultra-right party members, they put their own credibility in jeopardy.
In addition to women voters, Republicans must change their approach toward same-sex unions. It was not so long ago that mainstream Democrats like Bill Clinton and even ones further left like Obama opposed the idea of unions outside of traditional marriage receive the same benefits. However, because so many states backed by their voters were able to push the issue to the forefront, even the most conservative Democrats backed off on their opposition. Liberals do not hesitate to call out a Republican governor or legislator in their opposition to such progressiveness. Republicans feel this platform contradicts their platforms of preserving family and values when in fact they can allow family and religious values to foster when left in the hands of the institutions that couples choose to have officiate their unions.
While the Republicans maintain their focus on the above issues while maintaining an atmosphere of inclusiveness, this will allow them to earn the trust of the public and provide the breathing space to address more urgent issues pressing the country. This includes providing Americans with affordable health care options as opposed to the coercive approach the Obama administration has taken with Obamacare. A similar proposal was already introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch, Richard Burr, and Tom Coburn.
Also by removing the overhead of so many government programs and shifting responsibility to states and local communities, Republicans can provide much relief to overly taxed families and small business, and allow the businesses to grow. In addition, Republicans can win over the votes of younger Americans by expanding higher education options like providing incentives for companies to finance college education for future employees, while penalizing colleges for imposing high loan default rates.
It was not so long ago that the Republican Party represented libertarian values that promoted smaller government, economic freedom and respect for all its citizens. However, by flip-flip flopping on their values while letting the far right lead the party in a new direction, they convey an image of incompetence which must be shed. Taking a newer approach that resonates with young voters, minorities and women does that mean sacrificing their values. On the contrary, it will provide a far more viable option for voters who long for a responsible leadership.
Opinion By Bill Ades
Photo by EN2000 – Flickr License