Some political commentators are dancing on what they believe to be the grave of the GOP, claiming that the only way Republicans can have a viable future is for them to behave like Democrats.
But Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has proposed a new strategy for Republicans and conservatives that begins not in Washington, D.C., but at the state level.
Jindal said the Republican Party loses when it plays on the liberal Democrats’ turf, allowing them to set the agenda.
“America is not the federal government,” he said at the Republican National Committee’s annual winter meeting in Charlotte, N.C. He maintained that Republicans have wasted too much time trying to manage bloated government and too little time growing the private sector. The media and Democrats, he added, treat any serious proposal to restrain government growth as “not serious” when the truth is, “nothing serious is deemed serious in Washington.”
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Then in a face-slapping moment, Jindal added, “If this election taught us anything, it is that we will not win elections by simply pointing out the failures of the other side. We must boldly paint the picture of what America can be, of just how incredibly bright America’s future can be.”
The real action is occurring away from Washington. Republican governors, a majority of state chief executives, are lowering or eliminating state income taxes, cutting wasteful spending, balancing budgets or creating surpluses, and in the case of Indiana, sending rebate checks to taxpayers.
Here are three Jindalisms the public can understand: “Government spending still does not grow our economy. American weakness on the world stage still does not lead to peace. Higher taxes still do not create prosperity for all.”
Poverty should not be the final verdict on any life. Republicans need to have “testimony time” during which people once addicted to government tell how they broke free and are now earning paychecks because they embraced conservative principles. Republicans should be seen as friends of the poor instead of friends of the wealthy, who, President Obama has said, are doing fine.
Republicans should also partner with churches. Stop arguing about the evils of welfare dependency and start helping people live a life of self-sufficiency. That begins with a change in attitude and a transformation of outlook. What better institution to address these internal qualities than the church?
If Republicans want to do something about the future, they should back a growing movement to pull children out of underperforming public schools where often their views, values, understanding of history and even faith are undermined.
Negativity doesn’t inspire. Criticizing Democrats might make the base feel good, but it solves nothing. Republicans should adopt the optimism and vision of Ronald Reagan, whose main gift to this country was to persuade Americans to believe in themselves.
Jindal stated his vision in Charlotte: “Free individuals, taking risks, building businesses, inventing things from thin air, and passing immutable values from one generation to the next – that is the root of America’s greatness.”
Are party members listening and willing to change not their principles, but their approach to promoting those principles?
Republicans aren’t dead yet, but changes are essential for the GOP to get off life support. They can start by reading Jindal’s speech.