Brian Birdnow

What can be done to prevent the GOP from falling back to the status of the 1970s, if not actually becoming a museum piece of historical curiosity? In the short term the Republicans can privately concede to themselves that they have lost the initiative and, while they reorganize the Party and identify a program and leaders they must fight a stout rear guard action, preparatory to taking the offensive. They have a blueprint for this strategy right in front of their faces, if they look for it. It consists of making public Obama’s agenda as outlined last week in the State of the Union message and pointing out the flaws, evasions, and errors in the Democratic design for establishing a European style social democracy in America. While the Republicans attack the Democratic vision, they must, in point-by-point fashion, propose an alternative strategy based on an aggressive free market approach. This will effectively draw a distinction between the two Parties and give voters a choice, not an echo.

The GOP can start this off when Obama conjures up the liberal bogeyman of global warming, by referring to the Clinton-sponsored Kyoto Protocol and its preposterous restrictions as evidence of the liberal approach to climate change. The Republicans can also adroitly shift this argument from “global warming” to American energy independence by pointing out that prosperous societies can more effectively manage to control harmful emissions than impoverished ones. If someone questions this thesis they can ask the Russians, Bulgarians, Chinese, and North Koreans how well they are doing in this sphere.

When Obama derides the Republicans for their “obsession” with the deficit and a $4 trillion federal budget, the Republicans can point to the two balanced budget plans they have drawn up, and they can continue to impress upon the minds of their fellow citizens the staggering nature of a $4 trillion dollar budget, and a $1 trillion dollar deficit. Turn the tables on the President by an aggressive push on this one.

When President Obama attempts to posture himself as the champion of the middle and working classes the Republicans need to point out that the tax increase of January, in the form of higher payroll taxes was a Democratic initiative. The President could have pushed for a renewal of the payroll tax cut, but discarded that idea in his single-minded obsession for new and higher taxes. The GOP must become the Party of lower taxes again, and right away. They must stress this in every speech, position paper, and public forum. When the Democrats and their media allies play the class warfare card and carp about “tax cuts for the rich” the GOP must answer immediately and ask all of the working class who are now seeing smaller paychecks if they think of themselves as “rich”.

In the same vein the Republican can attempt to instruct the public as to the deleterious effects of the looming Obamacare disaster by pointing out the huge numbers of workers who are seeing their hours of work sliced and diced by employers who fear the new Health & Human Services mandate that anyone working over thirty-six hour weeks qualifies as a full-time employee and must be accorded full benefits. The reduction in employee work hours and the use of temporary help to pick up the slack is exploding now and once can see this especially in the universities and in the hospitality industries. The Republicans must tie this disturbing development where it belongs, which is squarely around Obama’s “signature achievement”.

One more Obama initiative should be addressed. He tossed one more idea into the speech, as a throwaway applause line, concerning a new goal of “…making high quality preschool available to every child in America.” The opposition should point out that failing government run schools rarely provide this service to elementary and secondary students, but Obama thinks that the nation should expand a failed product to a wider clientele. The GOP should compare this to the Ford Motor Company deciding to extend the production run of the Edsel. They should propose, instead, to offer a full tax deduction for parents who choose to send their children to private/parochial preschools.

It is undeniably true that in politics, unlike boxing, counterpunching is rarely a strategy leading to victory. The GOP must, however, employ this tactic while they hammer out a new game plan reflecting current realities. They must identify new leaders who possess true ability and must eschew a simplistic appeal to racial or ethnic background. While it is certainly appropriate to debate the Party’s future the appointed spokespeople must avoid needless backbiting. (No more “Party of Stupid” foolishness from their own, if you please!) Finally, the Party must develop a coherent message and drum this home relentlessly. Let the Grand Old Party return to its older roots as the Party of self-reliance and freedom once again by becoming the vehicle of ideas. Offer the country a proud free market approach rather than the European style socialism that even the EU community is now admitting has failed. Admittedly, this will be harder to do in the bare-knuckled world of politics than in the pages of Townhall. Still, the GOP must react quickly, lest they lose Congress in 2014, and sink back to the position of a permanent minority Party consigned to the political wilderness such as they were in the 1970s. The Republicans need leadership and a program. Those of us who vote Republican insist on nothing less.

Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.