Last week’s CPAC conference was apparently brimming with new conservative energy – and further admonitions that Republicans have to be more than just “the party of ‘NO.’” What this constant harangue ignores is the fact that sometimes, saying ‘no,’ IS taking a position. There are plenty of principled reasons to say ‘NO’ to the anschluss of Obama and his goosestepping goons in Congress. And as the swelling numbers in the Santelli Tea Party Brigade demonstrate, millions of Americans would WELCOME politicians who can actually say ‘no’ to the prospect of more spending and more government encroachment on our liberty.
Even so, this ‘party of NO’ nonsense still belies a party with NO vision, NO message, and NO ability to make meaningful distinctions.
Taking the last point first, what we’re asking our conservative politicians to say depends upon who they are talking to. If it is their Democrat colleagues in Congress, then hell yes, say ‘NO’: NO to more spending, NO to higher taxes, NO to any restraints on political speech anywhere in any media whatsoever, NO to any laws that attempt to force medical schools, medical students or health care providers to perform abortions against their will, NO to billions of dollars being sent overseas when we are bankrupt here at home, NO to government takeover of our health care system. Conservatives’ rallying cry should be, if Pelosi and Reid want it, we’re against it.
But it is admittedly a different matter when the question turns to what Republicans and other conservative leaders say to the American public. As I’ve suggested elsewhere, Republicans have lost their way because they want to talk about themselves. For Republicans, the key to successful elections – and successful public policy – is to talk to Americans about Americans. More specifically, to reflect and remind and inspire and uplift by talking about the attributes of Americans that have made this country so successful – attributes that everyone can understand, relate to, aspire to, and emulate.
From my vantage point after nearly a decade in entrepreneurship education, the most glaring omission in the national conversation surrounding the current economic crisis is the complete failure of our political leaders to talk about the role of entrepreneurial thinking in American history. It’s not a shock that Democrats aren’t talking about it. But it’s inexplicable that Republicans aren’t.
Laura Hollis is an Associate Professional Specialist and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches entrepreneurship and business law. She is the author of the forthcoming publication, “Start Up, Screw Up, Scale Up: What Government Can Learn From the Best Entrepreneurs,” © 2014. Her opinions are her own, and do not reflect the position of the university. Follow her on Twitter: @LauraHollis61.