Republicans Must Embrace Bold Ideas or Face Years in the Wilderness

Matt Towery

3/19/2009 12:00:00 AM - Matt Towery

Recently we've seen endless articles about how lost and disorganized the national Republican Party is and how the future for Republicans looks bleak. Well, that may or may not be the case. What many who believe the Obama administration and the Democratically controlled House will fail don't recognize is that President Obama, despite encountering a rough ride as of late, remains popular with much of the nation.

If Obama loses steam, it will be under the scenario I recounted in my book "Paranoid Nation," one in which he has admittedly liberal policies turned into darn near socialist ones by a speaker of the House who represents one of the most liberal districts in America and has nothing to lose in pushing his policies farther to the left.

It was a similarly strong House speaker, Tip O'Neill, who had his way with Jimmy Carter, weakening Carter to the point that Ted Kennedy was able to challenge the incumbent president and set him up for a pummeling by Ronald Reagan.

That scenario may or may not repeat itself over the next four years. Certainly even news organizations such as Newsweek report that the stimulus package became a free-for-all once it reached the House, and pointedly noted that Speaker Nancy Pelosi imposed her politics on the bill to a point that President Obama had no hope of any bipartisan support.

But four or even two years is a long time in politics. And Republicans, or even conservatives and Libertarians who have abandoned the GOP but most likely must hope for the revival of the party in the next few years, can't build their party up by simply knocking the other party down.

As I've noted before, the only times I've seen Republicans take control of government is when they had not only policies they could attack, but truly bold ideas they were proposing. Just uttering the phrase "tax cuts" won't win elections anytime soon. The GOP must be bold or prepare to be lost in the wilderness for years to come. Rather than simply make observations, let me set forth the foundation for a new agenda for Republicans.

First, they should return to the GOP's one-time position that term limits are a good thing for the U.S. House and Senate. If you want evidence, look no further than Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Byrd was quirky and smitten with the "exclusive nature of the Senate" even back in the early 1980s, when I worked as a Senate staffer. Now, besides being the king of pork, he is also completely out of touch with the real world.

Yes, some wouldn't like it, but limiting terms would tell the public that the day of the professional politician is over in Washington.

Second, move beyond the rhetoric and actually push to pass the elimination of the IRS, and for the implementation of the Fair Tax. Republicans squandered years when they controlled Congress and the White House. By allowing the current tax system to remain in place they kept alive a system that Democrats are now using to implement policies that might appeal to many Americans today but that won't once they are implemented and the people find that the small business they work for is laying off employees; or, in the case of corporations that do significant business overseas, moving altogether because of the new "double taxation" rules being proposed by the Democrats.

Third, make a list of federal agencies and departments that can either be consolidated or eliminated. George W. Bush campaigned on a promise to eliminate the Department of Education. Instead it doubled in size during his eight years. Trust me, in short order Americans will be wanting less government in their lives. This time, don't just talk about it. Do it.

Finally, like John Kennedy's goal of landing men on the moon, create a 10-year goal of restoring America's manufacturing strength to that of the days of JFK. Provide a list of laws to be eliminated, incentives to be provided and a definitive means of measuring progress. We will forever be beholden to countries such as China to provide capital for our treasury if they continue to grow a manufacturing-strong economy while we become a nation where basically everyone trades dollar bills for providing services to one another.

I recognize that this appears to be a simplistic set of proposals. They are, and for a reason. Simple bold concepts work. When people want change, and inevitably they do, they don't want halfway, watered-down reform. They vote for bold proposals and real change implemented as swiftly as possible.

If you don't believe me, just look at the last election. Many laughed at the Obama campaign's promise of "real change." They aren't laughing now. He meant it.

There may be a call for "real change" in another direction down the road. This time the GOP better be willing to offer and implement it.