It's a cliche to say that Washington, D.C., is "out of touch" with voters, but there's something to it.
Arguably, in 2012, the Republican Party seemed focused on a subject -- debt -- that wasn't a high priority for average Americans. Sincere Republicans (including this columnist) believe it should be. Nations that cannot pay their bills eventually fall into decline, hardship and worse when governments resort to inflation to pay off their debts. It's easier to make small adjustments now than to endure wrenching hardships later. But the voters remain to be convinced.
The Democratic Party today is similarly situated regarding a matter of indifference to voters -- climate change. Sincere Democrats believe that Americans should be worried about global warming. And just as Republicans have attempted to frighten Americans about the consequences of failing to act on our national debt, Democrats are trying to scare voters with doomsday scenarios, the latest being the Obama administration's 829-page report on "climate disruption." Voters remain to be convinced.
When Gallup asked Americans an open-ended question about the "most important problem facing this country," the economy and jobs led by a mile. In April, a total of 47 percent said the economy and jobs were the top priority. No other issue broke double digits. Not the gap between rich and poor. Not taxes. Not corporate corruption. Not fuel prices. The highest percentage among the lesser issues was the 9 percent who mentioned the federal budget deficit and/or the federal debt. These data have been consistent all year. As for climate change, only 1 percent listed the environment as the most important problem. Other polls show similar results.
For both parties, it would seem that addressing the voters' chief worries would be the path to getting their attention on other matters.
Some Republicans appear to have shifted their emphasis. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah has authored a family-friendly tax-reform proposal and delivered a biting speech opposing crony capitalism (or, as I prefer, "corporatism"). Sen. Marco Rubio has proposed changes to safety-net programs that would reward work and offer states more flexibility. Sens. Orrin Hatch, Tom Coburn and Richard Burr have proposed a replacement for Obamacare that would cover the uninsured without raising costs for everyone. Conservative publications like the National Review and National Affairs have been stressing reforms that would enhance opportunity for struggling Americans.
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