Rick Santorum

Sure, extending unemployment benefits to two years may seem compassionate, but after two years, individuals are much less employable, and their futures are less bright. Instead of ideas that focus on strengthening families and communities, addressing the appalling conditions in our public schools or creating a business environment that attracts new enterprises and job creation, the president has focused on climate change, gay marriage and gun control.

The way forward is getting back to our basic principles -- but applied to the challenges we face today. We must not be the party of plutocrats, country clubbers and corporate interests. We must focus on ways to deliver our vision for hope and opportunity for working Americans. Here's what I mean:

We must represent and create opportunity for all Americans -- but especially struggling families yearning for a secure future, single moms who face tremendous challenges and immigrant families who must work doubly hard to get ahead in this world.

We must be the champions for working taxpayers and families and promote policies focused on real health care choices and building assets through savings incentives, homeownership and expanded job opportunities through manufacturing incentives.

We must continue to be proponents of fundamental human rights and human dignity by affirming the right to life for the unborn, disabled and aging, as well as protecting freedom of conscience and religion and freedom of speech and association.

We must be advocates for vulnerable at-risk children through programs that strengthen marriage, fatherhood, vibrant supportive communities, quality health care and educational options.

We must empower parents with real educational options for their children, options that promote excellence and opportunity.

We must be advocates for local problem-solving efforts and organizations and social entrepreneurs rather than federal prescriptions and mandates to every challenge.

We must reduce poverty and help struggling families through faith-based, civic and local and state partnerships. Our vision is not to put people on food stamps and Medicaid but to provide a path to a better future.

We haven't shown America that we have the tools to put the rungs back on the opportunity ladder -- the ladder up -- to achieve the American dream. That must change.

I'm not convinced we can rely on the establishment of the Republican Party or today's elected leaders in Congress to get us back. And it's not about moving to the left; it's about appealing to working Americans with a vision that represents opportunity and a better life and offering real solutions to their problems.

Rick Santorum

Former Senator Rick Santorum is the author of Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works.

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