From the Senate to the House to the broad vista of the states, the adrenaline of conservative victory is flowing mightily. But every winner may be noticing that voters are in no mood to rest on election night laurels. We are ready for these victories to mean something. We are ready for evidence that incoming Republicans— and incumbents as well— heard the message of the 2014 vote.
We also need to know that Republicans understand the landscape moving forward to 2016, when a conservative presidency will be attractive to more Americans if we haven’t wasted the opportunities at hand.
Toward that end, here is a handy checklist of things to do— and not do— for everyone who benefited Tuesday night from America’s momentary willingness to give the GOP a chance.
— Understand first and foremost that you and your victorious brothers and sisters rode a wave that contained no coherent, inspiring, unified theme. You had the good fortune to be running against Democrat leadership so misguided that voters were begging for relief.
— That said, you now have the responsibility to cultivate active enthusiasm among people who will be watching to see what kind of agenda you put forward. You can do this with an upbeat, unapologetic devotion to conservative principles.
— The most important element of these principles involves attention to things that directly affect people’s lives: jobs, the economy, individual liberty, American energy, strong borders, and national security.
— Approach with care some issues that are valid and meaningful but which can cost you at this sensitive time. Obama scandals are a big deal with people who have been voting conservatively for years. New or returning Republican voters do not give a flip about Benghazi, Fast and Furious, or even the IRS scandals. These are all valid matters that deserve further investigative attention, but you would do well to let those wheels turn while you assemble a track record that will help us win in 2016.
— Along those lines, if the word “impeachment” leaves your mouth in public, have a staffer jab you in the ribs with a fork. Barack Obama is in his last act. Sending him legislation people actually want and having him veto it is enormously instructive and valuable. Wasting efforts on a principled yet doomed impeachment effort is the single stupidest thing we could do.
— Approach differences in the Republican party with a smile. Accentuate shared goals. Do not dwell on largely overstated rifts between the tea party and establishment wings. Those differences are real, but know that the left will use them to divide and weaken us. The best way to defuse such tension is to actually be a conservative. If you feel yourself warming to amnesty, minimum wage increases or theories of man-made climate change, stop it. If we’re looking for unity, let’s have that unity occur behind genuine conservative core values.
— There will be debates over how to best battle the scourge of Obamacare. Make clear that you favor complete repeal, but realize this may not be possible in one fell swoop or with an invigorating but failed defunding vote. Gather all the energy you need to pass legislation that carves away the most odious parts of Obamacare. If there are veto-proof margins in both houses, great. If not, the President will reveal himself as the obstacle to what Americans want. In either event, you will have laid the groundwork for a post-2016 full frontal assault on Obamacare with the leadership of a conservative in the White House.
— Navigate the tricky waters of social issues with the strong logic of states’ rights. You may reveal your wish to protect the unborn and traditional marriage, but show an awareness that these are issues that should be left to the states, as the Constitution requires. (Yes, this means you favor overturning Roe v. Wade, not because you are pro-life, but because it is unconstitutional.) Defend unique legal recognition for man-woman marriage mixed with an understanding that some states may disagree. But stress repeatedly that any laws on marriage should come from the vote of the people, not from activist judges concocting a right that does not exist.
— Help stomp on the already discredited Democrat tactics of race-baiting and the wholly false cries of a “war on women.” Express particular pride in the Election Day victories of minorities and women, but remind all that we are the party that does not care about the race or sex of any American. We seek to bring liberty and prosperity to all citizens, and we will not divide people for cheap political gain.
— Get comfortable in enemy territory. Learn how to skillfully answer liberally-slanted questions from the media. Do not ever whine about “trap” questions or being “set up.” If a question contains a false premise, say so and make a coherent point of your choice on the subject. Realize that the American media culture hates that you won and will look for every opportunity to make you look bad. Stay poised and focused, and do not commit unforced errors. One of the reasons we won big this year is we did not have to waste time explaining or defending good-hearted candidates who blew their own brains out with stupid gaffes. Let’s keep it that way.
— On immigration, show a willingness to consider a path toward decriminalizing illegals who have been here for years, only under the following circumstances: completely clean criminal record, payment of fines and back taxes and proven English proficiency. But that path does not progress one inch until we have a border that is provably secure for at least one year.
— Finally, amid layers of nefarious talk of “governing,” “working together” and “getting things done,” say the following— repeatedly: I was elected to change the direction of the country. I will work on moving America toward liberty, prosperity, security, energy independence and Constitutional government. From the White House to the Capitol, and from the Democratic party to my own, I will work with anyone who will embrace those goals and oppose anyone who will not.