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OPINION

GOP Needs a Refresher Course on Voters’ Concerns

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

Kids are headed back to school, and the first GOP Presidential debate is this week. As I look at media coverage of the debate, I can’t help but feel that both our candidates and media pundits need to head back to a classroom for a refresher course on the issues that concern voters. A cursory scan of the day’s headlines show a lot of ink and air time dedicated to who’s in, who’s out and who’s not coming. Who cares? When I ran for the Senate in 2022, I was able to attract disillusioned Republican voters back to our camp by talking about the issues Washingtonians cared about most. Now, we need a substantive debate that delves into the issues most on Americans’ minds.

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What are these issues? A national survey conducted by Rescuing the American Dream, a new public policy organization I launched in April, found that 70% of voters believe our country is headed in the wrong direction. After the government, voters identified the economy, crime and social concerns as the top three contributors to their dim view of our national condition. It’s time to sidestep the theater and get serious about solving our very real problems.

Central to the economic discussion is our energy policy and runaway government spending. 47% of voters say they need the costs of everyday essentials, primarily gas and groceries, lowered. Energy is a primary input to almost all goods and services - raise the cost of an input and you raise the cost of the product. We must increase our energy supply to lower costs for consumers, and there are numerous solutions, like permitting reform, being discussed that would have a huge impact on our energy sector. There should be a vigorous debate on how each candidate intends to accomplish this. Government spending isn’t “free” - it comes with a hidden tax called inflation. How will candidates get members of the House and Senate to come to agreement on what spending needs to be cut?

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Selective enforcement of US laws and policies is leading to an accelerated erosion of law and order. The flouting of our sovereignty through unenforced immigration laws is an open invitation to drug and human traffickers. The fruit of these policies is an unprecedented fentanyl epidemic that has spread from our cities into our small towns and communities, leaving unimaginable human tragedy in its wake. How will the candidates solve this problem?  Another side effect of condoning illegal activity is the reality that we often put our men and women of law enforcement in an impossible position. Across the country, we see runaway DAs refusing to enforce laws already on the books, creating a system of catch-and-release that wastes resources and demoralizes law enforcement. As a result, fewer and fewer are willing to put their lives on the line for a system that neither values nor supports the hard work that they do. How are candidates going to address this problem, before there’s no one on the other end to take the 911 call?

The pandemic put a spotlight on our failing education system. Virtual schooling gave parents an up close view of how and what their children were being taught; and when they tried to voice concerns it became clear that parental involvement is neither valued or wanted. The result is plummeting test scores and an entire generation that has been psychologically and academically harmed. Are candidates willing to stand up to the powerful special interests within the education establishment and advocate for children trapped in a failing system? How will candidates lead a movement toward a free-market approach to our schools that allows parents to pick the educational program that best fits their child, and forces underperforming schools to either reform or close? In the past year, the average math score for 13 year olds fell 9 points while reading scores for the same age group fell 4 points. Despite this, the education system has allowed itself to be distracted from its primary purpose of teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, with some schools even going so far as to allow biological males to take away privacy and opportunity from girls. How are the candidates going to promote life and equal opportunity for women from conception to the grave? There shouldn’t be men in women’s locker rooms or on their sports teams- period. This used to be common sense, and it needs to be common sense again!

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On Wednesday, when this new class of candidates takes to the stage, we should hear about solutions to these issues touching all Americans. We don’t need to hear more name calling - we need to see adults on the stage discussing adult issues. This is conservatives’ opportunity to remind Americans that we are the party of opportunity and the American Dream.

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