by James A. Bacon
So, the Republicans have wrapped up their annual “Advance” — a retreat at the Omni Homestead resort in Bath County. And if reports of the two newspapers that covered the event are to be believed — one from the Washington Post and one from the Roanoke Times — GOP leaders have absolutely no clue how to become competitive statewide.
Attendees do agree that they got shellacked in the November election, and they share a vague sense that they need to increase their appeal in the suburbs. But their only hope at this point resides in the conviction that Democrats will over-reach with Trump Derangement Syndrome in Washington and enact California-style legislation in Richmond. If voters get buyer’s remorse, they might start voting for Republicans again.
But you can’t defeat something with nothing, and there is no indication in either news account that Republicans gave much thought to what they stood for, other than not being insane.
At the moment, the only only sign of vitality among grass roots Republicans is the wave of rural and exurban localities declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries. But large majorities of Americans (and Virginians) in urban/suburban localities support measures like requiring background checks for private and gun show sales, and creating a “red flag” law to remove guns from crazy people. If gun control is the debate Republicans want to have, they will lose in the state’s population centers. No, they won’t just lose. They will get stomped.
I have argued that the place to start is to rebrand the Republican Party (or if Republicans are a lost cause, the Libertarian Party, or if they’re hopeless, to start a third party) as the Party of Opportunity, with a win-win agenda of wealth creation for all, while the Democrats effectively brand themselves as the party of grievance and victimhood, with a win-lose agenda of wealth redistribution.
To become the Party of Opportunity, Republicans need to identify the issues that matter most to a significant majority of Virginians. These might include:
- Economic opportunity — more jobs, better jobs, a better business climate for entrepreneurs and corporate investors
- Address runaway healthcare costs
- Address runaway cost of college attendance
- Address problem of low-performing schools
- Hold the line on taxes, strengthen state/local government finances
These are just examples. Use polling data to identify the issues that resonate the most. Don’t identify too many issues because peoples’ eyes glaze over when they see a lengthy laundry list.
The next trick is to identify plausible policy solutions that reflect the Republican values of fiscal conservatism and a faith in market economies. Take health care, for example. While Democrats continue to think about nothing but expanding benefits for the poor, the average out-of-pocket cost of family medical coverage now exceeds $8,000 (not counting the nearly $20,000 for employers). That’s an issue with huge electoral appeal, if Republicans can frame it properly.
Now that Medicaid expansion is a done deal, campaigning on its repeal is a political loser. Create a positive message: We stand for boosting productivity, improving outcomes, and reducing costs for everyone. Then articulate plausible mechanisms for accomplishing those goals. Open up the health care marketplace for more competition between insurers and between providers. Create price transparency so consumers can find the best deals for discretionary procedures. Host health care summits that share best practices and recognize outstanding achievement. Keep the message upbeat, keep it positive.
Follow the same methodology for other high-profile issues. Target the source of the problem, identify plausible solutions, and frame a positive message. If Republicans can do that and also stake out the middle ground on the culture war issues while letting the Democrats be the party of crazy, the GOP can become the majority party again. If they can’t, maybe it’s time to start a serious third-party movement that can address the real problems of working-class and middle-class Virginians.There are currently no comments highlighted.