If the Republican Party is serious about taking back the White House in 2016, they should take a page out of Governor Chris Christie’s playbook and spend more time outlining a positive agenda for the country.
Christie, the pragmatic Republican governor of New Jersey and 2016 GOP presidential hopeful cruised to a comfortable re-election victory in a deep blue state that President Obama carried by 17 points in 2012. He did it by focusing on the economy and jobs and laying out a positive agenda for his state. Meanwhile, Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli lost his re-election because he is a rigid ideologue that failed to offer a compelling vision for Virginia.
Unlike Christie, the national Republican Party spends less time talking about what they stand for and more time on what they are against. The party that once advocated for growth, opportunity, and expansion has suddenly become the party that only cares about cutting, defunding, and repealing things. The party that once fought for a limited but active federal government has now become a party that disdains government and seeks to reduce it to just the perfect size for Grover Norquist to drown it in his bathtub.
This is no longer the party of Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan. Roosevelt created the Departments of Commerce and Labor. Eisenhower established the Interstate Highway System. Reagan raised taxes in 1982, 1983, and 1986. These men will be considered RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) in today’s GOP.
The Republican Party has now been taken over by a group of ideologues in the House of Representatives who seem disinterested in governing. They value ideological purity over pragmatic governance. Their myopic vision of trying to stave off a primary challenger has prevented them from learning the give and take of governing.
On health care, for example, they have confined themselves to catchy phrases ("defund Obamacare," "restore fairness to the American people") and failed to offer an alternative.
Yes, the Obamacare roll-out was a disaster. But what is the GOP's alternative?
The initial Republican talking point was "repeal and replace." The word "replace" has mysteriously been neglected. The "defund" effort led by Sen. Ted Cruz and company was a foolish endeavor that was detached from reality. As a consequence, the Republican Party’s favorability post-government shutdown has plunged to 28%, an all-time low.
The alternative to the structural failures in Obamacare is not to insist on a hopeless strategy to defund the law. It is to propose and coalesce around a viable, practical alternative that costs less, expands coverage to the uninsured, and improves quality of care without all the taxes, mandates, penalties, and regulations in Obamacare.
Until then, Congressional Republicans should lighten up, become solution-oriented like Christie and other Republican governors, and get back to being the party that offers a positive and optimistic vision for America.