A few weeks ago, Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus released his vision to renew our party and propel us toward future victories. Priebus vowed to “take our message to every state and every community,” “build stronger relationships in minority communities, urban centers, and college towns,” and “work on welcoming in as we build a permanent, lasting presence across the country.”
Chairman Priebus is definitely on the right track. I believe, though, that it’s going to take more than that. It’s going to take an entirely new way of thinking about today’s Republican Party.
During President Reagan’s time as America’s premier Republican figure, he likened the party to a “three-legged stool” with legs being fiscal, social and national security conservatism. This approach helped lock in a decade of victories and helped an entire generation appreciate conservatism.
Well, those days are over. It’s time for a new stool.
Today’s three-legged Republican stool must center on unflinching fiscal discipline, manifested in a modernized government, and include three identifiable types of Republicans: social conservatives, moderates and libertarians.
Fiscal discipline is the element that binds all Republicans. It is also the most attractive feature of our party to outside observers. It is needed in nearly every corner of this country and it’s clear the other party isn’t going to provide it.
Social conservatives are vital to our party’s strength and numbers. These party activists provide strong moral foundations to much of what we do and help us to maintain regional support in vast areas of most states and throughout the country. In many ways, they are the backbone of modern conservatism.
Social moderates are our new silent majority. Outsiders may not know it but this is the case, I promise. I often meet with longtime party activists, middle class business people and even young, left-leaning independents and they all agree upon one general theme: government should balance its budget, responsibly manage its obligations and stay out of the private lives of individuals. This sentiment is also shared with many elected Republicans on local, state and federal levels. These Republicans will provide us the greatest leverage to reach out to swing voters who think our party has wandered too far off into the weeds lately.
Many Republicans won’t want to hear what I’m about to say but it’s the truth. Libertarianism is the future of the Republican Party. Today, most young people who enlist with us do so on a foundation of truly small government, libertarian principles. They are wary of establishments, have likely grown up with minority and gay friends, and, like moderates, could really care less what others do in their private lives. For example, many young Republicans – as with 78% of all 18- to 29-year-olds – are perfectly okay with marriage equality. They were wary of George W. Bush’s big government policies of and are even more wary of Obama’s Orwellian dictates. They are astute and can philosophically destroy their leftist peers in debate. We should gladly welcome them into our party, invite them to help us innovate our models and enlist them as our boots on the ground to make voter contacts in non-traditional areas.
These three factions – glued together with a foundation of fierce fiscal discipline – can and will make new GOP majorities for years. With this formula we continue to win with social conservatives in traditional areas and simultaneously support moderates and libertarians in more urban areas, the American Northeast, the Pacific coast and elsewhere. We must also shift our priorities away from legislation that attempts to guide personal morality and toward an agenda of balanced budgets and smart government reforms. Doing so will give us the credibility to manage the public’s money and ease the fears of voters who think we’re going to force our moral agenda into their lives.
Fortunately, for North Carolinians, we’ve got a perfect example of this model happening right now. For the first time in 140 years NC Republicans currently hold the governorship and veto-proof majorities in the state house and senate. Many of these elected officials are staunch conservatives, many are moderate and many have libertarian leanings on a host of issues. Despite this diversity, their entire 2013-14 agenda will be focused on jobs, economic growth and good government reforms. This will include tax modernization that will make us the most attractive business destination in the south, education reform that gives traditional public schools the flexibility of charters and spending reforms that are revenue neutral in the short term and lead to perpetual surpluses down the road. They’ve even taken to wearing rubber bracelets that read “jobs & the economy” to pull on and give them a snap on the wrist if they consider legislation addressing anything else. By mid 2014, our state’s will be the model to emulate nationwide.
So, Chairman Priebus, we can carry an existing message into new areas and hope the opposition doesn’t have an even more sophisticated get out the vote model in 2016. Or we can rethink who we are, open our doors, and welcome a new era of Republican victories.