Nov 12 2006

Where Do Republicans Go From Here?

Tuesday was a bad night for Republicans in Washington. However, if we learn from our mistakes the fortunes of the Republican Party and the nation can quickly improve. Rather than Democrats winning, Republicans lost. Voters didn’t pick a Democratic over Republican agenda. On many fronts, Republicans confused voters about what we stand for. Voters were not happy with the way we conducted ourselves when it comes to spending their hard-earned tax dollars or efforts to ensure we have a successful outcome in the War on Terror. They made it clear we’ve spent too much time talking about problems and not enough solving them. If there’s one lesson to be learned from Tuesday night it is Republicans win when we act like Republicans. We get into trouble when we don’t. Some of our successes such as cutting taxes, appointing conservative Supreme Court and federal court judges, banning partial birth abortion, and class-action and bankruptcy reform were washed away by corruption scandals and fiscally irresponsible behavior. Iraq did play a part. However, we must remember Senator Joe Lieberman was elected as an Independent in a very blue state despite his support for the war. Connecticut voters may have disagreed with his war position but they believe he took a principled stand putting the best interests of the country above political party. Conversely, many Americans believe the Republican majority chose self-interest over the common good. Here’s a roadmap for Republicans to reconnect with voters: * Budget reform and tax simplification are top priorities. We should push for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution to rein in Congress’ insatiable spending appetite. We should also seek a two year budget cycle allowing for more spending oversight. * Rein in the runaway practice of congressional earmarks which exploded on our watch. Alaska’s Bridge to Nowhere -- a $250 million bridge to benefit 50 people -- is a classic example of how we’ve lost our way. Also, reforming earmarking and debating all budget items in public will deny corrupt lobbyists and politicians the dark corners in which they operate. * Because of President Bush’s tax cuts for families and small business owners, the jobless rate is at a five-year low and 6.8 million new jobs have been added since August of 2003. Our national economy is humming. We must push congressional Democrats to ensure the tax cuts are extended and the benefits of tax relief continue in coming years. * We need to return to Social Security reform. President Bush deserves credit for taking on this issue which must be solved for future generations of Americans. We should put all options on the table including innovation to solve Social Security’s looming bankruptcy. Hopefully, Democrats in the majority will feel the need to be constructive and say more than “NO” to solutions which lead to Social Security solvency. * Solve our immigration problems. Legislation should include better border security, employment verification requirements, punishment for those in the country illegally and a guest worker program. Both amnesty and the idea we are going to deport 12 million people should be rejected as unworkable, impractical solutions. * We must become energy independent. Our reliance on Middle East oil poses a threat to our economy and creates national security concerns as well. Global climate change is real and nuclear energy, hydrogen, and other alternative sources of energy provide us an opportunity to address both national security and environmental concerns. * The War in Iraq is front and center in our efforts to win the global War on Terror. We need to make a World War II commitment to winning in Iraq and ensure the American people fully understand what is on the line should we fail. Unfortunately, we have treated Iraq more as a police action than the central battlefront. * We need more troops on the ground in Iraq to improve the security situation, enlist sympathetic nations in the region to take ownership of the outcome, and push the Iraqi leadership to move quickly to take over control of the country. Failure in Iraq empowers Iran and will lead to regional chaos. * We need another 50,000 troops in the Army and Marine Corps and we must provide them with better benefits. Our soldiers are promoting freedom throughout the world and serving admirably in hot spots like Afghanistan and Iraq. We also have security concerns about dangerous situations in North Korea and Iran. We need more troops in uniform to help relieve pressure on our soldiers being sent overseas on deployment with increasing frequency and for longer periods of time. During difficult times the country deserves bold leadership on tough issues. The Republican Party, if it adjusts and chooses, is capable of providing that leadership. We will be fine in future elections if we return to these core principles. NOTE: This article appeared in South Carolina newspapers beginning Sunday, November 12.