Republican Party must stand for more than "No"
Published: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 17, 2013 19:03
This past weekend at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), conservatives gathered to assess their losses in the last election cycle.
One of the recurring pieces of advice given by the politicians and thinkers who spoke at the convention was to stop being the party defined by what it is against instead of what it is for.
Newt Gingrich called for Republicans to stop being the “Anti-Obama” party. Jeb Bush took it a step further and called for Republicans to stop being the “Anti-Everything” party. Gingrich’s comments were particularly poorly received, as being the Anti-Obama party has defined the GOP, the conservative movement and indeed even CPAC over the last four years.
The GOP rode into power in 2010 as being the anti-Obamacare party. It worked. Kind of. Once. They won the House of Representatives by a large margin, but fell short in the Senate, ultimately giving them very little power.
They expected that the same anti-Obama fervor would provide them another wave two years later, and we all know how that went. They lost seats in the House, the Senate and failed to win the presidency too. It isn’t enough to be just against something. There has to be something new and exciting about a party’s platform.
To quote Jeb Bush, “Way too many people believe Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker and the list goes on and on and on. Many voters are simply unwilling to choose our candidates even though they share our core beliefs because those voters feel unwanted, unloved and unwelcome in our party.”
What Republicans don’t seem to recognize is that they can be pro-immigrant without being for blanket amnesty. They can be pro-woman without being in favor of abortion, they can be pro-science without being for Cap and Trade. They can be pro-worker without being pro-union. And, for that matter, they can still be in opposition to Obama without being anti-Obama.
What Jeb Bush said was unpopular because to many it seemed to be a call for the Republican party to be more like the Democrats. But this isn’t at all what he was saying. Republicans need to stand for their own solutions to problems, and why their own solutions are good for everyone.
Too often Republicans simply talk about why the policies proposed by Democrats will be bad, not why their own solutions will be good.
The last event of CPAC is the reveal of the results of their presidential straw poll, showing the presidential preferences of the attendees of the conference. The straw poll results often skew libertarian, and it was no surprise that Rand Paul won. Also not a surprise, but disappointing nonetheless, is that Neurosurgeon Ben Carson finished ahead Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.). Carson is best known for being the guy who spoke out against Obama in front of Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this year. He has no other political experience other than criticizing Obama to his face.
That he finished ahead of successful and brilliant Jindal should worry Republicans who want to win, as it shows that the base of the party has no problem at all being defined purely by their opposition. But if they let that define them, they will forever remain the opposition party.
Keene is a junior majoring in political science, economics and public policy.