Anyone who has been paying attention to American politics for the past decade can recognize that the United States faces some serious problems at the start of the 21st century. Will this be another American Century? Nobody knows, but the trends seem disappointing. Exacerbating this is a political culture that has turned its back on trying to find reasonable solutions to the problems we face.
Just a sample list of the critical problems we face is enough to make one squeamish. A ballooning debt, loss of traditional jobs, underperforming schools-compared to the rest of the industrialized world. The list goes on but one thing is really evident, we need to invest in America. Investing means we will need to spend some money and quite possibly raise some taxes to tackle these problems.
In all this, where is the Republican Party? The Tea Party has wrested control from the experienced and reasonable members and hijacked the Republican Party. That faction has ignored the progress the Republican Party has made over the past three decades in reducing taxes and regulation, and has instead doubled-down on the thirty year-old solutions of the Reagan Era to solve to problems of today.
This is not a winning strategy. Today most Americans are worried about four things; finding a good job, lowering the national debt, affordable health coverage and discovering a balance between sending their children to college and supporting their aging parents who now find themselves without a enough money to retire.
Yet we have incentivized extremism in the Republican Party, by demonstrating that it is not enough to be a conservative to win nomination, you must be seen as the most far-right person in the race. Grover Norquist used to say that he wanted a government small enough to drown in a bathtub. The Tea Party has inflated that to an absurd degree practically volunteering to water-board our government to death.
We used to be a party of ideas. We desperately need to be that party again. Most voters find they are not only turned off by the the solutions being offered by today’s GOP, in many respects they don’t even agree on the premise of our arguments.
We have seen the Republican brand tarnished over the past seven years. Young, hispanic and women voters, growing demographic groups that Republicans will need if they ever hope to regain their national party stature, have shunned the Republican Party as a party that doesn’t reflect their values. Tea Party members reflexively believe this is simply because these groups are lazy, radical beyond redemption or just looking for a handout. Young people have rightly seen that the current crop of Republicans as a party saying no to the future, a future that already looks bleak to this group. A recent poll by the national College Republicans found that the GOP is seen as a party that will congratulate you once you’ve made it, but will do nothing to help you get there. Add that to Tea Partiers in Congress playing fast and loose with raising the debt ceiling and flirting with default on our national debt, and we have not only alienated independent voters but longtime allies in the business community seem skeptical about supporting the GOP.
There can be conservative solutions to today’s problems. The great irony is that now when the restrained hand of a cautious conservative governing strategy is needed, fewer people are willing to give their trust a Republican Party dominated by reckless unaccountable faction more interested in grand-standing than governing. The sooner we stand up to the faction and start responsibly governing the better America will be.