1) Return to your fiscal conservative roots. Adhere to your rhetoric about not crippling the next generation with debt by supporting policies that would actually balance budgets, as opposed to Ryan-esque chimera and other supply-side delusions.
You may recall how the economy fared in the 1990s after every Republican legislator voted against Clinton’s ’93 tax hike and asserted it would kill the economy. Did a Republican Congress that limited spending help satisfy bond traders, keeping interest rates low and powering growth? Sure. But the public associates that growth with Clinton. Your doomsday rhetoric about Clintonomics cost you credibility, and a decade of feeble growth following the Bush tax cuts didn’t restore it.
2) As true budget hawks, take the lead in two areas where the nation could save billions: military spending and prison reform. Want to win the votes of young people and minorities? Bingo. Young people have overwhelmingly opposed recent overseas conflicts, and in a time of fiscal austerity when college grads are moving back in with their parents, the fact that that we spend more than the next 10 highest spending nations combined should be sobering.
Prison reform could be two-fold. First, train offenders in prison in entrepreneurship. Pilot programs in this area have reduced recidivism by as much as 80% – and 60% recidivism rates drive corrections spending. Second, focus on sentencing reform so that we don’t continue locking up non-violent offenders for decades as part of misguided “three-strikes” and “truth-in-sentencing” laws. Since minorities are disproportionately affected by the prison-industrial complex, they would appreciate a focus on sentencing reform.
3) Stop opposing the DREAM Act. The writing is on the wall. These approximately 15 million folks aren’t going anywhere; they’re not self-deporting and government lacks the will and the money to deport them, other than criminals who are apprehended. These 15 million mostly consider themselves Americans. Almost all work hard and play by the rules. Quit appeasing your eroding base of old white people and get with the program.
4) Stop talking about gay people. As has been obvious from the generational divide in polling on the issue for the past decade that ship is sailing away from you, fast.
5) While we’re talking about people’s sex lives, strike the words “contraception” or “rape” from your vocabulary. I know many of you equate abortion with murder. But the political facts of life are these: just 20% of Americans oppose abortion in all cases. That number hasn’t moved in four decades. So call yourselves pro-life and appoint pro-life judges, but understand that if you don’t allow reasonable exceptions, you’ll always struggle with single women.
Sure, some single women are pro-life. But more are pro-life for themselves without wanting to see the option eliminated for others – which for many is the essence of the pro-choice position. Your policies and rhetoric don’t make that distinction.
6) Quit worrying about whether citizens can pass an English language exam and start making sure your candidates for high office could pass a middle school biology exam. See Akin, Todd; and Mourdock, Richard.
7) Abandon the far-right moochers/parasite/takers paradigm. Suggesting as party standard-bearer Mitt Romney in his infamous 47% remarks or as Bill O’Reilly does that Democrats just want “free stuff” is insulting – not just to Democrats and independents but to many in your own party’s base.
As a conservative Republican friend in the Missouri state Senate told me the other night night, “We’re a Mad Men party in a Modern Family world.” That pretty much sums it up.