In any Presidential election, the Republican candidate starts off with two invariable liabilities.
The first liability is negative coverage from the mainstream media, a liability GOP candidates should always be prepared for. Despite all the complaints about mainstream media bias from the right, such bias never seems to go away—because it really can’t go away. Media bias is a constant based on who the journalism industry attracts—if conservatives are reluctant to go into journalism for whatever reason, progressives will naturally dominate the field, and bring their worldview into American newsrooms and studios.
Another liability for Republican Presidential candidates stems from the modern perception of the GOP’s conservative philosophy. The average, ideologically unaligned voter will naturally be suspicious of a Republican Presidential candidate promoted as a conservative: if conservatism means skepticism towards the federal government, then why would someone want to vote for a candidate to run a system that candidate is wary of?
While the liability of media bias cannot be resolved anytime soon, future Republican Presidential candidates can find a way around the liability of preconceived notions. In short, GOP candidates must always make clear that they are not, in fact, against government per se.
The Republican Party long ago lost its credibility regarding its putative opposition to big government. However, Republican Presidential candidates can still credibly oppose bad government. If future GOP White House contenders provide details about what they plan to cut from the federal budget, they will begin the process of restoring the GOP’s image as a fiscally responsible entity.
It’s not enough to prattle on about tax cuts. At the end of the day, what good is a tax cut if it’s not paired with clear cuts in federal spending? Since when have tax cuts, in and of themselves, brought fiscal responsibility to Washington?
Tax cuts are supposedly intended to “starve the beast,” but as we found in the 2000s, the beast kept right on eating. Having a tax cut without a spending cut is similar to having a car with two gas pedals and no brakes…a recipe for disaster.
The Tea Party movement is supposed to be about fiscal responsibility in Washington, right? If that’s indeed the case, then the GOP cannot capture the Tea Party spirit in toto unless the party makes clear its commitment to responsible government—which includes a clear commitment to cutting federal spending.
Are there political risks involved in proposing actual cuts in the federal budget—the effective elimination of politically popular subsidies, the real reduction in the amount of money that goes to certain entitlements? Sure…but the GOP must take those risks, or else the party will inevitably collapse.
The GOP will not and cannot last long as the “tax cut-and-spend” party. The “tax cut-and-spend” approach contributed to the party’s loss of face (and power) in the late-2000s. The only way the GOP can return to full health is by reestablishing itself as an entity that believes in government—that is to say, streamlined, fiscally sound government, free of redundancy and recklessness.
There are still many Americans who consider themselves alienated from the GOP. They have too many disagreements with Democrats to ever consider themselves members of the party of Pelosi. Yet these voters, these parents, these workers, these citizens just want the GOP to make sense again.
They want the Republican Party to stand for something—first and foremost, legitimate fiscal responsibility. They have other grievances—the apparent lack of a foreign policy based on achievable goals as opposed to abstract catchphrases, the failure to embrace a federalist approach to hot-button social issues, the fixation upon glorifying rural Americans to the exclusion of urban Americans—but their main compliant is the GOP’s lack of commitment to fiscal propriety.
They want the party to watch every dollar, and be a true steward of the people’s money. They want the party not just to say no to Democratic proposals, but to say yes to new concepts that will bring fiscal logic back to Washington. They want the party to realize that a growing deficit is but a quicksand pit. They want the party’s leaders to report for duty in the war against government waste, fraud and abuse, instead of just being phony soldiers.
These men and women want fiscal fairness—which means cutting taxes and cutting spending, not one without the other.
Why can’t the GOP just give the people what they want?