By John F. Di Leo -
Time once again for a list of New Year’s Resolutions for the Republican Party. The party leaders haven’t taken my advice these past few years, so there’s no reason to believe they shall this year, but who knows? Perhaps if things get too dire, they’ll start looking to bloggers for solutions to the problems that their top consultants haven’t been able to solve. One can but hope.
1. Learn the Meaning of Compromise
This isn’t entirely fair, but it’s still a good place to begin. Republicans are notorious for conceding defeat before negotiations begin.
Let’s say for example that the Republicans know that a 30% tax rate cut would be the best thing to spur the economy, create jobs, and restore upward mobility to all demographics. But the Democrats are still clamoring for a 30% tax increase because they’ve drunk so much Keynesian kool-aid that their veins run purple with the stuff.
Now, a real compromise would be to meet halfway and do nothing at all. We want a 30% cut; they want a 30% increase, settle on No Change. That’s compromise. That’s dealmaking. If you can do better, great, but if you can’t, at least it’s a legitimate deal, properly named.
What the Republican Party usually does, however, is second-guess itself in the public arena. “We should cut taxes 30%. We NEED to cut taxes 30%. We ought to cut taxes 30%. But darn it, the Democrats hold one of the houses, or the executive mansion, or both. So we won’t be able to do it. Maybe we can just cut them 20%, that would be okay… but no, probably can’t get that through either… maybe we can get 10%... if we can get a 10% cut, at least it would be something…. Well, here we are, let’s start negotiating. We’ll ask for a 10% cut and see how that goes.”
The Democrats walk in demanding a 30% increase, to the GOP’s demand for a 10% cut. We wind up with a 10% increase at the end of the deal. Not because the Democrats are so gosh-darned good at it, but because the GOP beat itself up and destroyed its own position before the opposing forces even walked into the room.
The GOP needs to learn that compromise is insisting on the very best possible position from the onset, and not budging until absolutely necessary. Wanting to look reasonable and moderate in the public eye only does two things: it disables the negotiation and ensures an unfavorable result.
If the GOP believes its economic vision is right – and yes, it is! – then the GOP must learn to be firm on its strongest positions, as long as possible. Compromise is meeting halfway from our strongest position, not meeting halfway in a second negotiation, after we’ve already given up two-thirds of our positions in a counterproductive public “negotiation” with ourselves!
2. Reinforce Republicans, While Educating Everyone Else
Too often, Republicans seem to say what they stand for without saying why. Candidates will attack “tax hikes on the rich” as being wrong, but without explaining how higher taxes hurt the economy in general, destroy jobs, and crush the poor. Without such an explanation, the majority of people just assume that the Democrats are right, that Republicans are indeed just “protecting their own.”
Now, Republican candidates will claim that they DO do this… that they do explain their philosophy as well as stating their positions… but empirically speaking, if they have, they either haven’t done it enough or they haven’t done it well.
The Left attacks the Right as being the elitist defenders of the rich exploiters. It’s their only significant mantra, and they harp on versions of it every hour of every day, election year or not.
The Right has to learn to do the same thing: to attack the Left, through constant education, day in and day out, election year or not. Every sentence that includes the words “We must cut tax rates” must also include the words “so that there can be more jobs for people.” Every paragraph that includes the words “The government must free businesses from unconstitutional overregulation” must also include the words “so that they can grow and hire people; so they can give raises and bonuses and promotions to their employees. Every dollar spent complying with unnecessary government red tape is another dollar that the company cannot pay to their employees or vendors or retirees.”
This may go without saying to the engaged conservative, but it needs to be stated, and reinforced, when speaking to the rest of the population.
There are millions in this country who don’t pay attention until the week before an election. The GOP must reach out to them constantly, in every way possible, if we want to focus this nation back in the direction the Founding Fathers intended.
3. Start Campaigning on Sustainability
The Left has been abusing a certain word now for decades: “sustainability.” They claim that our current world is not sustainable, and they use this tenuous claim on fact – which does have some truth to it – to justify outrageous and unjustifiable socialist takeovers in the cause of environmentalist extremism.
They say that unlimited disposal in landfills is unsustainable… that ever-growing dependence on non-renewable resources is unsustainable… that ever-increasing global temperatures caused by human action is unsustainable. And once you accept their premise, their proposed solutions become worthy of contemplation in the eyes of an uneducated and gullible public. The Right is only slowly learning how to demonstrate the flaws – and even utterly complete error - in many of these premises.
But there is a nugget of value to utilize here. Even though the Left is wrong – utterly wrong – on their diagnosis and their proposed solutions for environmental ills, they are right in the way that that they fight the battle. Explain the premise, stress the point that it is unsustainable, and campaign for a correction to the problem.
Republicans too often take a premise for granted, then take its unsustainability for granted, and just go straight to demanding a correction, skipping two key steps. Then Republican candidates don’t understand when half the public doesn’t agree or understand our positions that businesses mustn’t be overtaxed, that an ever-shrinking private sector cannot support an ever-growing public sector, that ever-growing government debt MUST eventually result in an ever-shrinking standard of living for all, not just for the rich, not just for the middle class, but for all.
It is liberal policies that are unsustainable, and the Right must use that word – a rather complex concept all concisely packed into a single word, one that the public already understands and appreciates – to explain the fatal flaws of every modern Democrat program and approach.
Democrat policies are unsustainable. Period.
All of which leads us to number four:
4. The Republican Party Must Reach Out to Government Employees
This may sound like heresy to some Republicans, but the pedigree of this position goes back 225 years, and was in fact a prime mover in the efforts of General Washington and Colonel Hamilton in organizing the Constitutional Convention and thereby saving the country.
In the 1780s, even though Washington and Hamilton had won the war and were happily back in the private sector, retired military men, happy at their homes and businesses in Virginia and New York, the one key unresolved issue of our unpaid troops grated on them, and they refused to rest permanently until they had done everything they possibly could to help the government pay its debts to the troops, and to the vendors who had supplied them during the long and painful War of Independence, most of whom were STILL unpaid at that late date, more than five years after the victory at Yorktown!
Patriots don’t believe in over-employment in government, of course; we advocate as small a government as can properly do its job, no larger. But that being said, all devotees of the Founding generation must agree that a public office is a public trust on both sides: the government employee serves his country as the Constitution directs, and the citizen pays the taxes necessary to pay his salary and benefits.
Today, while there are certainly some government employees who are malicious, particularly the many czars working without Constitutional approval in the executive branch, the vast majority of government employees – federal, state, and local alike – are decent people who want to do a good job for their nation. They’re usually non-ideological bureaucrats who love their country and took their job for the hours, the benefits, the feeling of service, the hope to help their fellow Americans, however misguided the end result of their bureaucracy may turn out to be.
The Democrats have positioned themselves as the sole advocates for the government employee. Democrats have given them the right to unionize, hugely unrealistic pension packages, an ability to be practically fireproof.
Republicans, on the contrary, always talk about the destructive nature of the bureaucracy, the malicious acts of the EPA and Department of Energy that alone kill hundreds of thousands of jobs, the outrageous discrepancy between the wages and benefits of the average public sector job and those of the average private sector job.
After all this, can we blame government employees for voting Democrat?
The Republican Party needs to recognize both the philosophical reality that the majority of government employees are decent, hardworking people who mean well, and the practical, demographic reality that, as the single largest body of workers in the country, the Republican Party simply cannot afford to write off such a huge voting block. The GOP has practically handed the nation’s largest group of organized voters, donors, and volunteers to the Democratic Party. They have tons of vacation days to take, so they take them in the days leading up to an election.
No wonder the GOP keeps losing elections that it ought to win.
The Republican Party must learn a lesson from the Scott Walker governorship in Wisconsin. Governor Walker didn’t demonize teachers or other government workers; he rightly praises the good ones! He congratulates the highway workers who do dangerous road repairs in all weather so we have safer roads to drive on… the teachers who must contend with an anti-education popular culture and the lack of support from many parents… the diligent local city and county workers, state troopers, police and firemen who work so hard at an often thankless and dangerous job, but who keep our sewers and bridges and roads and communities safe.
Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans won their 2010 election, and also the many recalls since, by explaining to these good employees that the Democrat promises are hollow, that a promised pension is no good if the city, district, county or state must declare bankruptcy and fails to deliver. Countless teachers, policemen and firemen, and other municipal employees all over Wisconsin understood perfectly, so they voted for lesser promises that they could count on, rather than more generous promises that would sink the economy and eventually become undeliverable anyway.
We have seen cities declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy in recent years, and there are whole states like Illinois and California that are essentially bankrupt already without having formally declared it – insolvent pension plans, wrecked credit ratings, an inability to pay government vendors – these problems can no longer be swept under the rug by a corrupt Democratic Party and their complicit mainstream media. It’s an undeniable nationwide problem, and the Republican Party has a moral obligation to take the high road and explain it.
Democrat promises to government workers are unsustainable, and are bad not only for the rest of us, but for the government employees themselves, if we just look at the long term.
The Republican Party must learn from Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans, as well from President Washington and Secretary Hamilton’s courage two centuries ago. We have an obligation to design a system in which government employees are fairly compensated – not with the overpromise and underdelivery of Democrats, but the fair promise and certain delivery that a growth economy can provide.
The only way – yes, the ONLY way - to sustain that is for government to shrink in size relative to the private sector, because there is NO other way for government to be able to afford to pay its employees. You simply cannot tax a shrinking source enough, indefinitely.
With that in mind, the only government employees who should rationally be expected to vote Democrat in the future should be the AFSME Union stewards and the Czars’ staffs in Washington. The rest of the government employees from coast to coast MUST be shown that it’s Republicans who care about their long-term best interest, not Democrats.
5. Understand the Values and Dangers of Sunset Provisions
Finally, the Republican Party needs to learn one lesson from the “fiscal cliff” debacle. The main reason the nation came down to this nightmarish problem is that so many tax reductions were allowed to have a fixed end point, while so many spending measures were designed to be open-ended.
This should have taught the GOP one lesson for all time: never allow a tax rate cut to be temporary. Tax and spending increases should be temporary, if possible, but tax and spending cuts should always be permanent.
Over the course of a decade, various cuts in income tax rates, estate tax rates, capital gains and dividends tax rates, and even the Social Security tax rate were made temporary – two years here, five years there, one year here – until finally we came to December 31, 2012 A.D, and they all were set to expire… at exactly the same time that a basket of new taxes and fees, such as the dozens embedded in Obamacare, are set to commence.
We should have been able to spend the entire year arguing about Obamacare, fighting over ways to reduce its impact, reduce its cost, defund it, if we couldn’t repeal it outright. But we couldn’t, because of the unforced errors of a stack of tax cuts set to expire, which, in toto, appeared scarier than the dangers of looming Obamacare.
The GOP side of the aisle shouldn’t have been distracted by the end of these tax cuts at all; there was no reason for it. The GOP was fatally weakened in its efforts to fight Obamacare because of having refought the battle over the so-called “Bush Tax Cuts” again and again and again over the past ten years.
Never again. Never again a temporary tax cut. Businesses and individuals alike need the certainty of future tax rates, and politicians need to be able to concentrate on fighting the battles of the day without the distraction of re-fighting the battles of the past.
Well, those are my five recommended resolutions for the Republican Party for 2013. I don’t know if the GOP will take them, or if its leadership is even interested in reading the blogs of its membership anymore. But at least I can say that I’ve tried.
…which may be more than can be said of many in party leadership, as we look back on the electoral disasters of 2012.
Copyright 2012 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade lecturer. Having served as County Chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party in the mid-1990s, he has now been a recovering politician for over fifteen years.
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