How can Republicans, armed with a slim majority in the House, help Americans, burnish their brand and pave the way for bigger victories in 2024?
Should they spend precious months investigating alleged Biden family corruption, or address the issues voters care most about?
Republicans are frustrated that their party failed to achieve the red wave that so many predicted and that President Biden’s disastrous policies seemed guaranteed to deliver. They are alarmed that GOP officials have been less proficient than Democrats at exploiting early voting and ballot harvesting in many states.
And they are exasperated that Republican candidates failed to craft a winning message to midterm voters when the agenda appears crystal clear.
Months ago, at a right-leaning conference, GOP legislators spoke off the record about the desire of party leaders to make the midterm elections a referendum on President Biden. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and others did not want to run on a specific agenda, they said, because laying out GOP priorities might lose some independent voters.
Responding to reporters asking about the GOP agenda earlier this year, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) answered: “I’ll let you know when we take it back.”
Many of us were astonished. People might want to vote against a party or against a rival candidate like Biden but surely most also want to vote for something. Their tactic seemed foolish, especially when an obvious to-do list easily emerged from the mishaps of Biden’s two years in office. Here it is — the agenda that might have attracted voters in 2022 and could again in 2024:
- Energy independence;
- Secure borders;
- Safe streets;
- School choice;
- Limited government.
That seems obvious, right? Those are popular mainstays of Republican platforms and candidates nationwide. They are also notions that appeal to most independent voters, who are critical to winning elections.
A poll conducted last spring for the American Petroleum Institute by Morning Consult showed overwhelming support from voters across the board for producing domestic oil and gas resources. Some “84 percent agree that producing natural gas and oil here in the U.S. helps make our country and allies more secure against actions by other countries such as Russia (Democrats 83%; Independents 78%; Republicans 88%).” Another “85 percent believe that producing natural gas and oil here in the U.S. could help lower energy costs for American consumers and small businesses (Democrats 81%; Independents 80%; Republicans 90%).”
That was before gas at the pump soared to $5 per gallon and the cost of heating our homes went through the roof. Pressure to bring down energy costs will only increase.
“Secure borders” used to be the aim of both Democratic and Republican legislators, but no more. Some Democratic leaders do not even pretend to want to stop the unprecedented flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. That doesn’t mean voters are on board. An August NPR/Ipsos poll showed a majority of Americans describing the influx of undocumented persons as an “invasion,” including 46 percent of independent voters.
Overall, support for illegal immigration has cratered, including enthusiasm for granting so-called “Dreamers” a pathway to citizenship, That program, once widely popular, is now approved by a bare majority of Americans. Even building the wall endorsed by former President Trump has grown in popularity, with almost half the country now supporting the idea.
Elsewhere, who doesn’t want safe streets? Well, mainly Democratic officials who seem more concerned with the rights of criminals than the safety of our citizens. Once again, the GOP owns this issue, which prompted midterm wins in azure-blue New York among voters disgusted with wanton violent crime. Pew Research reported on Halloween: “Around six-in-ten registered voters (61%) say violent crime is very important when making their decision about who to vote for in this year’s congressional elections.”
Numerous polls show voters trust Republicans over Democrats to address crime. No wonder. In blue cities like New York, laws now allow criminals to be set free within hours of being arrested for even violent crimes; at the same time, retail theft is soaring, causing businesses to barricade their goods behind plastic shields. How can anyone think that is right?
Republicans also have an opportunity to take a stand on school choice, a popular issue that helped Governor Glenn Youngkin win his surprise victory in Virginia in 2021. After the teacher unions pressed to lock down schools during COVID-19, causing widespread learning losses and social development problems, parents are increasingly dissatisfied with our public schools.
A poll of 2,000 registered voters conducted by RealClearOpinion Research last summer showed a remarkable 72 percent in favor of school choice, with support high among all political persuasions. In the midterms, school choice was such a powerful issue that even some Democrats signed on. In Pennsylvania, Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro won his race to become governor after voicing his support for school choice, despite criticism from the usual backers of the status quo. This is the moment for a full-court press on education freedom.
Lastly, as the federal debt grows to $31 trillion and with the Biden White House continuing its reckless spending, Americans will look to the GOP to rein in outlays and the corresponding increase in government power. Inflation is the canary in the coal mine, warning of out-of-control spending. Republicans must slam on the brakes and stop passing bills that increase our borrowings. This takes fortitude, but, as interest on the federal debt jumps nearly 50 percent this year and becomes one of the single biggest items in the federal budget – the equivalent of Medicaid spending, for instance – voters will reward their efforts.
Stating goals is no substitute for action; the GOP must also deliver on these ambitions. Controlling only one chamber of Congress, their power is limited. But they need to pass laws, send them to the Senate and embarrass Democrats who deny the will of voters. They need to show voters what they stand for.
Published on The Hill