Yesterday, I pointed out that there are two large structural problems for conservatives and Republicans at this point in time. Those are multi-decade problems which require multi-decade solutions. In the meantime, here are some ideas for the next few years that conservatives should debate.
First, conservatives need to explain their ideas. We have some interesting policy proposals (including this one about health care), but many people (even many conservatives) don’t know what they are, and unfortunately, Mitt Romney did not use Paul Ryan to his fullest and let him explain in the way he knows how: five-minute videos, lots of charts. Get people out there, not just in election season and not just to a few people in a few swing states.
Next up, let’s talk spending cuts. Conservatives have been loathe to cut the defense budget, but Tom Coburn has broached the topic. Danielle Pletka disagrees, but honestly, I’m going with Coburn: of course defense budget cuts can’t solve the entire deficit problem, but we’re at a point where we need across-the-board cuts in entitlement programs, welfare spending, and even defense.
To fix the deficit, we may see tax increases. John Hinderaker argues for letting all Bush-era tax rates expire. I’m intellectually inclined to support Grover Norquist and oppose any tax increase anywhere (plus I agree with his point that this needs to be done in the public instead of behind closed doors), but a “balanced approach” which is spending cut-heavy might not be a bad idea. My main opposition is that Republicans will likely get snookered: “I will gladly pay you on Tuesday for a cheeseburger today.” Republicans have regularly taken that offer with respect to things like amnesty, taxes+spending, and increases in the debt ceiling; unfortunately, when Tuesday rolls around, the payment is nowhere to be found. In other words, any “balanced approach” must have immediate, meaningful spending cuts (and not just slow reductions in the rate of growth). Taking us back to 1998 levels of spending would be nice; at this point, even 2006 levels would at least reduce the growth in the deficit. Raising taxes without serious spending cuts, however, is a fool’s game, and Republicans should fight that tooth and nail. And they certainly shouldn’t go with the President’s silly idea of a “balanced approach.”
I also think that Republicans should abandon big business. Big business is at least as supportive of Democrats as Republicans (after all, they want big government so they can take out the opposition; most “progressive” regulations were written by the big businesses in part because they could stifle competition) We saw Mitt Romney do this somewhat during the campaign, but let’s get Republicans to toe the conservative line on corporate welfare: get rid of it. Make that part of an actual balanced approach.
On immigration, Republican politicians seem to want to cave. Mark Krikorian is making the best of it, but expect major infighting. Unfortunately, given John Boehner’s proclivities, I don’t know if another grassroots riot would actually stop this, given that a Democrat would get credit (and thus Democrats in the House would likely vote for such a bill).
Next up, social issues. I don’t agree with the idea of moderating on abortion (given that the average American agrees with the average Republican politician on abortion), but it’s a dead issue. I’d love to see 5 Supreme Court justices overturn Roe v. Wade and send the issue back to individual states to make their own policies and get this entirely out of the federal government’s purview, but that won’t happen. Actually, I’d say that the Republican policy is probably a good one given current constraints: oppose partial birth abortion, try to limit 3rd trimester abortion, support parental consent laws, and outlaw federal funding on abortion. Also, considering that social issues motivate a very large bloc of Republican voters, a major about-face could have catastrophic electoral consequences: Republicans could easily turn off a big section of their base while simultaneously not gaining anything with non-affiliated types.
One area where Republicans might make headway is decriminalization of certain drugs. This could help Republicans with younger and libertarian-leaning voters, who might have cost Republicans several close races. Simply making that shift without a longer-term strategy of informing said voters on conservative beliefs and ideas won’t win much, but it could be effective as a way of opening people up to a conservative message. Do note that this is probably something that I’d still personally oppose, and I’m rather ambivalent about whether it would actually work.
Another issue that might help is pushing back against onerous and outdated copyright laws, something the RSC sounds like it’s starting to do (or at least tried to do until that report got spiked). This is a good example of where conservatives, libertarians, and relatively apolitical younger people can find common ground, and where Democrats are the party of big business (the RIAA and MPAA). But it doesn’t help to make this shift if the types of people who might gain more respect for the Republican brand don’t know about it.
Finally, something that conservatives should agitate about and fight to repeal racial and class preferences. Racial and class preferences are a wonderful mechanism for getting large groups of people to vote for Democrats. Getting referenda to prevent these would be a long-term boon for conservatives. There was an unfortunate setback in this fight the other day, but perhaps the Supreme Court could see through the silliness of that ruling. Of course, I thought the same about Obamacare and look where it got us…
Oh, and one last thing: no more Bushes.