When even Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of ESPN's FiveThirtyEight blog and ABC News Special Correspondent, thinks Republicans are favorites to win back control of the Senate, you know things are going in the right direction.
The Republican Party – America’s allegedly conservative party – has momentum on its side. Conservatives in 2013 kept focus on President Obama’s unfair, unworkable and unaffordable health care law while liberals tried to stifle debate, and the result has been a favorable electoral landscape few predicted a year ago.
But six months out from the November midterm elections, there is plenty of time for the forces of the status quo to arrest this conservative momentum.
The lessons of the 2012 election cycle are plain in the history books for all to see. When Republicans keep their heads down, worry about “not making ourselves the issue,” and stick to safe, silent stump speeches, the vociferous left has everything it needs to reframe the debate on the terms upon which it prospers.
To avoid this outcome, conservatives must stay on offense and keep our agenda before the American people. That means continuing to make the case that ObamaCare must be replaced with an alternative that lowers cost and increases choice in health care.
Recent polling suggest the law “is more likely to motivate opponents than supporters to vote — a critical element in midterm elections when turnout often is low.”
While health care will be an important issue in the 2014 election, it shouldn’t be the only conversation.
Conservatives must put forward an anti-cronyism, anti-corporate welfare agenda that uplifts all Americans, not just the elites. Such an agenda would resonate with Americans’ deep-seated frustration with Washington, which is a well-oiled machine for those powerful enough to hire an army of lobbyists to descend on lawmakers, staff and bureaucrats.
There are many obvious planks to a pro-America, anti-Washington platform that can be built over the next six months.
Most importantly, they should commit to the elimination of the Export-Import Bank which then-Senator Obama called a “fund for corporate welfare” in 2008. By standing up to the Chamber of Commerce, Boeing and a host of Wall Street interests that profit from the taxpayer-backed bank, the Republican Party can credibly tell the American people they are fighting to end corporate welfare.
Their anti-cronyism agenda should not stop there, though. They should make the case for breaking up the higher education cartels and empowering students and parents by embracing Senator Mike Lee’s (R-Utah) Higher Education Reform and College Opportunity Act.
They should ensure taxpayers are never again asked to bail out reckless mortgage lenders, which precipitated the 2008 financial crisis. They can do this by embracing the excellent work of Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and the House Financial Services Committee and pass the Protect Taxpayers and Homeowners Act.
One of the most egregious examples of Washington using its powers to prop up well connected interests is our nation’s tax code. They should ensure special interests no longer hijack the tax code for their own purposes, by allowing the corrupt so-called “tax extenders” to expire and then moving quickly to put forward a fair, pro-growth tax code. Wind-energy, NASCAR, and the horse racing industry have no business using our nation’s laws to give themselves a leg up on the rest of us.
An anti-cronyism, anti-corporate welfare agenda also complements the GOP’s focus on ObamaCare by ensuring the same health care insurers that brought us the law are not eligible for taxpayer bailouts.
Republicans have a rare window in Washington to shape the way Americans conceive of the next national campaign.
An anti-cronyism agenda will pay dividends in 2014 by finally forcing Democrats to defend the very corporate welfare they claim to despise. And by turning conventional wisdom on its head, the Republican Party will be well positioned not only to win in 2016, but to pursue the type of policy reforms the country so desperately needs.
An agenda that stays on offense by empowering Main Street against the special interests that run Washington from their perch on K Street is a minority position in the GOP today. But Mark Twain had it right over 100 years ago: “In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.”
America is dying for a political party that appeals to the patriotism in each of us.
Democrats want to claim this mantle, but it is their focus on centralized power that creates the environment for special interests to flourish.
The Republican Party should find the courage to fight for all Americans, not just those who today are politically powerful.
Michael A. Needham is the chief executive officer of Heritage Action for America.