The Obama campaign often campaigned against Mitt Romney as if he were some caricature libertarian. The most egregious example was the attack on the Romney-Ryan premium support plan as a voucher plan that would have eliminated Medicare rather than modernizing it. Indeed, Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget for 2013 would have still spent some $6.4 trillion on Medicare through 2022.
Conservatives surely must do a better job explaining their vision of what government should do rather than just what government shouldn’t do.
In that vein, AEI’s Henry Olson offers some succinct but powerful advice to conservatives and Republicans:
Conservatives can come back from this. Our values and principles are in line with the values and aspirations these voters share. But we must admit that behind a successful caricature is a kernel of truth.
The Republican Party was founded in opposition to slavery, but it was also founded in support of the idea that government can give average people a hand up to achieve the American Dream. The Homestead Act gave farmers settling the territories free federal land if they put it to good use — a subsidy. The Morrill Land Grant College Act gave states federal land to establish a university to study agricultural research — a subsidy for the tens of millions of farmers who dominated mid-19th century America.
Americans of all shades and sexes still want that vision. They don’t want a government that is “hands on” in their lives, regulating, taxing and commanding their every move.
When they need help, they don’t want handouts, and they don’t think others should get them either, whether titans of Wall Street or moms on welfare. And they don’t want government to be simply “hands off.”
How do conservatives and Republicans appeal to them? Endorse the DREAM Act. Replace the ritual invocation of “Judeo-Christian values” as a shorthand for “shared moral culture” with inclusive language that recognizes that Americans who do not worship a Western God (most Asians) or who pray to no God (a fifth of voters under 25, a tenth of all voters) are part of our moral culture, too.
Talk less about how much we will cut and more about what we will do with the programs we support. Don’t divide America into makers and takers.
Americans want what conservatives have always said they want to give them, a hand up. A conservative movement and Republican Party that recalls itself to the better angels of its nature will find an eager populace, and electoral success.