When you have inflation at 2%, interest rates near 0%, but unemployment close to 8%, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the national debt isn’t a top priority of voters. As this new survey from McLaughlin & Associates shows, the “economy and jobs” leads the field with health care right behind.
Another way to look at these numbers is through the “cost of living” lens. Health care, education, and gas prices are the first or second choice of 76% of respondents under 40, many of whom are young parents or soon-to-be parents. The GOP might do well with an economic agenda geared toward that demographic.
Now the Republican National Committee is out with its big-think white paper on the party’s future. The study mentions education as one way of connecting with younger voters. And here are some broader points:
1. The Grand Old Party should be synonymous with the name “Growth and Opportunity Party.” … 4. The perception that the GOP does not care about people is doing great harm to the Party and its candidates on the federal level, especially in presidential years. It is a major deficiency that must be addressed. … 5. We need to do a better job connecting people to our policies. Our ideas can sound distant and removed from people’s lives. Instead of connecting with voters’ concerns, we too often sound like bookkeepers. … 6. The Republican Party must be the champion of those who seek to climb the economic ladder of life. Low-income Americans are hard-working people who want to become hard-working middle-income Americans. Middle-income Americans want to become upper-middle-income, and so on. We need to help everyone make it in America. … 7. We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.
Shorter: Numbers are important, but the party needs to tell compelling stories — like how education reform is about helping kids not smashing unions — built around a new agenda of improving education, increasing social mobility, lowering the cost of living, and fighting crony capitalism. A push for faster economic growth (and an entrepreneurial agenda) is a necessary element here, but not sufficient. A lot of room for conservative policy entrepreneurs.