The Republican Party has a serious problem, and it’s not that the party isn’t conservative enough or that it’s too moderate. The problem is Americans are having a hard time understanding what we stand for and who we represent. Put plainly, as I touched on yesterday, it is an identity crisis.
This identity crisis is what recently almost cost John Boehner his Speakership. Those who voted against him – and those who planned to vote against him – did so because they too feel as though the GOP is being pushed in a direction which requires abandonment of their conservative principles. They went to Congress to defend these principles, not compromise them.
These congressmen are finding it harder and harder to continue down the road that Speaker Boehner placed us on after the 2010 elections. Our current journey began with a pledge to America of reducing government spending, but we almost immediately cut a debt ceiling deal that gave the President trillions more to spend and slashed the two areas of government the President and Harry Reid really want to cut: Defense and Medicare.
Continuing down this road, Republicans found themselves – at the end of last Congress – completely capitulating on the cuts the Leadership ineptly bargained for in the Debt Ceiling Deal. And to make matters worse, we gave the President a Fiscal Cliff Deal that represents $41 in tax revenue to $1 in spending cuts.
While many will argue that these deals were meant to ensure Republicans would not be seen as “mean and nasty,” they totally destroyed Republican credibility. And herein lies the problem: Boehner is more concerned with the media’s perception of the Party than the actual integrity of the Party’s philosophy.
Republicans like him are willing to be “Democrat-Lite” as long as they believe it will allow them to keep sitting at the table of power. However, this theory is entirely counterproductive in the advancement of conservative principles – something the GOP should have learned in the Bush years of “compassionate conservatism” when Bush and Cheney were no less vilified. Did they forget the pummeling we took in 2006 and 2008?
Republicans won big in 2010 because we ran on principle. We stood up for conservative ideas that the American people embraced. The mainstream media claimed there was nothing compassionate about Republicans elected in 2010; yet, the movement we saw in 2010 still produced a majority and electoral success.
In the following two years, the Establishment in Washington spoiled that political capital by forcing Members of Congress to avoid confrontation and principled battles in hopes of pleasing the media and winning over Independents. That strategy has failed miserably and will continue to fail. Sadly, the Republican Leadership is proving the old adage, “if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”
Let’s quit falling and start standing.
“Democrat-Lite” is not a winning formula. We need principled leadership to stand up for the type of pro-growth policies that created the two decades of economic expansion that began under Reagan. Lower spending, lower taxes, entrepreneurship, less regulation, free markets, and a strong dollar are the recipes for growth. These are the principles that Republicans must fight for if we intend to win the message war – and the American People.
This piece originally appeared at National Review.