As Congress reconstitutes itself and Republicans take up the reigns in both houses it is important that they identify their top priority for the next two years and move swiftly to secure it. That top priority should be political victory in 2016. No other conservative issue can advance if a Republican doesn’t win the White House and a whole bunch of Republican senators don’t retain their Senate seats. Republicans are at a significant disadvantage going into this election cycle because there are a disproportionate number of Republican senators up for re-election as a result of the 2010 wave election. Unlike 2010, this will be a presidential election cycle where Democrats typically do a better job of turning out their voters. If we’re to “govern” in any meaningful way our window will arrive in 2016 following a resounding election of a Republican Senate and a Republican White House.
If the Republican Congress is to leverage their position into a 2016 victory and avoid getting painted as “the problem” by Democrats they will have to do something they’re terrible at: play politics. Republicans in Congress must resist the temptation to open their usual playbook of meaningless policy gestures combined with sickening last minute capitulation to Democrat demands. A smarter legislative agenda combined with much more aggressive and savvy rhetoric is needed if Republicans are to succeed. Let’s look at a handful of examples.
Immigration – President Obama has thrown down the gauntlet on this issue. If he is successful at framing the debate as hardworking American-to-be immigrant families and Democrats against nativist Republicans then eventually Republicans will lose. Republicans need to frame this debate as the hardworking American family, legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and Republicans against Democrats and greedy special interests, specifically the Democrat backing billionaires and corporations who are pushing the immigration agenda like Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg, and Carlos Gutierrez, just to name a few. Republicans need to point out that mass legalization of illegal aliens is a money and power grab by well connected interests that will drive down wages, create more joblessness, and above all else crassly exploit poor, largely uneducated, and vulnerable illegal aliens. Take Democrat’s $15 minimum wage rhetoric and beat them senseless with it by pointing out that Democrats and their big money backers are trying to exploit vulnerable illegal aliens at the expense of the average American worker who is already struggling in the Obama economy. No legislative action on immigration is needed or politically wise, but if Republicans feel like they absolutely must pass legislation on this issue pass a tough new law that goes after big business for hiring illegal aliens and smugglers for trafficking and exploiting illegal aliens.
Minimum Wage – While we’re on the subject of minimum wage Republicans should act legislatively to neutralize this issue as a political talking point for the left. Republicans should pass a bill containing a $15 minimum wage and pair that bill with something else that Republicans want badly enough for it to be an acceptable trade and that President Obama would hate enough to be willing to veto a $15 minimum wage. I would suggest a repeal of the Obamacare mandate and tax on the uninsured, but any item that meets the above criteria would be acceptable. If the president vetoes the package bill then Republicans have successfully neutralized the issue and can rip Democrats apart in elections nationwide where the minimum wage issue would be a factor. If the president signs the package bill then he has gutted his own healthcare bill in a very real meaningful way for the average American and delivered a huge victory for Republicans.
Global Warming – The president is likely to do more immigration style legislating from his office on the issue of climate change through new regulations on carbon emissions. Republicans have hidden out on this issue too long and been too incoherent to effectively counteract the left’s aggressive promotion of this issue. Fortunately, Republicans have been saved for some time now by independent scientists and the occasional peek behind the curtain at the corrupt state of climate science by scandals like the East Anglia e-mail leak, but we cannot leave the future of our economy at the mercy of fortunate circumstances forever. The first thing Republicans need to learn about this issue and many other issues is that the facts, unfortunately, don’t matter. Only a handful of politicians and almost no one in the general public can understand the science behind climate change so it is pointless to argue the facts anyway. The Democrats have tried to frame this argument as scientists, scholars, and Democrats against polluting corporations and science illiterate Republicans. We lose that argument.
Instead we should reframe the argument as scientists and Republicans against Democrats and their crony green energy corporations. We do that both rhetorically and legislatively. The rhetorical argument is simple, but to drive the message home legislation is needed. Republicans should introduce a bill to address all the problems that Democrats claim climate change will cause. Concerns about increasingly violent weather can be met with seawall construction in coastal states, especially near large metropolitan areas that are near or below sea level. Concerns about desertification and scarce drinking water can be met with the construction of new water reservoirs and new irrigation systems.
Republicans can and should point out that climate change as envisioned by the Democrats cannot be averted because the rest of the world will continue to use carbon based energy at levels which will make any American cuts to carbon emissions meaningless. Instead, if they’re really concerned about people’s well being, adaptation is the only option, which is where the above described new infrastructure comes into play. The Democrats will likely oppose any such measure because the last thing the environmental activists want is more hydroelectric dams, irrigation for expanded farmland, or artificial lakes for water storage. They’re actively tearing up such infrastructure out west right now. However, if Democrats allow such measures to pass it will still be a good deal for the American people. Whether climate change happens as Democrats have envisioned or not, we will still have droughts, hurricanes, and people will still need water. Any infrastructure constructed to mitigate these problems will still enrich our nation. We can neutralize Democrat political issues and advance conservative economic issues.
It is time for Republicans and conservatives to start thinking politically about the issues that face our country and our Democrat opponents. Poor political strategic thinking has prevented the conservative movement, which is the home of true human progress and personal liberty, from being nearly as effective as it should be.