Failing to Lead on Policy is Not an Option
As Virginia Republicans face a more certain future as a minority party in a blue state and in a nation less likely to trust Republican leadership on major issues, it is time to reevaluate our place in the political spectrum.
Let’s be honest. The Republican Brand is no longer synonymous with any phrase, philosophy, or ideal; and when we stand for nothing, we’ll fall for anything. That is how we got here. Now to determine where we are going.
With the economy no longer the most pressing issue (Gallup), Republicans are going to have to deal with issues that matter to the voting public: Immigration, Healthcare, Education, the Environment, and Prohibition. Currently, the GOP is absolutely nowhere on each of these issues and, as a result, is going to get brutally punished at the ballot box.
Part of the problem is that Republicans do not share consistent policy positions or philosophies on a single one of these important issues, and so rallying “the base” on the issues most important to Americans is darn near impossible.
There’s a reason that Trump is so fixated on his wall. It’s may be the only issue the Republican grassroots seem to agree on. Sadly, it’s also an issue that alienates moderates, immigrants, college-educated women, libertarians, and many conservative Democrats.
Border security is important to everyone, and fences in places where they are needed have substantial support. Trump’s wall, on the other hand, comes off as unsympathetic, racist, and paranoid, and is therefore difficult to defend politically in districts that aren’t deeply red.
Because Republicans have committed to running massive deficits and are responsible for much of the debt this country has taken on since 2010, they’ve been unable to offer many productive and popular positions on healthcare, education, and the environment. Republicans are against the solutions offered by the powerful progressive-wing of the Democratic Party, but they have very little in the way of positive policy proposals of their own.
The result is a political party that appears hostile to healthcare, education, and the environment themselves. This is a serious problem.
To make matters worse, two of the most serious crises faced by American families today — the opioid crisis and drug-related crime — have an obvious solution in the legalization of cannabis. Yet, Republicans appear prepared to be dragged kicking and screaming toward legalization, while Democrats have taken a leadership role on an inevitable movement. Legalization is popular and it is going to happen. Opposing it – in fact, refusing to take a lead on it — is incredibly stupid.
I was absolutely incensed that Delegates Gilbert (15th), Bell (58th), Adams (16th), Collins (29th), Ransone (99th), and Watts (39th) voted to squash legalization in Committee. At the very least they should have let the People’s House vote on the bill. All but Delegate Watts voted to kill the Decriminalization Bill as well. Instead, these Republicans have handed the Democrats a popular policy issue to use in the future.
In Virginia, only Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01) has demonstrated strong leadership on environmental issues, when this is one of the easiest issues to lead on.
I also suspect that Congressman Denver Riggleman will rise a leader on the environment. Still, Republicans have lost the initiative on the environment and have given it over to the progressive-wing of the Democratic Party.
Republicans should be advocates for our national parks and should be aggressive protectors of our natural resources. How difficult is it, politically, to oppose pollution and to support clean water, clean air, and clean soil? We don’t have to buy into the left’s “Green New Deal” to promote common sense environmental policies.
Education is primarily a local and statewide issue. Funding education should be one of the most important priorities for the General Assembly and every Board of Supervisors.
Every dollar wasted, every dollar misappropriated in the mismanagement of Medicaid is money that could have gone to our schools, and we should say so. The biggest threat to Education in Virginia and the biggest obstacle to teacher pay, is the mismanagement of state coffers.
If Republicans cannot develop and promote positive policy positions on immigration, healthcare, education, the environment, and prohibition, we are going to continue to bleed support and influence in state and national government.
This does not require Republicans to “moderate” our principles. If we accept the idea that only Democrats have positive policy proposals in these areas, and that our only option is to simply oppose them, then we are lost and we deserve to lose future elections.