History has a pattern of repeating itself. It did Tuesday when voters once again rejected the party in power, although not by the margins that some prognosticators anticipated.
Repudiation victories have become one of the most distinctive patterns in modern American politics. Understandably, Republicans expected to be celebrating sweeping victories this go around.
Even though they’re not, it doesn’t mean voters validated the policies or governing savvy of the left. The question now is will the GOP learn the lessons of the midterm and turn things around in 2024?
Based on my experience having founded and led numerous organizations on the right, the first step to achieving any measure of political or policy success is to actually listen to the people you’re trying to help.
In the week leading up to the election, polls showed that Americans were concerned about pocketbook issues, especially record inflation. This cut across every demographic, including the coveted suburban female vote. Talk to people at any gas station or grocery store across the country, and they’ll share how they’re pre-paying $5, $10 or $15 at the pump because that’s all they can afford. They’re cutting corners on groceries so they can pay rent.
Americans are also concerned about what’s happening in their neighborhoods and schools. Violence and lawlessness have spread into every facet of society, yet the left has underfunded and demoralized police forces. Catastrophic learning loss and widespread mental health issues have been the result of unnecessary school lockdowns, yet teachers’ unions and school bureaucracies are focusing on transgender ideology and critical race theory.
More subtly, Americans are rejecting identity politics. To most, diversity still means people from all backgrounds coming together in the American melting pot. The left has instead transformed diversity into separation, division, and resentment. That is not how citizens see themselves or how they live. According to the 2020 US census, most white people live in mixed-race neighborhoods for the first time in modern history. In their daily lives, people from all backgrounds get along and want unity and belief in a shared American Dream.
Given these factors, Republicans missed a big opportunity to gain seats. Much has been made about the Trump effect. But the bottom line is too many candidates lacked the seriousness to show they can solve problems and knit our social fabric back together.
So, what should the right do the next two years?
The first step they must take is to develop a concrete economic agenda that promotes growth and overall prosperity. Reining in out-of-control spending that has driven inflation to a 40-year high and the national debt to over 133 percent of the economy is a start. Self-imposed spending caps will immediately reduce deficits. Explaining the consequences of astronomical debt to younger Americans and their children, who now have an interest burden approaching $1 billion a year, is essential.
Second, also tied to the economy, is to adopt a sustainable energy policy that lowers gas prices. Tapping into domestic energy sources creates good paying jobs, lowers energy costs, and reduces U.S. reliance on bad actors. Republicans must unleash every energy source available at home while also encouraging research and development to make energy cleaner. It does not have to be one or the other.
A third area of opportunity is to stop the administrative state’s overreach. This will return more power to the people, by freeing them from unnecessary, often politically motivated rules and regulations that make it harder to start a small business, run a school or save and invest hard-earned money. Further, it encourages problem-solving at the local level, which is where issues like education and crime should be addressed.
Finally, Republicans must lead on immigration. Securing the border, while providing an orderly, controlled process for entry into the country can be done simultaneously. Further, a Latino comes of voting age every 30 seconds. The right must remind these young voters that their values – faith, family, and hard work – are reflected in the party that offers the best pathway to achieving the American dream.
Consider the big GOP wins Tuesday – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, both of whom have boldly tackled immigration while also gaining the trust and support of Hispanic constituents.
Republicans must offer a positive vision and deliver on an agenda that people want. If they do, the 2024 election could see a landmark victory that resets the arc of America’s 21st century destiny.