Opinion

How the GOP gets its mojo back

Few New Years have come in with as much contempt for the past year as 2010.  While so many were promised change in 2009, the futility of runaway government crippled our national productivity.  Unbridled spending led only to rising unemployment; unchecked intervention into our financial system gave us frozen markets; all while those in charge in Washington were immovably preoccupied with a massive and intrusive health plan that Americans simply do not want.

Two thousand nine may just, however, end up as the year that served as the catalyst to a great political revolution that will mark a return of conservatism, founding principles, and positive solutions in place of a power-obsessed and partisan Congress.  In their overzealous reach for permanent government expansion, the Democrats running Washington have inspired a remarkable rebellion of the American people that provides Republicans an historic opportunity to be given the privilege of leading the House of Representatives once again.

Recapturing the more than three dozen seats needed for a Republican majority is an enormous task.  However, with the American people starved for leadership and solutions, and a team able to provide both, nothing is out of reach.  If we are to succeed, though, it will require an aggressive effort that shines light on the failure of our current course, demonstrates how prosperity is actually created, and reaches far with a bold platform. And, as we all make a renewed commitment to the basic principles that we know created our nation’s great success, this effort must include outreach to the folks who have joined the Tea Party movement.

To set the stage for a 2010 victory, first, Republicans must stay on offense.  A party that was considered dormant just one year ago now leads Democrats on the generic ballot test.  That isn’t because we’ve been timid.  House Republicans, most notably my colleagues in the Republican Study Committee, led a fight in 2009 to hold Democrats accountable and provided contrast with bold solutions of our own.  Wherever taxpayers and freedom are being sacrificed in the name of bigger government and liberal social goals, Republicans, in and outside the beltway, must again be vocal and take the principled fight to the Majority.

Providing a check on Washington’s runaway agenda is a basic step toward renewal, however, simply being the opposition is inadequate to bringing about a real political revolution.  Speaker Pelosi and President Obama have done a great job reminding Americans why they dislike Democrat policies.  Now we must demonstrate why Republicans are worthy of the public trust once again.

In the coming months, Republicans must lay out a new agenda for the American people.  This platform must speak to the real challenges people are facing and the policies that will help solve these problems.  We must rally around common sense ideas like a more fair and simplified tax structure that allows Americans to keep more of their hard earned money, an end to the bailout culture, a streamlined government that does not strangle our job producers with mandates, taxes, and bureaucratic red tape, and a smaller budget that respects Americans’ wallets and recognizes the dire threat of a bankrupt Washington.

Our new commitment to America must not be limited only to traditional Republican territory. As the health care debate has shown, when our fundamental principles are applied to any issue and communicated effectively, the American people will choose conservative solutions, because conservative solutions are American solutions.  America remains a center-right nation, and we must not be afraid to put forth a positive vision for all issues that concern families, like education, housing, health care, energy, values, immigration, and the environment.  By embracing fundamental American principles, we will be able to communicate that Republicans are once again a national party of broad and dynamic solutions.

Just as our solutions need not be limited to base Republican issues, neither should our communications be limited to traditional Republican constituencies.  The solutions we propose benefit all Americans, so we should embrace opportunities to present them to all Americans, including younger voters, the African American, Hispanic, and Jewish communities, and so many others.  The concerns of these communities – the economy, health care, security – are no different than those of any other Americans, and our solutions are no less appropriate.  It is said power goes to those who show up and lead, and it’s time we show up in places outside of our comfort zone.

Reaching new audiences, however, does not mean we back away from the ideas through which we have become the greatest nation in the history of the world.  And no group understands better than the Tea Party movement that certain principles, not political parties, solve problems.

If we are to bring conservatism back to the Capitol, Republicans must embrace all who are committed to those common principles, including the Tea Party movement.  The energy, enthusiasm, and commitment they exhibit are virtually unprecedented and should inspire us to champion our roots.  To ignore, or do battle with, a group that has shown such a remarkable ability to turn out in the fight for freedom would be tragically unwise.  Instead, we should work together to promote our common ideas.  We must be able to fight for what makes us Republicans – limited government, lower taxes, and greater freedom – if we are expected to follow through on our broader commitment to America.

The course for a Republican resurgence in 2010 cannot be perfectly charted in January, but we know it must be guided by this commitment.  If we are to achieve what one year ago was considered by most to be impossible, we must engage early and often with the American people who today crave new bold leadership and real solutions.  Through hard work, outreach, and principle, we can make next New Year a time of celebration of American principles and conservatism, rather than a time of regret.

Rep. Tom Price is a Republican Member of Congress from Georgia and chairman of the Republican Study Committee.