Louisiana’s James Carville was the mastermind behind the first Clinton presidential campaign. He drew the Republicans off their winning strategy back in 1992 with his famous, “It’s the economy, stupid!” line.
As a result of following the Clinton campaign, President George H. W. Bush’s campaign neglected social and defense issues and he was defeated by Bill Clinton that year, gaining only 37 percent of the popular vote.
This year, there is already a call from some to focus like a laser on the economy, and ditch social and defense issues. It was a mistake in 1992, it was a mistake in 2008, in 2012 and it would be a mistake now.
The forthcoming contest for House Majority Leader can be a bellwether for the fall campaign. Will House Republicans let Carville’s mantra lead them into another electoral dead end?
The recent electoral upsets in Mississippi and Virginia should communicate to the GOP that business as usual is no longer selling.
As two conservatives, who have held elected office in Louisiana and Ohio, and now advocate across America for conservative ideas, we are convinced that the path to political and policy success is in the GOP once again embracing the full spectrum of conservative principles. We won’t presume to tell our elected representatives who to vote for in the upcoming leadership elections. But we can offer friendly advice on what leadership traits they should be looking for.
The conservative movement has been strongest when it stands on three sturdy legs of a stool — economic liberty, a strong national defense and social conservatism. The successful leadership of Ronald Reagan showed how these elements reinforced one another. He knew that unless the stricken economy left by Jimmy Carter was revived, we could not rebuild our hollowed-out military and we could not restore America’s social foundation.
While Reagan gave proper emphasis to his economic recovery program, he worked diligently to reassert America’s military strength and to defend the family. Reagan knew the family had been overtaxed, threatened by radical social programs and in great need of moral support from government at all levels.
Because Reagan never neglected America’s defenses and never failed to advance pro-life and pro-family policies, he won the support of millions of blue-collar Democrats. He framed his economic policies, as well, in terms that made sense to working families. Even as the Carter recession lengthened into the first of the Reagan years, he knew that the themes of American patriotism and family values would sustain him through hard times.
He built on that bedrock of support. When the economy turned around in 1983, it was time for “Morning in America” again.
This fall, the GOP must fight to pull the plug on Obamacare, not give it a “conservative” facelift. Millions of Americans have been hurt by this radical government takeover. The botched rollout is only the beginning of the harm it will do.
Obamacare is a job killer. Even now, before the full implementation of this debacle, it is preventing employers from hiring new employees. With 92 million Americans not working, we see the largest number of our people outside the paid labor force in U.S. history. We have never had such a shaky recovery before. Consumer confidence is down.
Young voters are especially hard hit. This is a time for conservatives to make the case: If you don’t want to live in your parents’ basements, if you don’t want them to live in yours, vote for independence this fall, vote for your own future! Vote to address our $17 trillion debt and stop Mr. Obama’s intergenerational theft.
And we can encourage all voters for vote for freedom. Nothing in our history has so threatened religious freedom as the HHS Mandate. Forcing Americans to subsidize the abortion of unborn children is deeply offensive. Millions of our ancestors fled Europe and Asia to escape regimes that similarly menaced their deepest values.
Across the world, we see America in retreat. This administration has failed completely to tell the truth about Benghazi. They are lying about the Taliban killers-for-a-deserter swap. And when they say al-Qaida is on the run — that is true. But they are running in triumph into the capitals of half a dozen Arab lands.
This administration wants to tax us to give handouts to militants who then torture Christians as well as their minority Muslim neighbors.
All of this is a result of President Obama’s apologetic approach to international affairs. His foreign policy has traded credibility for the cringe.
The GOP needs leadership that will resist the Obama administration’s white flag foreign policy that is surrendering our leadership role in the world and making freedom an even scarcer commodity.
The GOP leadership must restore dignity to our veterans. As former Defense Secretary Bob Gates noted in his book, the only time this president seemed truly engaged was when the question of recruiting open homosexuals by quota for our all-volunteer military was raised. Now, the administration wants us to pay for sex changes in the ranks. This, at a time when our disabled veterans are dying awaiting care from the VA!
Every morning’s headlines must show conservatives that we are all in the same boat. Our next House Leader needs to win for the majority. Won’t we do better if we are all in the boat rowing?
Tony Perkins is CEO of the Family Research Council, and President of the Council for National Policy. Ken Blackwell is a member of the Conservative Action Project and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.