Republicans could have done far worse in the midterms. Historically, the party in power usually loses seats. This year was not as bad as some: President Trump’s GOP lost fewer than three dozen House seats on Tuesday, compared to President Obama’s loss of 63 in 2010 and President Clinton’s 52 in 1994.
Republicans were also able to slightly expand their lead in the Senate, a positive result that should produce benefits that include the seating of conservative judges and a continuation of Trump’s commonsense deregulatory agenda. The GOP also — against late campaign expectations — kept governorships in the crucial states of Ohio and Florida.
But Republicans also made mistakes that contributed to the loss of the House and the loss of other state governorships. The biggest were in Michigan and Wisconsin.
The GOP’s lacking communication skills were on full display. They weren’t able to successfully convey the value of their tax cuts. Even worst they never came up with a strong new tax cut plan that would have reduced federal income tax rates, the capital gains levy and federal payroll taxes for social security and Medicare. Incredibly they lead instead with, “we’ll make last year’s take cut permanent.” Outside the bubble of Washington this only confused voters, making them wonder if they were about to lose what they already had this year.
As bad, Republicans failed to articulate a coherent healthcare plan, even when that was the single most important issue for many voters. Congress had done some good things on healthcare such as making it easier for small business to come together to buy health insurance, thereby getting enormous savings in premiums. Astonishingly, they also let the Democrats get away with the canard that they were doing away with insurance for people with pre-existing conditions. As is if all this weren’t enough they also alienated far too many suburban voters, especially women. Republican leaders should be motivated by the title of that Dale Carnegie classic, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
Republicans should instead embrace the positive, optimistic spirit of Ronald Reagan. Take entitlements: don’t come across as Scrooges hankering to cut back people’s benefits. Instead pick up where Speaker Paul Ryan left off when he was a backbencher over a decade ago and propose personal accounts for young people while making it clear that current beneficiaries and future beneficiaries above the age of 40 will not have their benefits altered. On healthcare, Republicans should push favorite ideas such as nationwide shopping for health insurance, radically liberalizing health savings accounts so that everyone can have one and mandating that hospitals and clinics post all their prices online.
To convey the image of bipartisan statesmanship Republicans should offer to work together with Democrats to approve the newly renegotiated NAFTA, the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement or USMCTA, would calm consumer fears and stimulate the economy and stock market. But even if this effort fails, a return to the status quo wouldn’t be the end of the world. It’s unlikely that Trump will be able to unilaterally withdraw from NAFTA, so it will remain in effect and the important relationships we have with our biggest trading partners will continue. If we can build on that by avoiding a tariff war with China, investment will boom.
Democrats have long said they want to fix our failing infrastructure, as has Pres. Trump. This would be a good time to prove it with plans that encourage private investment and make project regulatory approvals easier to come by.
Even on healthcare, congressional progress might be made with Democrats. The member-owned agricultural giant Land O’Lakes, one of the largest cooperatives in America, just created the nation’s first Association Health Plan (AHP), offering excellent healthcare coverage that costs 50 percent less than ObamaCare options. There are solutions out there if Congress is willing to work together to find them.
On the divisive issue of Immigration, Republicans should push a compromise that the White House should certainly be amenable to which would attract a number of moderate Democrats: secure once and for all the legal status of the DACA immigrants in return for building President Trump’s cherished wall.
It won’t be easy. Democrats in the new Congress need to fight the urge to overplay their hand and let toppling the Trump administration take precedence over serving their constituents. And if they do go on the attack, Trump must resist his natural inclination to hit back with everything he has. Take a page from the book of former Navy Seal Dan Crenshaw, who dismissed the need for an apology from the NBC Saturday Night Live “comedian” who shamefully mocked the veteran’s war wounds. Crenshaw took the high road and handily won his congressional bid in Texas.
Democrats will find it tough to overcome the temptation to go full bore with investigations designed to destroy the Trump administration and his private businesses. Ahab had his White Whale; liberal Democrats have President Trump’s tax returns. Democrats spell Trump D-E-V-I-L and yearn to obliterate him as if they were avenging angels rather than the narrow-minded obstructionists they really are.
Two years of Republican leadership in Washington have produced economic gains that would have been unimaginable under the previous administration. Republicans must now do everything they can to see that those gains are not lost as we move forward in the new political environment.
Steve Forbes is chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.