By JEROME FRANCIS, political columnist
I CANNOT recall the last time I remembered a notable mention of the Republican Party as anything other than the target of political cartoons, SNL satires, or MSNBC rants. Some see the GOP as the Berlin Wall of progress, barring the United States from passing meaningful legislation, while others view it as a strong party, albeit without a clear leader. Another major problem for the party is their strict adherence to old and outdated ideals. These issues allowed the Democrats to come out on top in the 2012 election and caused many to question the future of the GOP. As the Republicans look ahead to the 2014 Midterms and the 2016 Presidential Election, a number of changes are needed if they hope to stand a fighting chance.
The Republican Party’s main weakness these past 8 years has been the lack of a true leader; every potential leader who has come to the party’s forefront has been criticized by one sect of the party or another for various reasons, such as being callous, contradictory to the party’s policies, or just plain foolish.
Ultimately, these criticisms have led to an exaggerated image of the Republican Party as a radical group of conservatives who are unwilling to compromise on anything that doesn’t lead to the creation of a new, more limited government. Looking forward, the Republicans need a vanguard, a new leader under whom they can unite. This leader can’t be a polarizing figure; he or she must maintain the small government ideals of the Republican Party while also realizing that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security have become essential to U.S. society. The truth is that the welfare state is now permanent — people require Medicare and Social Security to sustain themselves in the last stages of their lives and want these benefits to be backed by an entity more trustworthy than any private company — the government. Chipping away at the government’s powers would sour relations with the elderly, a cornerstone of the Republican electorate.
In addition, this new Republican champion must understand that our nation’s defense must be approached differently in the twenty-first century and should involve measures other than simply pulling out the big guns. Defense can no longer be built up for costly wars like the those in Iraq and Afghanistan. If the Republicans want a balanced budget, they must improve on — ironically —Hillary Clinton’s idea of smart spending — that is, investing in ideas that save money while yielding good results. Why waste billions of dollars developing new weapons with slight advantages over current weaponry when it only costs a few million dollars to improve or produce other valuable assets?
In terms of taxes, the plan is plain and simple — taxes on households with incomes less than roughly $250K must come down while taxes on households earning more than $250K should increase proportionally to equalize the deficit. Of course, big business and the Republican Party may have a fallout, but the extra money in the average consumer’s pocket goes into the economy as spending or savings, which banks and big business can circulate. Thus, the economy can pick up speed again with everyone benefiting. This change would promote the Republicans’ free-market ideology and drive the American economy out of stagnation.
To stop the American freight train from approaching fiscal cliffs time and time again, a balanced budget is necessary, but cuts must also be diligently made. Once again, smart spending comes into play. It is more prudent to save money using existing goods than to waste money on new goods. For example, it would cost less to use an existing building as a government office rather than building a whole new facility. Reallocations of money in defense, law enforcement, education, and many other departments can be made if wasteful spending is cut out. This can be done by either party, but the Republicans should take the forefront in order to claim triumph in balancing the budget. However, they must be mindful not to touch Social Security or Medicare, two prominent American lifelines.
The Republican Party should not only focus on how they can gain more effective leadership within their party, but also on improving their reputation amongst important voting groups. Hispanics, African-Americans, and many other minorities area growing percentage of the U.S. voting population. For the last few elections, many have voted Democratic due to the Democratic promotion of the dream of a new life. By pushing for immigration reform, Republicans can level the playing field. Rather than just trying to root out illegal immigrants, Republicans should focus on making legal immigration easier in order to dissuade people from immigrating illegally. They should also channel their religious fervor to win over these groups — since many minority groups are also religious groups, why wouldn’t these groups side with the more religiously active party?
In order for Republicans to gain back the strength they had in the 20th century, they must prove that a small government with a balanced budget is the way to go for Americans to bounce back from the recession. They must adapt their views for the changing times and reconsider their long-held positions on taxes and immigration. Most of all, they need leaders who can unite the Republican party under these new ideals. Only then can they become a real competitor in the 21st century.