Politics: Republicans’ missing 2022 ingredient: A positive and constructive agenda

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Republicans have every reason to be optimistic that their party will win control of the House — and likely the Senate — in the November midterm elections.

  Republicans’ missing 2022 ingredient: A positive and constructive agenda © Provided by The Hill

The Democratic Party is defending razor-thin majorities in Congress at a time when Americans broadly disapprove of President Biden and are deeply pessimistic about the way things are going in the country, especially with the economy.

Indeed, nearly three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) say that the country is on the wrong track, and a majority (51 percent) describe the economy as being in “poor shape.” There is also a widespread belief that inflation is a very serious problem (64 percent) and that Biden bears at least some responsibility for it (73 percent).

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Given how unfavorable the current national political environment is for Democrats — on top of the fact that the president’s party almost always loses House seats in midterm elections — criticizing the Biden administration for inflation and the rising cost of living could very well be a sufficient strategy for the G.O.P. to win control of Congress this year.

That being said, in order for a true red-wave election to take place in 2022 — and to sustain itself through 2024 — Republicans need to do more at the national, state and local levels than just attack Democrats and oppose their agenda.

Rather, the GOP must develop a positive and constructive agenda that offers centrist solutions to the key issues facing the country in order to show the American people that the party’s priorities are in line with their own.

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When Republicans took control of the House in 1994, they had their Contract with America, which comprised tax cuts and tax relief for middle-class families, measures to reduce crime, term limits and a balanced budget.

In 2022, the GOP needs an American Revitalization Plan that prioritizes fiscal prudence, lowering taxes, improving public safety, strengthening immigration laws, promoting individual liberties and allowing parents to have more choice over their child’s education.

It is also critical that the new Republican agenda is forward-looking, and not focused on relitigating Donald Trump’s past grievances about the 2020 election.

Continuing to dwell on the 2020 election is counterproductive to the G.O.P.’s short- and long-term political goals, as it alienates swing voters and Independents — who largely accept Joe Biden’s victory as legitimate, believe Jan. 6 was an attempted insurrection and are concerned about addressing the challenges of today, not fighting about alleged voter fraud in the last election.

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In order to reach these voters in the middle, Republicans should promote an economic plan that provides tax incentives for job creation, prioritizes deficit reduction, eases inflation and limits government spending to fiscally prudent programs that have broad public support, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Loosening overly burdensome regulations on America’s energy sector would also be immensely beneficial in terms of helping the U.S. achieve energy independence — which the public increasingly recognizes as an important goal, given the current crisis with gas prices.

Furthermore, instead of criticizing Democrats for surging crime and the migrant crisis at the Southern border, Republicans should propose actual solutions such as increasing funding to bolster and better train law enforcement officers — both police officers in localities, and patrol agents at the southern border.

To that end, the GOP can lead the way by proposing a long-overdue immigration compromise that strengthens our physical border security and also provides a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants brought here illegally as children.

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National Republicans should also take a page from Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s 2021 playbook by promoting individual liberties generally, and specifically empowering parents through enhanced school choice opportunities and promoting greater parental involvement in curricula. This strategy helped Youngkin connect with moderate suburban voters, which is the precise coalition that the G.O.P. should be targeting in 2022.

Perhaps most importantly, on hot-button social issues — namely, abortion and guns — the G.O.P. needs to establish a more moderate party line in order to distance itself from the party’s extreme fringes.

Put another way, the Republican Party’s positions on these issues must reflect the reality that Americans broadly support abortion as a legal right with limitations, and widely favor common-sense restrictions on gun ownership that still allow law-abiding citizens to own guns.

Towing the centrist line on abortion and guns can be enormously beneficial to the Republican Party. By assuming a more open stance on abortion legality, Republicans can better sell their party as one that protects individual liberties; similarly, by moving to the middle on guns, the GOP can position and promote themselves as the law and order party.

However, if Republicans fail to moderate their positions, the party leaves itself vulnerable to attacks from Democrats for being extreme and out of touch.

Ultimately, Republicans merely opposing Democrats at every turn is not enough to produce a red-wave election in 2022 and will certainly not be enough to carry a pro-Republican trend through to 2024.

In order for the G.O.P. to secure a red wave in 2022 and improve their chances of retaking the White House in 2024, the party needs to coalesce around a moderate agenda that offers real solutions, avoids relitigating past grievances, and rejects the party’s extreme fringes.

Douglas E. Schoen is a political consultant who served as an adviser to former President Clinton and to the 2020 presidential campaign of Michael Bloomberg. He is the author of “The End of Democracy? Russia and China on the Rise and America in Retreat.”

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