Clearly it is a horrible environment to be running as a Republican. Megan McArdle makes the point when she advises Bobby Jindal not to run:
He's being widely touted as McCain's potential running mate, though I agree with Ross that this would be a mistake--for Jindal. No one should run for office this year as a Republican who doesn't have to.
But for an ambitious politician, an open seat for Congress is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The question I want to ask is what a candidate running for Congress can do to seperate their public image from that of the Republican Party. Furthermore, these are things that the NRCC could do to help.
The NRCC's advice is "localize and run against Washington." While this is better advice than "run as a Bush Republican", it may not be the best advice.
My advice is different: nationalize as a different kind of Republican. Hold a big signing ceremony for a new pledge at the Lincoln Memorial, explicitly embracing the great past of the Republican Party, but rejecting both Congressional and Presidential leadership. Or better yet, do it somewhere else like Indianapolis, Sacramento, Minneapolis, or Baton Rouge, where Republicans have sucessful and popular records of leadership. (John McCain could join because he is a different kind of Republican)
Read on after the jump
The problem with the "localize" message is that the Democrats will effectively argue that this candidate would be just "same old Republican." One option is to criticize Washington in one way or another. Another is to band together and be part of an anti-Washington movement in the GOP.
We need a "Plan for New Leadership". Here's what this plan might entail. (this is not a finished idea, at best a discussion draft)
- Stop the corruption in Washington. It is important that we object to failed Republican leadership and also put the corrupt-by-design Democratic Party on the defensive.
- Earmark reform. Stop Members of Congress from giving money to special interests. There are several earmark pledges. Everyone should agree to sign one.
- Ethics reform. Create an independent ethics panel that forces the ethics committee to review ethics complaints against Members of Congress. Current members of Congress will object, but no one in the real world believes that Members of Congress can police their own ethics violations. A candidate for Congress shouldn't believe it either.
- Legislative Line Item Veto. Still a winner and Democrats hate it.
- Lower gas prices and demand an end to energy subsidies. It is important for Republicans that this includes something that can be heard as an attack on oil companies, which is both a rejection of special interest politics and, very quietly, associations with Bush:
- Cut all subsidies for oil companies. Phrase this as "repeal part of the Bush energy plan" (which Barack Obama voted for and John McCain against)
- Cut all ethanol subsidies. Phrase as "repeal part of the corrupt Democratic Farm Bill that promised more money to special interests". (again, which Barack Obama voted for and John McCain against) Also would cut food prices.
- Invest in green energy. Double the amount of money that the federal government spends on research in wind, geothermal and other renewable energy sources. (or something, I don't understand this)
- Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less. Patrick has written about Newt's plan.
- Suport John McCain's healthcare proposal. This is also a policy area that I don't understand, but all the evidence suggests that there is good stuff.
- Education reform. In the end, nothing is more important than a good life for your kids, but the teachers unions are the single most important barrier to better schools.
- School vouchers. Still a winner.
- Merit pay for teachers. This is good policy that is opposed by corrupt unions.
- Additional federal support for community colleges. There are great models of conservative reform from Florida and Texas.
- Additional support for charter schools. Still a winner.
- Review and end corruption in student loans. We have to recognize that the hope of a middle class life depends on graduating from college. Anything that makes it easier is good.
- Better regulation of the financial services industry. (read housing and Enron) Abolish the SEC and replace it with a UK-style Financial Services Authority.
- Make Washington tell the truth about our country's fiscal state. There are a number of very good reform proposals. For example
- Include pertetuity numbers in the budget, not merely 5 or 10 year numbers.
- BRAC-like commission to cut federal agencies. People believe that government is too big. Start solving it by cutting out the special interests.
- Support John McCain in winning the War in Iraq and bringing our troops home.
I am sure that I am missing things. Big things. But these are all issues that address very significant problems that Americans are facing. These highlight conservative success stories in government.
Furthermore, once a Freshman class gets elected, this gives that class a set of bills to draft and introduce in, inevitably, a Democratic Congress. There will be amendments to offer based on these ideas. There will be special order speeches to give and press conferences and Democratic bills to condemn. There is a whole message strategy surrounding a good pre-election platform and victories to declare.
The candidates in open seats could pursue this. Some time and money spent on raising the profile of reform efforts in the GOP and leadership in those efforts could go a long way to branding a new freshman as a leader both at home and in Washington.
This is what The Next Right is about: building a new movement in the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement that wants to deliver a game plan for improving the governance of our country by solving problems, taking power from corrupt unions and politicians, and ending corporate welfare.
Please tell me what I missed both in strategy and issues. Something like this is what the GOP needs.