In the 1967 movie classic “The Graduate” Dustin Hoffman’s character Benjamin is pulled aside at his college graduation party by an older, wiser friend of the family (Mr. McGuire) who says: “Ben I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.” Then he utters the magic word: “Plastics.”
The meaning of the exchange, of course, is that the young graduate’s future is in all things plastic.
If I could update that scene a bit, I would pull the leaders of the new Republican Congress aside and whisper their ears: the magic word for 2015 is “Moderation” – that’s the Republican future.
This past Election Day was a brilliant one for the GOP; we picked up 13 seats in the House, and 9 in the U.S. Senate signaling a repudiation President Obama tenure. But now what?
Does the GOP Congress go storming through the Capitol, exacting revenge for six years of President Obama’s arrogant leadership? Or should they do as new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested: prove that Republicans can govern.
As a Republican leader of a Blue County in a Blue State, I implore Congress to follow McConnell’s strategy. Selfishly, I need to get Republicans elected and it becomes a lot harder when my party is defined by overly aggressive tactics such as government shutdowns, 11th hour funding brinksmanship and squabbling over social issues that appeal to a small minority of Americans. To engage in such behavior plays into the hands of the media, and demagogues on the left who perpetually try to define Republicans as too extreme to govern, while overlooking the left’s own extreme agenda.
To borrow a phrase from Democratic political consultant James Carville — the guiding mantra for the GOP Congress should be, “it’s about the economy, stupid!”
Yes, there are a truckload of issues on the GOP agenda, but none supersedes the economy and no issue helps Blue State Republicans more. In my tiny corner of the political world nothing is as important to people as jobs; and nothing articulates the Democratic failures better than their inability to create a robust economy especially in urban areas. In Paterson, Passaic and Clifton people of all ideologies are craven for jobs. Where did the jobs go? Are they coming back? What will my family’s future be? The Democrats have no answers. What they do have is a longstanding antagonism to business and a misguided mission to enact social policy through business taxes and regulation.
Congress must embrace policies that give working people hope for an independent economic future, not one tied to government handouts. A productive economic strategy and a new, pro-growth tax policy that encourages investment that produces jobs will help local Republicans bring “Reagan Democrats” back to the fold while increasing GOP appeal to a range of groups, including millennials, whose college-inspired liberal idealism has run smack into the real world of unemployment angst.
Tied to the economy is health care reform. Obamacare has proven to be a cynical gambit by the Obama squad; generally a failure built on deception and lies about lower premiums that has now even riled Harvard professors. If Congress can simplify health care choices, eliminate mandates and lower costs it would be a home run for grass roots Republicans in every state.
On immigration, I implore Congress to takes up the president’s challenge to produce a workable immigration bill and put it on his desk. As a Blue State Republican I can approach the Hispanic community from a stronger position if the GOP crafts immigration legislation grounded in political and financial reality rather than xenophobia. The new Congress should not pander to immigration extremists (the left is already doing that) and divest itself of the notion that mass deportations are a solution to anything. No immigration legislation will please all immigration groups, but it is far better for Blue State Republicans if the GOP has more to say on immigration than that we oppose President Obama’s plan.
Blue State Republicans will also benefit from a Congress that reasserts America’s world dominant position and overrides Obama’s obsequious dealings with terrorists and bullies such as Vladimir Putin. Americans want national leaders who proudly stand up to the demands of our global responsibilities, not leaders who habitually apologize for America’s actions.
If the new Republican Congress can prove that the GOP can govern effectively on pocket book issues – and avoid getting mired in social issues that antagonize female and younger voters – Republicans will be well suited for the 2016 Presidential election – while giving Blue State Republicans a good chance to make inroads in local government.
Mr. Traier is the chairman of the Passaic County Regular Republican Organization