In the days since President Obama's inaugural address, I've heard from friends all over the country. Many of them are Republicans, some are not, but all are very alarmed at the direction the president is charting for the next four years: uncompromising and divisive, unabashedly progovernment, unapologetically redistributionist. Worst of all, he's oblivious to the biggest threat our nation faces, which is a looming European-style debt crisis. He seems to care more about "collective action" and expanding government than creating individual opportunity and unleashing innovation.
At the same time, there's a feeling that the Republican Party is at its weakest in generations. I've heard from all kinds of people who want to get involved in getting it back on track: women who see a role for themselves for the first time ever, young millennials concerned about the national debt, Latinos who are frustrated with Obama's unkept promises on immigration, disillusioned Romney supporters who want to change the tone in Washington, African-Americans who are not happy with how far left the Democratic party has moved. Some are more concerned with countering the Obama campaign machine; others are more concerned with changing the tone and rhetoric of the debate. The GOP should be welcoming them all with open arms. As one woman put it, the Republican Party's attitude should be, "If you want us, we want you." Amen to that.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal made the argument this week that the future of the Republican Party lies outside the Beltway. I couldn't agree more:
We do not need to change what we believe as conservatives— our principles are timeless. But we do need to re-orient our focus to the place where conservatism thrives— in the real world beyond the Washington Beltway.
We must lay out the contrast between liberalism's top-down government solutions and our bottom-up real world philosophy. We believe in creating abundance, not redistributing scarcity. We should let the other side try to sell Washington's ability to help the economy, while we promote the entrepreneur, the risk-taker, the self-employed woman who is one sale away from hiring her first employee.
Glenn McCall, a Republican National Committee member from South Carolina who was attending the RNC gathering this week in Charlotte, told the Wall Street Journal: "There are large portions of the population—African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, young voters—who simply don't know us. We have to change that." He's right. As a Bush 41 White House friend said to me yesterday, "I don't know why any young person in their right mind would want to join the Republican Party these days. We've become the party of old, rich white guys."
That's got to change, and I have a feeling it's about to. There's a lot of energy just below the surface, and most of it is coming from conservatives outside of Washington. I have a sense that the center of gravity in the Republican Party is shifting, away from the RNC leadership in Washington and the House Republicans, and it's moving toward people who haven't been out front—at least those are the people I'm hearing from lately. Things are starting to change, and that's a good thing.