OK, I thought it would be fun to pretend that I am a Republican. Cut me some slack here. I know what some of you are thinking…this is some mean trick.
No, really, I am trying to figure out what I would do if I were running for president as a Republican. And I understand the problem with going "mainstream" now, as everyone is fighting for the most conservative, extreme wing of the party.
But here are 5 things I would suggest:
Middle Class: First and foremost, I would try and figure out how to fight for the middle class. I would not be talking about stopping a $1,500 tax break for working families, while suggesting another drop in the upper income tax bracket from 35 percent to 28 percent, even after the Bush temporary tax cut from 39 percent to 35 percent. The Republicans are doing everything in their power to pay for the tax break for the middle class in some fashion but do not seem to care much about paying for the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. This is hurting them badly politically and they need to support tax breaks for those who are suffering. So, I would be talking about the middle class by suggesting help for college and trade school, help with job training, incentives for hiring and expanding, and providing tax breaks for start-ups.
Tolerance: I would try and take on others (including the opponents) for gratuitous slams at gays, Hispanics, blacks, women, and Arab Americans. I would openly criticize an audience that boos a gay soldier fighting for his country, a candidate who talks about "Obama’s war on religion" while blasting gays in the military, and others who believe a state initiative on Shariah law is smart politics. Americans are moving fast towards tolerance and acceptance of those who are different from them—embrace it, don't fan the flames of intolerance.
Role of Government: Republicans will, for the time being, blast government but they should say what they are for. How about acknowledging that the Securities and Exchange Commission should have had more teeth and been more vigilant in going after the Madoffs and Stanfords of the world? Now is not the time to let the financial system run amok; rather we should be tougher in protecting the "little guy", the consumer, the investor, the depositor. Why not combine a concern for over-regulation of small businesses with a tighter grip on those who have abused the system?
Foreign Policy: This is one area where Republicans should zip it. If I were running I would give Obama his due on the war on terror, Iraq and Afghanistan, praise Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and pivot to domestic issues. Talk expanding trade, cutting good deals, competing with the Chinese and leave it at that—but don’t accuse Obama of being "weak." Doesn’t work. Creating more jobs in the international economy is a much better message.
National Service: Sounds like a side issue, but I would call for all Americans to give back to their country. Everyone between 18-25 should serve in some capacity for two years, in the military, in the Peace Corps, Teach for America, in their local communities. The reward: help with their education, paying off student loans, assistance with grad school—a new GI Bill if you will—but ultimately, good deeds are their own reward. We would change the ethic in this country that you can have your cake and eat it too, that your government owes you, that there is no need to contribute your talents, hard work, resources, to others.
So, I guess if I turned into a Republican, I wouldn't be very popular in the current crowd, would I? But my strong belief is that a Republican who adopted these five ideas might just stand a better chance of being elected next November. Yes, this is Christmas and a time of miracles but maybe, just maybe there are some Republicans out there who agree.