The Republican Party has voted for a change in its House leadership, with Ohio Rep. John Boehner emerging as Majority Leader. The move signifies at least a desire to change public perception about the GOP, but here’s what the party should do to prove its intentions are sincere:
1. During the next recess, congressmen should go home and tell their state party leaders to call emergency meetings of all their district and county chairman. The first thing they need to tell any elected Republican is if you deliver any favors or projects in exchange for contributions, gifts, etc., then you are permanently purged from the party. Design a judicial council of party officials to mete out the justice, and tolerate no shenanigans.
2. Remind party members that they stand for limited government. That means they are conservative. They are supposed to be different from Democrats. Therefore they should not support stupid city government boondoggles like rail transit, convention centers, and stadiums. They believe in the free market, remember?
3. Because you believe in freedom, remind Republican lawmakers that “economic development” is not their responsibility. A fair tax code does not include favoritism towards certain companies through corporate welfare. Businesses should either succeed or fail on their own merits, without artificial government support or withholding thereof. Democrats espouse wealth redistribution; you don’t.
4. Re-establish your constitutional credentials by conducting a high-profile campaign that shows your belief in private property rights. The Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. New London, Conn. last year instilled in Americans a greater fear of government. The ruling proved that abuse of power exists in the judicial branch also. Congressional and state actions that strengthen private property rights could reduce cynicism among voters.
5. Emphasize that you are the party of open, transparent government and that you have nothing to hide — aside from highly sensitive information related to national security. Commit, from the lowest levels of government to the highest, to changing laws and policies that make records retrieval easy and speedy. Put as much information on the Internet as possible. Hire helpful and responsive — not arrogant and obstructive — public information officials. It will go a long way towards changing your image.
6. Prove you are the stronger party on national security by committing undeniably significant resources to the borders and ports of entry. Americans are disgusted with both parties on illegal immigration. Despite the lack of terror attacks here, they know that won’t last forever. And remind employers that there is a cost to doing business in a free, yet secure, land. Part of that cost is making sure your employees are here legally, and that they are paid what a legitimate free American market will bear. Oh, and while employers are required to verify legal presence in the U.S., so also should local law enforcement do the same thing.
7. Leave issues that are of true local interest to the taxing, and decision-making, authority of the states and municipalities. That includes education, transportation, “economic development,” law enforcement, and a whole lot more. Restore for taxpayers the knowledge of what their government services and projects really cost, by pushing those responsibilities (and associated fees) down to the local level. Local officials know what their constituents want and need, and make better decisions because of it, while remaining directly accountable for what they do. And while you’re shedding those responsibilities and spending, think about the billions you’ll save while contemplating a new, larger round of federal tax cuts.
As Robert Novak reported this week, John Boehner was elected Majority Leader because House members believed a dramatic change was needed. A dozen years ago Republicans won majority status because they promised an overhaul of the way business was conducted in the House. Now some are engaged in the same kind of activity that they used to hammer Dan Rostenkowski and Jim Wright about, and they are nervous.
The GOP has a short time to show they have changed. The above measures will demonstrate their repentance, purify the party, and illustrate their return to conservative values. Extending their ideas and values to the local levels will strengthen party discipline, build consistency, and restore ethics. But the change must be shown in actions, not just by words and figureheads.
Republicans are suffering from voter mistrust, and while ideological purity may not be in order, ethical correction and transparency is. A return to conservative principles would help too.