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How to Revive the GOP

Attempts to remake the GOP in the wake of 2012 have thus far been discouraging. Most recently, CPAC, a conservative confab attended by some of the biggest names in the GOP, made headlines for snubbing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and banning a pro-gay rights group. For a movement that needs to gain support from independents and the young, banishing a Republican with bipartisan appeal and barring one side of a social issue that many young conservatives support doesn’t seem like a winning formula.

Arthur Brooks, president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, has put his finger on a strategy to fix this problem that is both morally right and politically smart:

Some say the solution for conservatives is either to redouble the attacks on big government per se, or give up and try to build a better welfare state. Neither path is correct. Raging against government debt and tax rates that most Americans don’t pay gets conservatives nowhere, and it will always be an exercise in futility to compete with liberals on government spending and transfers.

Instead, the answer is to make improving the lives of vulnerable people the primary focus of authentically conservative policies. For example, the core problem with out-of-control entitlements is not that they are costly—it is that the impending insolvency of Social Security and Medicare imperils the social safety net for the neediest citizens. Education innovation and school choice are not needed to fight rapacious unions and bureaucrats—too often the most prominent focus of conservative education concerns—but because poor children and their parents deserve better schools. […]

With this moral touchstone, conservative leaders will be able to stand before Americans who are struggling and feel marginalized and say, “We will fight for you and your family, whether you vote for us or not”—and truly mean it. In the end that approach will win. But more important, it is the right thing to do.

We don’t think the GOP is going extinct anytime soon, but it will have many more losing elections if it can’t connect voters with the ways its policies can help the vulnerable. Fortunately, the GOP has its share of policy successes to point to, and Brooks offers a strategy to highlight these achievements in a way that will resonate with many who have turned their backs on the party. Read the whole thing here.

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