People have to believe that you care about them, before they will consider voting for you. And the best way to get them to believe that you care, is to show it, again and again. The Republican Party is at a crossroads, and the decisions it makes in the next two election cycles will have a profound impact on the future of the country, and on the party.
Republicans, and their intellectual bedrock, conservatives, believe in maximizing freedom while maintaining order, or as some have called it, “ordered liberty.” Free people should be allowed to pursue their lives, liberties, and happiness without unnecessary government control or regulation. We believe that free markets work better than command economies like socialism, and we can point to centuries of history to prove our point. And we know that traditional family values, two-parent households, and religion, bind civic society and make communities stronger.
All this being said, Republicans must do a better job explaining how these basic principles apply to the American people in their daily lives. And we must demonstrate that not only can we point to data, logic, and facts, but we must demonstrate that we care about people, and want to see every person achieve their full potential. We cannot rely merely upon history, nor persuasive numbers and metrics, but we must also rely upon sharing our true compassion for all human beings, and the daily struggles that everyone faces.
For the Republican Party to win national elections into the future, it must add to its repertoire of campaign issues some of the following: improving health care through a patient-centered approach, lifting up people in poverty through educational choice, ending human trafficking, reducing the scourge of opioid addition, reforming the criminal justice system, and of course, finding compassionate solutions to our border security and immigration problems.
Now, to be clear, this does not mean that Republicans should change our principles or merely pay lip service to these issues. Instead, we must apply our principles and continue to come up with policy ideas that not only uphold those principles, but also serve to fix problems. The good news is that we already have some great stories to tell. In the past couple of years, the administration and Congress have achieved great things on some of the issues mentioned above, including reducing the number of deaths due to opioid addition for the first time in a long time. They have also passed historic criminal justice reform laws like the First Step Act, which is saving lives and money by helping formerly incarcerated prisoners transition successfully to life on the outside.
On these and other issues, our rhetoric must match our actions, or people will not take us seriously. We must talk like we care, and we must act like we care, and most importantly, we must actually care. For the Republican Party to win national elections in 2020 and beyond, we must demonstrate an authentic concern for our fellow human beings, regardless of their backgrounds, religion, ethnicity, or even ideology. Independents are on the rise nationally, and the Democratic Party has a clear advantage looking into the future: demographics. Young people, single women, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, and African-Americans, vote overwhelmingly Democratic. The Republican Party is in danger of becoming merely the party of white males. The demographic changes in this country are clear and stark, and if we do not heed them, we could find ourselves reduced to a regional party that holds some seats in the U.S. House and Senate, but rarely, if ever, the White House. This is not only a political imperative, but a moral one.
Conservatism, in its views on the family and social cohesion, as well as in its upholding the laws of economics, is a superior political philosophy to socialism. History is quite clear on this question, and so are the data. However, the political party most closely aligned with conservatism, the GOP, must make it clear to voters why and how this is so. But it must also prioritize the arguments about how and why conservative ideas and policies are best equipped to lift people out of poverty, deliver a quality education, provide for accessible and affordable health care, reduce crime while saving money, break the tragic cycle of addiction and despondency, and provide for the most vulnerable among us. Conservative principles do all of this and more, and are based on immutable natural law and human nature. But we must explain how and why that is so, and then we must demonstrate these truths with love, compassion, and genuine concern and caring.
If we can re-orient our thinking and our message along these lines, we will vastly improve our chances of winning now, and winning in the future. And when conservatism is ascendant in this country, people are better off, both morally and economically. That is a cause worth striving for, and it demands our full attention and self-awareness. I pray that we are up to the task.
Brendan Steinhauser is a conservative Republican operative in Austin, Texas who has worked in more than forty states on issue and candidate campaigns. He has consulted a number of congressmen, conservative organizations, and individuals. He is a partner of Steinhauser Strategies, a public relations, government affairs, and political consulting firm.
Brendan Steinhauser is a national political strategist focused on campaigns, media, and public policy.