In the face of this week’s electoral defeat, conventional wisdom is the Republican Party has grown too conservative and must moderate its stances in order to broaden its appeal. With turnout down in many Republican strongholds, I beg to differ with this analysis. What the Republican Party needs is increased moral clarity and less compromise.
In the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney ceded the moral argument of a highly progressive tax code to President Obama, promising that any tax reforms would maintain the code’s progressivity. According to Romney, the share born by the wealthy would be maintained even if rates are lowered. The Republican Party should be challenging this highly progressive tax code head on rather than calling for its continuation.
Furthermore, this election saw the Republican Party endorsing the idea of a tax reform that is revenue neutral. Whatever happened to the concept that taxes are indeed too high? The Grand Old Party should be insisting on tax cuts which reduce the share of the economy diverted to the federal government. A revenue neutral stance forfeits an opportunity to enable those who create the wealth to produce yet more of it. This stance further entrenches an overgrown federal government.
The Republican Party also offered a mixed message the last few years on bailouts. Rather than explain the moral concerns raised by bailouts, Republican Party leadership largely back the financial sector bailout. In addition, when given the opportunity to explain his opposition to the auto sector bailout, Mitt Romney mostly demurred. Instead, he chose to suggest his plan for a managed bankruptcy was similar to the actions Obama took in regards to General Motors. Of course, even the op-ed written by Romney ostensibly opposing the auto industry bailout actually included support for government backed loans to the sector.
Such a lack of clarity on the proper role of government in the management of the economy and in the distribution of wealth is neither a recipe for turning out the base nor for spreading an appreciation of a free market system. The Republican Party should clearly offer an unabashed defense of the free enterprise system. And the defense must not be in words alone. The actions by the leadership of the party must match the rhetoric. In addition, the defense must extend beyond the high level of material wealth free enterprise produces. We must also firmly promote the moral superiority of capitalism—because it is capitalism which respects individual freedom rather than the power of the State to influence economic decisions.
Until the standard bearer of the Republican Party is one who consistently advocates these ideas, we can expect the base to remain insufficiently enthused. And we can expect a creeping Statism to gradually transform this nation into one mirroring Western Europe. The Republican Party must offer a clear alternative to both the policies and the theories if the Democratic Party. Rather than merely offering a more timid version of highly progressive income taxation, stimulus spending, and bailouts, the Republican Party should vocally oppose the moral and practical foundations of these concepts. A more conservative, more steel-infused fiscal ideology rather than a more blurred ideology is the way to create a stronger party.