The question that every Republican — and every pundit — will ponder until the end of the year is this: what ails the GOP? That question and its answers isn’t limited to the grassroots or the commentariat. The next generation of Republican leaders know that they’d better have an answer if they have any hope of winning national elections in the near or long-term future.
One member of the GOP bench offered an answer in an interview today with Politico:
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal on Monday called on Republicans to “stop being the stupid party” and make a concerted effort to reach a broader swath of voters with an inclusive economic message that pre-empts efforts to caricature the GOP as the party of the rich. …
“We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything,” Jindal told POLITICO in a 45-minute telephone interview. “We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.”
He was just as blunt on how the GOP should speak to voters, criticizing his party for offending and speaking down to much of the electorate.
“It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that,” Jindal said. “It’s not going to be the last time anyone says something stupid within our party, but it can’t be tolerated within our party. We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”
Jindal also said that “Simply being the anti-Obama party didn’t work. You can’t beat something with nothing.” That certainly proved to be the case last week. Many Republicans figured that the economic malaise and the lack of any vision of a second term from Obama would doom him with voters, but we ended up getting stuck in our own blind spot where Obama is concerned.
As I wrote after the election, we can’t allow ourselves to fall into the trap of being mainly an oppositional party — being defined by what we’re against rather than what we’re for. We have to have a clear, positive agenda aimed at communicating specific policies that will improve the lives of voters in demonstrable ways. Too often, we offer philosophical slogans about economic policies without offering nuts-and-bolts solutions to back them up. That requires going into hostile political ground — especially in urban areas, where we fare the worst in national elections — and offer specific free-market-based policies to solve real problems for people whom Democrats can take for granted now. That is the most direct route to defusing the claim that the GOP is nothing but the party of the rich.
Where our values demand a firm stance, we need to maintain it — but we need to get better at communicating those values, too. Todd Akin derailed the GOP’s pro-life message, and so did Richard Mourdock to a lesser extent. We need candidates who can communicate better and make sure that campaigns remain focused on those core values and specific policy agendas that will improve the lives of all voters.
If the Republican Party is to have a renaissance, it will have to be led by Jindal and the other Republicans of his rank in the next few years. Hopefully, the message will resonate within the party.