DeMint: Focus on freedom for the big tent

With all of the talk about big-tent Republicanism among the moderates, a missive from one of the most conservative Senators makes the most sense.  Jim DeMint, who has campaigned for conservatives and conservative causes, advises his allies on the Right that the GOP needs to narrow its focus if it expects to win elections again.  In fact, the more narrow the focus, the bigger the tent — and DeMint knows exactly where to start:

Despite notable successes at both ends of Pennsylvania Ave., it seems to me that Republicans in Congress and in the Bush administration forgot a simple truth. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, if you aim for principled reform, you win elections in the bargain; if you just aim for elections, you get neither.

No Child Left Behind didn’t win us “soccer moms,” but it did cost us our credibility on locally controlled education. Medicare prescription drugs didn’t win us a “permanent majority,” but it cost us our credibility on entitlement reform. Every year, another Republican quality was tainted: managerial competence, fiscal discipline and personal ethics.

To win back the trust of the American people, we must be a “big tent” party. But big tents need strong poles, and the strongest pole of our party — the organizing principle and the crucial alternative to the Democrats — must be freedom. The federal government is too big, takes too much of our money, and makes too many of our decisions. If Republicans can’t agree on that, elections are the least of our problems.

If the American people want a European-style social democracy, the Democratic Party will give it to them. We can’t win a bidding war with Democrats.

Freedom will mean different things to different Republicans, but it can tether a diverse coalition to inalienable principles. Republicans can welcome a vigorous debate about legalized abortion or same-sex marriage; but we should be able to agree that social policies should be set through a democratic process, not by unelected judges. Our party benefits from national-security debates; but Republicans can start from the premise that the U.S. is an exceptional nation and force for good in history. We can argue about how to rein in the federal Leviathan; but we should agree that centralized government infringes on individual liberty and that problems are best solved by the people or the government closest to them.

I said the same thing many times over the last couple of years.  If the GOP presents voters with a choice between a fake Democrat and a real Democrat, voters will choose the authentic item every time.  The Republican Party at some point began being afraid of its own core values of smaller government, greater personal freedom, and federalism.  Instead, Republicans went on a lobbyist and spending spree that violated the very values that formed the core of the party.

The surprise isn’t that the GOP began losing elections in 2006.  The surprise is that they didn’t start losing them earlier.

Some would have Republicans give up entirely on the principles of fiscal restraint and limitation of government power, arguing that the American people want to get bribed into voting for their representatives.  I disagree.  Over the last decade, the Republicans haven’t provided much of an option on that front, with Republicans porking up the budget and increasing the reach of DC in every budget they approved.  DeMint argues that, given a choice, most Americans don’t want the federal government taking their money for wasteful pork projects and wealth redistribution.  And if the Republicans can focus on that argument and not allow themselves to get distracted on other fronts, they can win larger and larger coalitions as they build their credibility on these issues — as long as they don’t turn back into fake Democrats once they get elected.

Allahpundit Dec 03, 2021 3:21 PM ET