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Republicans are one broken promise away from losing the House this November. If this happens, Americans can wave goodbye to the dream of “draining the swamp.” If the conservative base loses faith in a Congress led by Republicans, what few legislative victories Republicans managed to achieve will end. The bold agenda undertaken by President Trump will get bogged down by obstructionism from House Democrats. Divided government will once again rear its ugly head.
To avert defeat on Election Day, Republicans must focus on national issues. Former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, coined the phrase “all politics is local.” While this may be true for Democrats, history tells us the opposite is true for Republicans, whose candidates win when they run on national issues rooted in principles of liberty.
Newt Gingrich and the “Republican Revolution” of 1994 are a case study in what happens when Republicans stick to big ideas. The “Contract with America” addressed major national issues like the budget and deficit, and stood in stark contrast to the lack of an appealing and coherent policy agenda by the Democrats. It also gave Republican candidates a national issue platform to focus on during the 1994 midterms. With this strong policy agenda as a rallying cry, the Republicans were able to retake the House and wield significant influence over the Clinton administration.
Republicans running for office in 2018 should take a page from the 1994 Republican playbook. To paraphrase Congressman Thomas Massie, there is a major difference between partisans and ideologues. Partisans have a narrow vision of what is good for the party. They deal in small scale legislative wins for political gain in the short term. Ideologues play the long game by taking a principled and measured approach to governing that pays dividends down the road.
The Republican leadership should take note. The “Republican Revolution” was successful in the long term because Republican ideologues governed on the promises made in the “Contract with America.” They stood on principle and took action. They kept their pledge to the American people, and voters rewarded them at the ballot box.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his small scale and localized politics lack vision for the long term prosperity of America. His leadership strategy abandons all efforts to achieve substantive change in Congress and fixates instead on messaging bills that serve only partisan purposes.
This hollow approach to congressional leadership isn’t going to cut it anymore. The GOP base doesn’t want any more “balanced budget” show-votes, “Obamacare-lite” health care proposals, or bloated omnibus spending bills written in secret. They want to see action on the small-government promises made repeatedly by Republicans on the campaign trail.
The broken budget process is a glaring example of short-term partisanship. Every year, congressional leadership decides on a budget-busting omnibus spending bill behind closed doors, and every year the national debt increases. All this with Republicans at the helm – this is the party of fiscal responsibility?
During his tenure as Speaker, Paul Ryan became the poster boy for the Republican Party’s reluctance to govern how it campaigns. A McCarthy speakership will signal to voters the majority is signing up for more of the same. The idea of more broken promises is not exactly motivation for voters to get to the polls.
To save the majority, Republicans need to rally around a principled ideologue with a strong national vision for change, like Rep. Jim Jordan. Rep. Jordan would govern how he campaigns: on national issues that excite the base. He’s committed to restoring America’s faith in the legislative branch. To put it simply, Jim Jordan is ready to #DoWhatWeSaid.
Like Gingrich’s “Contract with America,” Jordan is running on a platform of national issues rooted in the principles of fiscal responsibility. Like the ’94 revolutionaries, Jordan is recognized by colleagues as a fighter who makes the tough floor votes to cut spending and limit the size and scope of government.
These ideological principles drive Republican voter turnout at the polls. They did in 1994, and they still do today. If Republicans can bridge the gap between how they campaign and how they govern, they will energize the base and pave the road to victory in November.
If congressional Republicans elect Rep. Jordan to the speakership and embrace his national agenda of welfare reform, spending cuts, Obamacare repeal, reforming the FBI, and border security, they will keep the House and lay the foundation for sweeping majorities in 2020 and beyond.