By Sean Mahoney, Republican National Committeeman
What does it mean to be a Republican today?
When I came of age during the Ronald Reagan era, it meant you stood strong for lower taxes on working families, limited government, and more personal accountability.
Today, after nearly a decade of misguided leadership from Republicans in Washington, many Americans believe it means tax cuts for the rich, expanding government programs, ever-greater government spending and pointing the finger across the aisle. Our own party abandoned its mantle of fiscal responsibility.
We have gone from the smaller government, personal responsibility party of the Reagan Revolution to the arrogant, out-of-touch, free spending party of the past decade.
Republicans in New Hampshire, actually most voters in New Hampshire, still cherish the values that brought me to the party. For too long Republican candidates have spent too much time worrying about what people in Washington think and not enough time listening to what the people of New Hampshire have to say.
If Republicans in New Hampshire are ever to reclaim majority status we need to stop playing the DC game and start recommitting ourselves to the people of New Hampshire. We need to stand firm against the “go along to get along” mentality of too many Washington Republicans.
As we move forward we have an opportunity to show voters what it means to be a Republican in the 21st Century.
I want to see us become the party of open government, innovative solutions and personal freedom.
First and foremost that starts with transparency. Candidates and office holders need to be open, honest and accountable. In order to stop the culture of corruption that has gripped Washington, DC as of late, we need to open campaigns up for the voters to see. Campaigns in New Hampshire need to focus on concerns of real voters along the banks of the Merrimack, not the power brokers along the Potomac.
The same is especially true for office holders. In Washington we need to end secret earmarks and reform the appropriations process to be more open and fair. Government money should be spent based on merit and need, not on seniority and committee assignments.
In general the legislative process needs to be more open. It is never a good idea to push bills through without public hearing, but Members of Congress are now regularly voting on bills without having a solid understanding of what is in them. This can’t continue if we want to keep faith with the American people.
Second, we must stand up to the Democrat policy agenda with a policy agenda of our own. We can not continue to be labeled the “Party of No”. In the 1990’s it was Republican Governors who developed new policy ideas and drove the debate on things like welfare reform, Medicaid reform and tax policy.
Saying no to a government-run healthcare is the right thing to do, but at the same time we need to propose our own ideas on how to improve access to affordable health insurance.
The same is true on every issue. We all know that Cap and Trade is a bad policy that will cost the average family thousands of dollars, but we need to have our own plan to increase the use of alternative energy and reduce our dependence on oil.
Third, we need to reclaim the mantle of the “Party of Main Street”. Families across New Hampshire are still hurting from this recession. We all know that small businesses are the heart of the American economy. Two out of three net new jobs created each year are in small businesses. These businesses depend on fair tax policies and a predictable regulatory environment. These need to become the cornerstone of the Republican agenda: keeping taxes low and regulations within reason.
Fourth, we have to reestablish our fiscal responsibility credentials. It is easy for us to point to the record deficits of the Obama administration and claim that they are bankrupting our children, but Republicans spent freely under President Bush as well. No matter who has been responsible for the record spending of the last decade, it must stop.
Republicans must redouble their efforts to hold the line on spending.
Finally, we need to develop policies that advocate both personal responsibility and personal freedom. Whether it is reaffirming the Castle Doctrine, so that people have the freedom to protect themselves and their families, or maintaining the ability for people to make their own healthcare choices, Republicans need to put people before government.
It is time for Republicans to stop wringing their hands and start rebuilding our party. It is time to cast off the big government policies and strong arm perceptions of the Bush years and reaffirm our commitment to smaller government, local control, innovation and personal freedom.