What is really going on is that the more old-time Republican Establishment is starting to realize that simply playing the same old game against a new, brilliant and Democratic political juggernaut led by its symbol of success, President Obama, will likely yield the same results.
To Ryan’s credit, he told the same group this week that what Republicans need is more “Jack Kemp.” And Ryan is so right.
Remember, Kemp was a “conservative opportunity” Republican with an always positive attitude, which he carried with him as secretary of Housing and Urban development under President George H.W. Bush. Kemp reached his political pinnacle as the vice presidential nominee running with former Sen. Bob Dole in 1996.
Kemp was added to the ticket in part because of his long history of advocating tax cuts, in part to advance the concept of supply-side economics. Dole and Kemp had clashed in earlier years, with Dole viewed as the more traditional “Establishment-type” and Kemp the populist conservative who had a strong interest in issues that were typically not part of the GOP agenda, such as the health of cities, moving those in public housing toward ownership and responsibility for their homes, and eliminating weapons and drugs from the hands of the criminals who in urban areas possessed them.
When it came to issues such as immigration and gay rights, Kemp was more of a pragmatist. In June of 2006, Kemp warned in a column, “Failure to address the legitimate issue of immigration reform could also do great harm to the Republican Party.”
He advocated both the tough approach of truly enforcing the borders while at the same time creating some form of status for those already present.
Now conservatives such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida are increasingly proposing such moves in order to finally fix an issue that is costing the nation lost tax revenue and Republicans votes among a growing Hispanic/Latino electorate who once viewed the Republican Party as a vehicle to help lift them up.
More importantly, both Ryan and Rubio seem to represent a new breed of Republican leaders who want to double down on the GOP’s devotion to issues of fiscal responsibility, but couple them with policies that offer opportunity and hope to a large number of people who now view themselves as part of “the middle class” that clearly is drifting in the direction of not only a liberal but, in many ways, increasingly socialist leadership.
Some very strong conservatives have urged that even Republicans engage the White House and Democrats in Congress with blunt talk, spelling out clearly what they observe, pulling no punches. And it appears, with Boehner’s declaration as to President Obama’s intentions, even the “Establishment Republicans” might be reaching that point. They replaced the word “progressive,” which is increasingly being used to label President Obama, with the more accurate label of “moderately socialist,” when describing current Democratic policy in Washington.
But if Republicans are to start stating the obvious about the president’s goals of redistributing wealth and resources through various policies and legislation, they must offer an attractive alternative.
That means by its very necessity embracing the needs of the nation’s cities, finding a way to provide a path toward some form of legal worker status that requires paying taxes and no shortcut to actual citizenship. And, most importantly, that requires explaining how the Republican policies of lower taxes, less government and defense of personal liberties actually benefit the many voters who in November either chose Obama out of fear, on a coin toss or simply decided not to come out in support of Gov. Romney.
Republicans need more plain-speaking leaders who fight for providing opportunity to more people through less government intrusion. In other words, the Republicans truly do need more Jack Kemps.
Matt Towery heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage. Follow him on Twitter @matttowery.