Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has long staked his claim in Washington as a top-tier policy wonk. The young Congressman, driven to public service by conservative giants like Jack Kemp, would have never expected to be Speaker. He got his start pushing his visionary, albeit outside of the time’s mainstream, budget proposals. At the time, the two major parties’ only difference on fiscal policy was whether we ought to go over the cliff at 70 miles per hour rather than 80.
The Referendum Party
The political debate was fundamentally transformed by the election of a charismatic, ideological progressive President. In the wake of an economic meltdown, conservative Republicans finally found their voice. They stood in opposition to overreach, first by President Bush and then by President Obama. The newly elected President’s left-wing agenda consisted of a bloated, poorly engineered stimulus, an onslaught of new regulations for American companies to follow, and a large expansion of already-expansive government power in the healthcare system. Conservative Republicans had a perfect foil.
In the 2010 special and midterm elections, Republican candidates ran against the unilateral, unchecked power of the President and his party. They pledged to resist the President’s agenda, strive to repeal the legislation he’d already passed, and cut the dollars spent by the federal government. We, as Republicans, won a majority in the House of Representatives in a referendum election.
However, the 2012 presidential election revealed a flaw in the referendum playbook. A myriad of consultants, strategists, and pundits molded a good man with a story worth telling into a Generic Republican whose only defining characteristic was his lack of being Barack Obama. As a result, we lost many voters when our only opinion was opposition to the President’s record.
A Better Way
At the time, Paul Ryan was Mitt Romney’s running mate. Leaving that painful defeat in the rearview mirror, Speaker Ryan is engaging in the competition of ideas.
Branded “A Better Way,” House Republicans have put forth a comprehensive policy agenda to speak directly to the concerns of American workers, businesses, and families. Today, however, it is worth looking back and understanding the proposals that united the House Republican Caucus in order to make a more educated guess about President Trump’s first term.
A Better Way consists of policy proposals on the topics of poverty reduction, national security, economic growth, the Constitution, healthcare reform, and tax reform. These aren’t merely talking points used to win an election. These subjects are accompanied with serious, easily-transcribed-into-law policy ideas. With a President-Elect whose campaign was notably light on detailed economic, domestic, and foreign policy particulars, House Republicans may be responsible for filling in the gaps of Trump’s administration.
It seems Democrats have already made this assumption. Their allies in the mainstream media have certainly gotten the memo. At press time, Politico’s second most trending article describes the President-Elect’s appointment to HHS Secretary, Congressman Tom Price, as “radically conservative,” asserting he wants to leave the poor and the elderly in the streets to die. The Washington Post claims the President-Elect supports “cuts” to Social Security and Medicare. Conservatives would do well to offer smart, compassionate specifics to contrast with the cartoonishly evil image presented by the media. To paraphrase a timeless saying, “If you are unable to stand for something, you will fall for anything.”