As Republicans look to the 2022 midterm elections and then to the 2024 presidential election, we need to be clear-eyed about where we have been, where we are and where we are going as a party.
Despite losing the White House, the Senate, the House and eight governors’ mansions in the last four years, the Republican Party — with the closest of minorities in the House and Senate, 26 governors and 62 state legislative bodies — is not dead, not by a long shot.
But we have to come together to win.
There are two simple keys for the GOP to succeed: Focus on ideas; grow by addition, not division.
While the candidate is almost always the most important ingredient in a winning campaign, for a political party its principles and ideas must serve as the foundation. Political parties can never be about any one politician. They must stand for fundamental beliefs grounded in a set of principles.
If Republicans want to win national elections with a majority vote, we must focus on our core conservative values such as liberty, freedom, equality, personal responsibility, public safety and economic growth.
We can put together a coalition of hard-working Americans of all backgrounds if we focus on results for all Americans.
We cannot tie our future to any one person whether that is Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan or anyone else. However, we should learn from these leaders.
President Trump, like Reagan before him, re-connected the GOP to working folks. They both spoke to Americans’ concerns about the future. It is a good instinct, because many people who play by the rules and work hard struggle with dwindling job opportunities, cash and liberty, and growing concerns for the nation each passing year.
A good way to start rebuilding is to embrace what President Trump did well and reject what he did wrong.
Mr. Trump refused to expand his base of support. Had he done so, he would be a two-term president. Mr. Trump practiced the politics of division, which limited the gifted politician to about 47% of the vote. That was his choice. As a party, we can do better.
To grow the party, we must practice the politics of addition.
Jack Kemp used to say, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” What’s the best way to let Americans know we care about them?
Republican leaders need to go to neighborhoods to listen and share our ideas.
The more we talk about our principles and policy ideas the better — especially how our ideas contrast with the Democrats. I am not advocating we simply go back to the issues that won Nixon, Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 majority victories.
We have an opportunity to redefine Republicanism in the 2020s. How do we apply core principles of conservatism to modern problems, and how do we speak to opportunity? What does this mean for China, trade, border security, health care, education and economic growth?
These are the sorts of topics Republicans should be discussing.
We have plenty of opportunities to show that President Biden is already off track. Democrats refuse to stand up to the teachers’ unions. Democrats think it is fine to open our southern border to illegal entry with no COVID-19 testing, but are considering a different policy for U.S. citizens who just want to go to Disney World or anywhere else in Florida. Mr. Biden say he cares about working class folks, but his Keystone XL Pipeline and other executive orders will cost thousands of jobs.
In 2020, President Trump got an incredible 74 million plus votes, but it wasn’t enough. Although, it was 7 million less than Mr. Biden, it came within about 40,000 votes in Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin of tying the Electoral College at 269.
We must appeal to voters in the suburbs of Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. That’s where we lost in 2020 as many suburbanites reacted negatively to the rhetoric of blame and anger absent a positive policy-oriented vision for America.
We can do better. We must be the champions of those who want a chance to make it in life. For all Americans, all backgrounds, native born and immigrants.
By focusing on policy and getting things done, Republicans can regain the confidence of our traditional conservative base and those who left us in the last four years. Importantly, Republicans should do all this with civility. We can hold our political adversaries accountable for their harmful policies, but treat them as fellow Americans, even when they don’t return the favor.
It’s always fashionable for the media and Democrats to predict the end of the GOP, but Republicans have come back before and can do so again if we come together and focus on the right things.
• Henry Barbour is a Republican strategist and member of the Republican National Committee from Mississippi.
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