One of the central and urgent missions of the conservative movement right now is to stop the economic train wreck that is the Obama presidency and get America back on the path to hope, growth and opportunity.
Let’s face it - American workers and families are hurting. We learned this week that the U.S. economy in the first quarter grew a pathetic 0.1%. Our manufacturing sector is struggling. Jobs are being shipped overseas. Millions are unemployed.
The painful reality is that economic growth is far too slow for families struggling to survive under the cost of increasing taxes, too slow for businesses stagnating under the weight of overwhelming bureaucracy, and too slow for increasingly frustrated voters.
Yet despite the cries of hard-working blue collar employees and small business owners, President Obama refuses to change course. Under his administration, the federal tax code becomes more corrupt and complex every day, almost as fast as massive deficits build. Suffocating regulations are mounting rapidly. The Keystone pipeline is at a standstill. And Obamacare continues to harm American families and businesses.
The President’s policies are crushing the same American blue collar workers and families for whom he claims to fight. No wonder his approval rating has fallen to 41% in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll. Indeed, only 42% of Americans approve of his handling of the economy. Only 37% approve of his handling of Obamacare.
This environment creates a tremendous opportunity for the GOP, but only if we calibrate our message. In 2012, six million blue collar votes stayed home and did not vote. Why? Because even though they were hurting, they did not believe the GOP leadership cared about them or truly understood their problems. They didn’t believe the Republican establishment offered a credible alternative plan to get America growing again and help them get back on their feet.
There is only one way we can stop the destructive liberal Obama agenda and turn this ship of state around: trueconservatives need to win a veto-proof majority in the U.S. Senate, significantly grow the conservative majority in the House, and then win back the White House. Without political control, we cannot make a positive difference.
The question, therefore, is, “How can we regain political control?”
Stunts like shutting down the government won’t work. Nor will simply speaking out against Obamacare. To win big in 2014, GOP candidates cannot simply be against something, even the President’s horrific health care plan. We must also be for a bold conservative reform agenda as a clear alternative to what the White House is peddling.
In my new book, Blue Collar Conservatives, I lay out a pro-growth, pro-worker game plan, not simply for the GOP to win votes, but to help Americans win. This means bold, sweeping tax reform to scrap the corrupt and complex current code and replace it with a one or two-rate system that is simple, honest and fair. I’ve supported eliminating taxes on small business before. Now it’s time to begin applying the same principles to manufacturing to get America working and producing again. It means repealing Obamacare and replacing it with patient-driven health freedom reforms. It means a commonsense approach to regulations, approving the Keystone pipeline, and getting serious about making America energy independent.
The U.S. should be growing at 4% a year. With the approach I lay out in this book, we could be. This would make an enormously positive difference for the American people.
As AEI economist James Glassman noted recently, if the U.S. economy was growing at 4% a year - instead of the anemic 2% we’re currently experiencing - we would be creating one million additional new jobs every year for the next 10 years. These are real jobs, real paychecks, that are needed by real families around the country. “A 4% rate of growth would lower the budget deficit by $3 trillion, or about one-third, over 10 years,” he notes. “It would boost charitable giving by $200 billion, provide an additional $300 billion for savings and investment, and lift 3 million Americans from poverty.”
Such reforms are good policy. But they are also shrewd politics. In 2012, I ran on such an “Economic Freedom Agenda” and it captured the imagination of grassroots voters. I had no money or pollsters or TV ads going into the GOP primaries. Yet the media elites were stunned when I won four million votes, eleven states, and nearly took Michigan and Ohio, too. They thought I only campaigned on social issues, which they chalked up as“losing” issues. The truth is that most Americans outside of Boston, Manhattan and Los Angeles are grateful for leaders who stand up for their deeply-held American values. Despite the fact that political insiders were not paying attention to my economic plan, grassroots voters were paying attention and it resonated with them.
Should this really be so surprising? Fully 86% of Americans say making the economy grow and creating more jobs is a top or high priority for government leaders, according to Gallup. More specifically, 59% of Americans say “reforming the tax code” is a top or high priority, including 64% of Republicans, 57% of Democrats, and 57% of Independents. Indeed, 77% percent of Americans go even further, saying it is important to replace the federal tax code with something simpler, according to a Rasmussen poll.
Conservative candidates, it’s time to go bold or stay home. By all means, run against Obamacare. But don’t stop there. Give American families a compelling reason to vote for you, not just against the President. Embrace a bold, pro-growth, pro-worker agenda and ride it to victory in 2014.
Rick Santorum is a former United States Senator from Pennsylvania and Republican presidential candidate, co-founder of Patriot Voices, and author of the new book "Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works"