The highest ranking Republican official, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) serves as the highest ranking state Republican official. The two men stand in stark contrast.
Boehner represents the out-of-touch, dysfunctional, gridlocked Congress, who manages to scream, yell, and do the Sunday talk shows. Jindal represents thirty Republican governors who have cut taxes, balanced budgets, slashed spending, reformed public employee pensions, reformed public education, and created jobs. All things Washington promises to do, but hardly ever does.
Thirty governors' mansions are inhabited by Republican chief executives, and Republicans have total control of twenty-eight state legislatures. There are five female governors, four are Republicans. The three youngest governors are all Republicans. The first Indian-American governor is a Republican. The first female Hispanic governor is a Republican. Simply put, the GOP is winning in the states. Why? Because Republican governors demonstrate strong leadership, connect with voters and deliver results.
Contrary to basic liberal doctrine, low taxes and fair regulations attract new businesses, encourage investment, and spur job growth. More jobs, means a broader tax base, less welfare recipients, and a higher standard of living. Jobs are the answer to America’s ills, not another government agency. Republican controlled states lead the way in job growth, not Washington, DC.
However, GOP governors have found success elsewhere, too. Gov. Jindal enacted a school choice program, so that high achieving students from low-income families will not be trapped in failing schools. Oklahoma’s Gov. Mary Fallin enacted historic income tax reform, and privatized worker’s compensation programs. New Mexico’s Gov. Susana Martinez—with a Democratic controlled legislature—successfully championed corporate tax reform. Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker reformed public employee pensions.
How will Democratic states counter this narrative? Somehow “Jindal leads hostage-taking GOP governors to economic success,” just doesn’t have a good feel to it. But I’m sure liberals will try to make it work.
Conservatism rests at the core of the GOP, and at the core of conservatism stands a simple truth: the federal government is incapable of doing anything (except for national defense) as well as state governments. The conflict between liberalism and conservatism is a conflict over which level of government should have more power: state or federal. Over and over again, Big Government has failed the American people. The Democrats are the party of Big Government and Washington. It is time for the Republicans to be the party of the states.
Not only should the GOP’s brand be based on success in the states, but the GOP should actively recruit candidates for Congress who have experience in state and local government, not just Washington insider status. The practice of promoting House members to the Senate needs to stop. For example, Mia Love (R-Utah) and Karen Handel (R-Ga.) would both bring years of experience in state and local government to an out-of-touch Washington.
It’s clear that Washington’s dysfunction has badly damaged the GOP brand, but hope lies on the horizon. Bobby Jindal should be the leader of the GOP, not John Boehner. He and his twenty-nine fellow Republican governors can proudly say: we cut taxes, balanced budgets, and grew our economies. What can Washington say? Washington is the party of Old Republicans. The states are the party of Grand Republicans. To win in the future, the GOP must stop being old, and start being grand.
Chaney is a senior at The George Washington University majoring in political science.