Voter anger is not enough, Republicans
© Greg Nash

As a mom, I've been where millions of other parents have been. My daughter, when she was younger, used to throw a temper tantrum because she wanted juice. I asked her to be patient, but finally relented and got her a cup of juice. But then she continued to be upset because she didn't like the cup that it was in. Eventually, none of it was good enough and the cup got thrown off the table and juice was all over the floor. And then, she was even madder, with nothing to show for it.

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It sounds trivial, but it's a fitting analogy as the Republican Party heads toward a perilous crossroads. Is the Republican Party going to be the forum for big ideas that Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year MORE (R-Wis.) wants it to be, in the traditions of Presidents Lincoln and Reagan, and stand for economic opportunity and a strong national defense? Or will it end up with a bigger mess that's more difficult to clean up?

Voter anger is understandable. For years now, Republican candidates have masqueraded themselves as the next candidate who is going to go to Washington and repeal ObamaCare, slash federal spending and be a check on Washington Democrats. But it's proved much easier to campaign than to govern. Campaigning is easy when you're limited to 140 characters, but hashtags and sound bites don't grow our economy and create jobs.

It's ironic that as we head into March, one of the top candidates on the Republican side has been the leading agitator on Capitol Hill. Texas Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE came to Washington vowing to make D.C. listen. As a darling of the Tea Party movement, he has now, by all accounts, been replaced as a champion of conservatives by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems flip Wisconsin state Senate seat Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP rep: 'Sheet metal and garbage' everywhere in Haiti MORE, who has repeatedly pointed out that Cruz is ineffective and doesn't have the relationships with his colleagues that it takes to govern effectively. In some ways, Cruz is reaping what he's sowed.

But the anger needs to be channeled effectively by Republican primary voters if they truly want to "make America great again." We are, and have been, a center-right country. Millions of Americans agree with our agenda of economic growth, a strong national defense (that includes secured borders) and the belief that states and their local communities have the answers that can never be found inside the Beltway. But what they don't understand is that most Americans aren't political activists who can eloquently argue the points of whether or not abortion ought to be outlawed under the Fifth and 14th Amendments. Nor do they care!

Americans who have traditionally believed in the Republican Party want solutions to the issues facing our country. The further that our party goes to the right trying to out-conservative each other, the only place for voters to go is toward the center, and there they'll find their only other acceptable alternative — which today means probable Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIntel Dem decries White House 'gag order' after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) MORE.

The Republican Party will never be the party of Lincoln with a nominee who has trouble disavowing David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. The Republican Party will never be the party that stands for, in which Reagan did, peace through strength when the front-runner openly advocates bombing and killing the wives and children of our enemies.

Nor will the party of Lincoln and Reagan remain viable when leading candidates challenging for the nomination resort to gumming up the legislative process simply to score political points or third-grade humor and playground taunts when selling their agenda to the American people.

Americans from every walk of life are kept up at night struggling under this economy. Small-business owners worry about meeting payroll and whether they're going to provide healthcare to their employees or be forced to cut their hours. Mothers worry about the mental health crisis and the perils of addiction that are gripping their communities and can only hope their children will be kept safe. Grown children, caring for their terminally ill aging parents, pray that there might be a innovative medical breakthrough that will help increase their parents' quality of life.

There was already a lot at stake in this election. Now, with a Supreme Court vacancy, everything is at stake. No matter the outcome, November's election will fundamentally change the direction of the country for a generation.

Will our country continue down the path of the last eight years, divided, with a stagnant economy? Or can Republicans come to peace behind an agenda that will lower the nation's tax burden, keep our country safe, and make government more accountable and efficient even though we might not be in 100-percent lock step?

President Obama famously said that "elections have consequences." It might be the only thing he's ever said that I agree with. It's simply not enough to be angry.

Chamberlain is president of the Republican Main Street Partnership.