Judd Gregg: Party with a positive purpose

As we move into the new year and a new session of Congress, Republicans continue to push the envelope of the negative.

They are, of course, against Obama-Care and debt ceiling increases and immigration reform (defined by the righteous amongst them as “amnesty”) and defense cuts they already voted for, such as pension reform for future military personnel.

The list goes on and on. Some of it is justifiable but little of it magnetic as the national policy of a national party.

If the goal is to actually capture the attention of the American people beyond those on the right who live in a perpetual world of conspiracy and the language of “no,” it might be time to consider going positive.

Like a football team that is always expected to run the ball, let’s try surprising a few folks and airing it out.

This would be seen as different by all the people who are in the middle of American political thought and who actually vote — that is to say, independents in general and especially educated, professional women who are the decision-makers not only in their families but in elections.

It might also be perceived as an interesting and attractive approach to governing.

Obviously, Republicans do not control the White House and, unlike President Obama, neither do they have significant support in the mainstream press to amplify their agenda. But with the stark failures of the left as led by the president and The New York Times, there is clearly a vacuum of leadership ready to be filled.

With the advent of social media, the opportunity is sitting there for Republicans to fill this vacuum with an avalanche of good ideas that address the everyday needs of most Americans.

We have a very large number of creative people and thinkers in our party, both in Congress and in the states where our governors dominate.

Let’s take four or five of the best ideas that are rooted in the positive, and throw a few long balls or maybe just pound them home.

There are a number of things that could fit the bill.

Immigration should be a positive issue for Republicans. Most people who are recently arrived in this country are committed to working hard to succeed, for their kids as much as for themselves. They do not want the government to excessively interfere with their effort.

The odds are fairly good that wherever they came from, they left behind an overly intrusive government. They took the risk of coming to America not only because they believed in its promise but also because they believed in themselves. They are natural conservatives.

But they are turned off by the misguided belief of some conservatives that some wrongs, such as coming here illegally, can never be righted.

The GOP should set up a system that rewards the work ethic and highlights the meritocracy Republicans espouse. It’s time to stop the stupidity of turning off people who agree with us, and instead get on with immigration reform.

Higher education is going through a revolution. Bricks, mortar and tenure alike are going to crumble in the face of the thoughts, knowledge and degrees being offered online.

Republicans need to get in front of this. Adjust the Pell Grant and student loan programs to reward legitimate and substantive online programs, especially those that produce technical skills people need to make them more successful and our economy more productive.

Do it in the name of being competitive and creative in education, something that should be a Republican mantra.

We are entering a new paradigm in energy. But we have hardly scratched the surface because we have allowed the fanatical environmentalists to lock up essentially all public lands, including marginal areas that hold virtually no public or preservation benefit.

Set up a program that evaluates the benefits of preservation versus unobtrusive drilling on these marginal public lands. Use the proceeds from that drilling for specific purposes such as improving the inexcusable deterioration of our national park system or building needed infrastructure in our inner cities.

The resources are sitting there and in those cases, which will be many, where their access can be obtained without degrading the public need for preservation and protection of the environment, they should be used for the greater good.

These are just a few of many ideas. The list is long but the key is for Republicans as a party to gather members of Congress, governors and interested and constructive players, narrow the list and then pursue it with purpose.

This could be done by calling for a new type of convention, a “Positive Purpose Convention.”

The rules would be simple: Nothing in the negative, no mention of Obama, no social fratricide. Just good ideas that will cause Americans to think twice and maybe say “You know, those Republicans, they have something there.”

Judd Gregg is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.