As the presidential primaries continue to unravel in the news, it seems the main concern of Republican leaders in D.C. and around the country is stopping Donald Trump from becoming the party’s official standard bearer in November.
What they should be focused on is what has happened in this country to shift the political paradigm so dramatically that a populist outsider like Trump could be dominating the primary process, and what that means for the party’s future.
If Republicans want to win the presidency – or any other offices – they need to be working to earn trust and votes, not simply tearing down Trump. That means they need to be doing things to show voters that there are clear distinctions between the parties and the candidates, and they need demonstrate to their core constituency that they are actually listening to them, not just the donor class. That means going beyond promises to actually moving legislation, holding hearings and taking votes.
For instance, Democrats have made gun control a central theme of their campaigns this year, so Republicans need to capitalize on that by demonstrating their commitment to individual rights. They could easily do that by bringing Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, “Lawful Purpose and Self Defense Act,” H.R. 2710, to the floor for a vote. It’s a gun control reform that removes some of the bureaucratic power over firearm imports and sales. There’s no way that Obama would ever sign it, but that’s not the objective.
While we would like to see the bill passed and enacted, its more important purpose this year is to activate GunVoters, point out distinctions between Rs and Ds, give presidential candidates something to campaign on, force Obama to take a stand, and demonstrate to an important segment of the Republican base that politicians are actually listening and responsive to them. All of these things are beneficial to Republicans and harmful to Democrats this election year. Votes on bills like H.R. 2710 are ammunition in an election season, and it’s foolish of Republicans to deny that ammunition to our activists.
The rise of Trump did not happen in a vacuum, but rather due to a vacuum – a vacuum of leadership and responsiveness on the part of Republican Party bosses and elected politicians. For decades, a large percentage of Republican voters have been calling – and voting – for a return to constitutional principles, the rule of law, lower taxes, smaller government, less interference from Washington and more local control. Meanwhile, their leaders and elected representatives have arrogantly marched on with business as usual: bigger government, higher taxes, more bureaucratic control and virtually no effort at all to live up to campaign promises.
The Republican Party is coming apart at the seams, but that’s not a result of a tough-talking real-estate mogul turned reality TV star turned politician. Trump is just a symptom of a much bigger problem. The rise of Trump is a result of Republicans failing to give their constituents what they want – or even making a show of trying to do so.
From George H.W. Bush declaring: “Read my lips: No New Taxes,” then signing new taxes into law, to Republicans promising to repeal Obamacare if voters gave them control of Congress – only to waffle and offer excuses as to why they can’t actually accomplish that – and won’t even try – after voters have given them control of both houses.
The GOP leadership offers the excuse that even though Republicans control the House and Senate, unless they control the White House, they’re just spinning their wheels and wasting “political capital.” That’s foolish. While voters want to see Obamacare repealed, what they want more than that is to see Republicans making a genuine effort to do so. They want to see votes on the floor for a repeal bill. They want to see the people they elected taking actions to keep the promises they made to get elected. They want record votes so they know who really stands with them and who is just offering lip service.
Republicans are stymied by disagreements within their ranks over details of a comprehensive immigration bill, but what’s stopping them from moving forward with the provisions that they do agree on? They rail about the evils of Obamacare, but instead of taking action to repeal the law, they approve temporary implementation delays, easing the burden and the pain caused by the legislation, letting it become more firmly established, and mitigating the negative effects that would translate to votes for them and support for repeal. They pledge fealty to the Second Amendment, but consider holding the line on the status quo sufficient to placate GunVoters.
These are not winning strategies.
This is not what voters and activists have been demanding. This is all just a really good way to convince the people who want to support them that there is no point in it, and that they might as well go hunting on Election Day because it doesn’t matter who wins: We the People lose.
For GunVoters, the issue is Second Amendment rights, and the best bill currently sitting on a shelf in Congress to show us that politicians are serious about Second Amendment rights is H.R. 2710, the Lawful Purpose and Self Defense Act, which currently has 102 co-sponsors in the House – all of them Republicans.
We know that Obama would never sign it, and we know that supporters in the Senate might not have enough votes to beat a filibuster, but we want proof of where politicians stand.
We want ammo to use to fire up our troops, shoot at our opponents and support our allies.
We want Republicans to take a stand on our behalf, to prove that they’re listening, and to lay the groundwork for a future victory.
Republicans need to stop working so hard to stop Trump, and instead start focusing on winning voters. To do that, they need to start giving us what we want: action, votes, ammunition.