In an interview with Newsmax.com, President Bill Clinton offered good advice to Republicans. He said they need to shake off the “party of no” image and get positive. Clinton raised the Republican’s 1994 “Contract with America” as an example of the kind of thing that needs to be done.
By devising and running on the “Contract,” a 10-point agenda for reform, Republicans successfully transformed negative sentiment toward Democrats — much of it driven by the rejection of “Hillarycare,” Big Government-centered health care reform similar to what Democrats are now pushing — to positive support for a Republican alternative.
Republicans in 1994 picked up eight seats in the Senate and captured control of the House for the first time since 1952.
Public sentiment today is running against the direction in which Democrats are taking the country. Government-run health care, huge federal government deficits, spending and debt are not playing well with the American people. Barely more than one in three people give positive approval to the Democrat-controlled Congress and President Barack Obama’s job approval ratings have dropped precipitously since the beginning of the year.
Although Democratic Party identification still exceeds Republicans, their lead has shrunk from 17 points in January to five points now. In a recent Gallup Poll, 57 percent said, “Government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.”
But so far, Republicans are not transforming dissatisfaction with Democrats into positive GOP support.
The shrinking gap in party identification is the result of a sway in Republican-leaning independents and not from growth in self-identifying, hard-core Republicans.
And Republican approval of their own GOP members of Congress has dropped from 52 percent in December to 39 percent currently.
I can say from my own mail that animosity still runs high toward our previous Republican administration. As the Mercatus Center at George Mason University reported, annual growth in federal spending in the eight years of the Bush administration was higher than under any of the six previous presidents, including Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s.
So although the public is unhappy with the Big Government policies of Democrats, Republicans have their work cut out to re-establish themselves as the limited-government alternative.
Republicans must start crystallizing principles. It’s time to be bold. Our country is in trouble.
In this sense, I think former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won the presidential straw poll at the Values Voters Summit last week, is someone to pay attention to.
The strength of Huckabee’s candidacy was a big surprise in 2008. And a lot of establishment Republicans still have a hard time taking him seriously.
But let’s keep in mind that these same establishment Republicans are the reason the party is now on the outside looking in. Huckabee is singular in staking out principled and courageous stands that are badly needed today.
At the Values Voters Summit, he restated his support for totally overhauling our tax system, getting rid of the income tax and replacing it with a national sales tax (the Fair Tax).
Huckabee courageously stated during a recent trip to Israel his opposition to creation of a Palestinian state. He pointed out appropriate concern when 20 percent of the population of Israel is Arab, but the Palestinians demand zero Jewish presence as a precondition for the state they say they need.
How can Americans pressure Israel to relinquish territory and compromise its security to those motivated by hate rather than by ideals of freedom?
Regarding “death panels,” Huckabee correctly pointed out that our government has been sanctioning death since Roe v. Wade in 1973.
Whether it’s Huckabee or others, Republicans ought to heed Clinton’s advice and get positive, principled and aggressive.
Examiner columnist Star Parker is an author and president of CURE, Coalition for Urban Renewal and Education (www.urbancure.org). She’s syndicated nationally by Scripps Howard News Service.