RNC Chair Priebus Issues Call to Arms

RNC Chair Priebus Issues Call to Arms

By Michael Needham - October 2, 2014

For years, conservatives have argued a Republican Party that cannot articulate a positive vision for its existence is doomed to electoral failure. Today, a speech by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus delivered hope that one part of the GOP leadership is open to embracing a positive, reform agenda.

Most Americans today feel that life is tough and sadly nobody in Washington seems to care. In that environment, an opposition party needs to do more than just voice the obvious case against the President. To win converts, it needs to articulate a vision that provides opportunity for all Americans, but favoritism to none.

The speech Priebus delivered outlined eleven “Principles for American Renewal” and began to articulate that vision. While we did not agree with everything in the speech, it was notable for the strong case Priebus made against Washington. Vying to be the next “adult” in charge of a dysfunctional system is not appealing to voters nor will it lead to the type of changes many Americans are seeking.

To his credit, Priebus didn’t simply take a shot at Washington, he also challenged the left’s caricature of the debate between conservatives and progressives. “It’s one thing to protect consumers,” Chairman Priebus argues. “It’s another thing to protect special interests.”

Contained within Obamacare, for example, is a provision that allows for a taxpayer bailout of insurance companies if the law harm’s their profit margins. Americans seeing their hours cut, jobs disappear or insurance premiums skyrocket will receive no such bailout. They didn’t have a seat at the table when the law was crafted, but the insurers did. Republicans must ensure these same players cannot have undue influence after Obamacare is repealed.

While Priebus’ words give reason for optimism, one speech does not mean the Republican Party has found its soul. The actions of the GOP congressional leadership will be telling, but conservatives are slowly but surely changing the course of the Party and, therefore, our nation.

The next Congress should respond to the Chairman’s call to arms with specific action. A few examples:

Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act. This legislation, mentioned by Priebus, would upend the outdated models prescribed by the national accreditation cartel. State-based accreditation bodies would encourage the kind of innovation needed in a modern economy where traditional four year degrees are growing far more expensive even as the value proposition becomes less clear to many students.

Immigration. Priebus rightly noted the border crisis and Obama’s unilateral amnesty are key issues for Republicans to take up in making their case for a better way to the American people. Americans deserve more clarity though, because it is not merely President Obama's unilateral amnesty causing angst among hard working American, but rather a political elite focused on a congressionally sanctioned amnesty. Securing the border and enforcing existing immigration laws are essential first steps.

Tax reform. There’s no better vehicle for special interest favors than the tax code, riddled as it is with subsidies that take revenue contributed by all and dispensed to the privileged few. Next Congress, conservatives should take a meat cleaver to the code and challenge the left to defend holding up relief for millions of Americans to protect its favored big business carve-outs.

Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners Act. Supporting the wind-down of Fannie and Freddie, which precipitated the housing bubble that brought on the Great Recession, would allow conservatives to stand against bailouts for the well-connected while increasing consumer choice and flexibility.

These are only a handful of the ideas our movement can advance in the next Congress. Chairman Priebus and others have identified many more. The next Congress shouldn’t be a 2016 holding pattern. Conservatives should take it as an opportunity to use all the legislative vehicles at our disposal to articulate our vision of opportunity for all and favoritism to none.

Increasingly, we’re talking about these issues the right way, and that is a good start. Now candidates need to run on bold, anti-Washington reforms to have a mandate in 2015. Then they can show what that vision means when applied to the hard work of governing. 

Michael A. Needham is the chief executive officer of Heritage Action for America (

Michael Needham

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