What an Election Cycle This Should Be for Republicans

What an Election Cycle This Should Be for Republicans
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This election cycle presents a very real opportunity for Republicans to win the presidency while retaining majorities in the House and Senate. The Real Clear Politics average of polls consistently shows that only around 30 percent of Americans believe the country is on the right track while around 60 percent believe it’s on the wrong track. While disconcerting for Democrats, these numbers represent a genuine opening for Republicans to offer optimistic policies to get our country back on track.

This discontent should hardly come as a surprise. Our nation is facing serious foreign, domestic and economic challenges.

Internationally, the Middle East is in chaos and a humanitarian disaster. Following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine, our European allies are looking East with a level of concern last seen during the Cold War while an emboldened Russia is establishing a military presence in Syria. The Obama administration is entering into a “deal” with Iran, without congressional approval, enabling Iran to eventually develop nuclear weapons. A mere 20 percent of Americans approve the deal, according to a recent CBS poll. An increasingly militarized China is creating islands in the key sea lanes of the South China Sea, engaging in cyber-theft of U.S. government personnel records and brazenly operating in the waters off our Alaskan coast while President Obama visited the state.

Domestically, Obamacare, which led to major electoral defeats for Democrats in 2010 and 2014, remains unpopular, with only 40 percent approval, according to the RCP polling average. Racial tensions are rising and our urban police are finding it increasingly difficult to protect public safety. Videos of Planned Parenthood personnel casually discussing over red wine selling the body parts of aborted children, possibly for profit, will surely energize the Republican social conservative base.

The economy remains stagnant with GDP growth averaging a paltry 2.2 percent (despite a highly accommodative monetary policy), the share of Americans working at lows last seen under President Carter, about 5.5 million more people living in poverty than when President Obama took office, and 6.5 million people working part time because they can’t find full-time jobs.

So, where can Americans who believe the nation is on the wrong track look for positive change?

Leading the Democratic field is Hillary Clinton, an Obama administration alum with serious trust issues. When people were asked in a recent Quinnipiac University survey to state “the first word that comes to mind” when they heard her name, the top three were “liar,” “dishonest” and “untrustworthy.” Trailing her in the polls is Bernie Sanders, an admitted socialist with a picture of socialist icon Eugene Debs on his office wall. Finally, there’s Vice President Joe Biden, who is unsure whether he has the “emotional energy” to run for president. If you believe the country is heading in the right direction, these are your candidates.

If you want change, the Republican field includes governors, senators, businesspeople and doctors. The top six in recent polling include a woman, an African-American and two Hispanics. In the general election they will be supported by a reinvigorated Republican National Committee that is out-fundraising the Democratic National Committee and has vastly improved technologically.

For Republicans, this is the moment to offer optimistic policies for getting the country back on track. That’s why it’s so disconcerting to watch the discourse deteriorate into ego and entertainment.

With an electorate ready for change and looking for candidates with an optimistic view of our nation’s future and our potential as a people, does it make sense for any Republican to tell voters who are the children of illegal immigrants that we’re sending their parents back to Mexico? Or, to focus media attention on repealing the 14th Amendment so we can deport babies born in the U.S.? Should any candidate be telling female voters that the one woman running for the Republican nomination isn’t attractive enough to be president? Why open the door to an argument about whether President Obama, who isn’t running for anything, is a Muslim or whether a Muslim should be president?

As every candidate surely knows, particularly those from the business sector, whether you’re trying to win over retail customers, tenants, advertisers or voters, you can’t offend (or insult) people into supporting you. If you’re a candidate who stands for serious and optimistic change, why give the media the opportunity to focus voters on infighting and grandstanding? No one wants a PC candidate but Republicans can’t win the presidency by playing into the Democrats’ narrative of Republicans as the bigoted, anti-immigrant, anti-woman party. If you can’t win the presidency, what difference does it make if you win the Republican nomination?

The anger many Americans feel about our country’s direction is understandable, as is the search for a savior. Such candidates are doing well now, because doing well means succeeding among a fraction of a fraction of a minority: the most active Republicans. To win the presidency, candidates must persuade a much larger group, including Hispanics and women, whose views are less influenced by what’s being said on conservative websites.

There are Republican candidates offering serious and optimistic solutions to the policy crises we’re facing. They deserve to be taken seriously and heard above the one-liners and insults. 

Andy Puzder is the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants. He is an economic adviser to the Trump campaign. His Twitter handle is @AndyPuzder, and you can read his blog at andy.puzder.com.

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