The G.O.P.’s Demographic Excuse

November 12th, 2012

Ross Douthat writes that Republicans should focus on addressing today’s economic issues, rather than try to pander to different demographic groups:

As the American Enterprise Institute’s Henry Olsen writes, it should be possible for Republicans to oppose an overweening and intrusive state while still recognizing that “government can give average people a hand up to achieve the American Dream.” It should be possible for the party to reform and streamline government while also addressing middle-class anxieties about wages, health care, education and more.

The good news is that such an agenda already exists, at least in embryonic form. Thanks to four years of intellectual ferment, Republicans seeking policy renewal have a host of thinkers and ideas to draw from: Luigi Zingales and Jim Pethokoukis on crony capitalism, Ramesh Ponnuru and Robert Stein on tax policy, Frederick Hess on education reform, James Capretta on alternatives to Obamacare, and many more.

Absolutely right. The reason to change the party’s positions on immigration and gay marriage is not because it will appeal to Hispanics and young people, but because the party’s current positions are wrong. Doing so, though, is not sufficient to re-make the party. The GOP must create smart proposals for how to solve issues like the economy’s short-term lack of growth and longer-term structural issues, the increasingly blurred line between government and the financial industry, the unsustainable path our entitlement programs are on, and our education system. There is not a shortage of smart conservative thinkers, but the party has thus far mostly refused to embrace their ideas. That must change.