A series of welfare, education and criminal justice reform proposals from Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin represent serious, conservative reflection on the task of governing.
That doesn’t mean that Lee’s strategy would be the first choice of every conservative. Some conservatives might place less priority on expanding health care coverage through tax credits. Other conservatives might place a higher priority on cutting taxes on high-earners. The problem is that every faction of conservatives, even if united, add up to less than a majority. If limited government politics is to have a reasonable chance to succeed, conservatives will have to work together on a strategy they can all live with and that is designed to appeal to persuadable voters who are either middle-class or struggling to enter the middle-class.
The thread that runs from Lee’s prior remarks at Heritage is worth considering. It seems to me that the Utah Senator is attempting something important and useful – building a philosophical bridge between the hardcore populists and the more traditional structure of Washington conservatism, attempting to prove that these tribes can coexist and actually work together.
Though Lee’s speech is not meant to offer a detailed reform agenda for the right, he does identify a number of policy initiatives that are in tune with his vision of a family-friendly conservatism that speaks to the interrelated problems of entrenched poverty, middle-class squeeze, and pervasive rent-seeking.
Inviting his fellow Republicans to join in a “Great Debate” over their platform, Lee proceeded to lay out his own vision for the future of the party, a sort of compassionate conservatism 2.0 aimed at fixing the social problems that preoccupy progressives — income inequality, access to higher education, deteriorating infrastructure — with policy initiatives that the tea party can love.
But if you follow Lee closely, then you would know that yesterday's speech was part of a much larger and long-term effort formulate a conservative policy agenda that can unite the party and govern the country in the next century.
Meanwhile, the Lee is plowing ahead, setting the stage to define his first term in office on his own terms and taking steps to show that he is more than an obstructionist, but can produce ideas sculpted to consider the needs of middle class families. In the last two days, he has released two pieces of legislation that he argues will support that end.
Mike Lee, the senator from Utah, gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation last week that demands attention. The takeaway: Candidates need policy ideas that address the concerns of ordinary voters—and they have to campaign, and win, on those ideas. Lee noted that conservative scholars have a number of imaginative proposals that try to address the breakdown of the family, the rising cost of health insurance and higher education, the lengthening suburban commute, and out-of-control entitlement spending.
There is no reason to believe Reagan would propose the very same solutions to today's problems that he pitched for those America faced 33 years ago. That doesn't mean he'd be more of a Democrat; it means he'd be a Republican focused on today. That is how today's GOP should emulate his generation.
Gallup: 54% of Republicans are very or somewhat dissatisfied with income and wealth distribution in U.S.
As for working-class Republicans, they’re not going to embrace class warfare anytime soon but this poll is a caution (another caution), I think, that party leaders need to follow Mike Lee’s lead and start concentrating more on this segment of their base. “You didn’t build that” is fine for ideologues like me but it doesn’t do much for that apolitical guy who’s been laid off for six months. In fact, remember this poll from Pew in 2011?
“Like Mike Lee said, you can do both,” Walker said. “You don’t have to compromise one for the other, meaning you can stand up for your principles, you can push your core beliefs, and you can still govern effectively.”