Aspirations and Anxieties: Ryan, Rubio, and Republicans
Last night, at the Jack Kemp Foundation Leadership Dinner, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio each delivered
remarks about the 2012 electoral loss, and laid out, in very broad strokes, a vision for Republican domestic policy.
Both Ryan and Rubio understand that the Republican Party is suffering an identity crisis; that it is in the wilderness. It is going to be a rebuilding year, as the sports analogy goes.
They also understand that the way forward for the Republican party is not abandoning its principles (pace David Frum) but instead living up to the challenge of applying them to the most pressing domestic policy problems of our moment. In that vein, each focuses on the middle class, social breakdown in civil society, education, and job creation.
The Ryan-Rubio wing of the party recognizes that the electoral future of the Republican Party depends on the success of the following endeavor: communicating an attractive vision of what a healthy and prosperous society, both civil and economic, looks like; embodying that vision in a set of policies that are comprehensible to the electorate and that deliver on that promise; and addressing the anxieties that a majority of Americans feel in a constructive and forward-looking way.
For these reasons, I recommend reading both speeches in full. Here are a couple of excerpts to give you a sense of what they said. From Ryan:
We need a vision for bringing opportunity into every life – one that promotes strong families, secure livelihoods, and an equal chance for every American to fulfill their highest aspirations for themselves and their children.
This vision leaves behind the failures of the past. It seeks instead to build on those reforms that have worked.
It calls on government to encourage, not displace, the efforts of free people to help one another.
It calls for a stronger safety net – one that protects the most vulnerable and promotes self-reliance.
It calls for an end to the chronic inequalities in our education system.
And finally, it promotes economic growth through free enterprise – because nothing has done more to lift people everywhere out of poverty.
For most of us, we need to look no further than our own communities to see where the answers to our challenges lie. It starts with strong and stable families. It continues with a vibrant civil society filled with people working together to improve their country, and with a thriving free enterprise economy that creates good paying jobs and can draw upon people with the skills to do those jobs.
Government’s role is to support those institutions and policies that strengthen the family and the community. To implement pro-growth policies that support a vibrant free enterprise economy that creates middle class jobs. And to provide access to schools that teach our people the skills they need to fill those jobs.
The emergence of a strong, vibrant and growing 21st century American middle class is the answer to the most pressing challenges we face. Millions of Americans with jobs that pay more means more buyers for our products, more customers for our businesses and more taxpayers for our governments. The more they spend, the more jobs they create for others, who in turn spend their money in the economy as well. And even with low and stable tax rates, the taxes they pay will mean new revenue for our government to provide for the national defense, fund our safety net and pay down our debt.
If we are determined to remain an exceptional nation, this is the only way forward. And if we embrace it, the promise of the 21st century is extraordinary. The United States will soon be the world’s largest producer of energy. The emergence of affordable American natural gas will allow manufacturing to return in force to our shores once again. American innovation promises to revolutionize health care, communications and transportation. And every year, millions of people around the world are entering the middle class, now able to afford the things we invent and build, hire us to provide services, and take trips here to visit our tourist destinations. If we make the right choices now, life in America can be better than it has ever been.
Some say that our problem is that the American people have changed. That too many people want things from government. But I am still convinced that the overwhelming majority of our people just want what my parents had, a chance.
A real chance to earn a good living, and provide even better opportunities for their children.
A few weeks ago, I was giving a speech at a fancy hotel in New York City. When I arrived in the banquet hall, I was approached by a group of three uniformed employees from the hotel’s catering department.
They had seen my speech at the Republican Convention, where I told the story of my father the banquet bartender. And they had a gift for me. They presented me with this name tag, which says “Rubio, Banquet Bartender”.
That moment reminded me that there are millions of Mario Rubio’s all across America today. They aren’t looking for a handout. They just want a job that provides for their families.
But there just aren’t enough jobs out there like that. And many of them do not have the skills they need for the jobs that are available.
All they want is a chance to earn a better life for themselves and a better future for their children. Whether they get that chance or not, will determine whether America remains exceptional or declines.
Ryan and Rubio are speaking to the question of a strong and stable middle class, and they are speaking the language of opportunity, aspiration, growth, customization, and choice.
That’s the future of the Republican Party, if there is to be one.