Obama's 'red menace' debt is the problem. Can Republicans sell the solution in 2012?
President Obama's $3.7 trillion budget would derail the American Dream. Conservatives must frame the debt issue in a way that engages young people without scaring older voters or neglecting social conservatives. Yet most of the 2012 Republican hopefuls at last weekend's CPAC don't get it.
Even as our national debt is about to surpass the size of the economy, the proposed budget comes with a record $1.6 trillion deficit.
Kicking the can of fiscal integrity down the road does more than make us a procrasti-nation – it derails the American Dream for young adults (Millennials) like me.
In the next decade, as Millennials are trying to build their own businesses, the cost to service just the interest on the national debt could swell to nearly $1 trillion, crippling their efforts.
The American Dream is being morphed into the American Burden.
Some Republicans say they have a one-point plan for getting America back on track: replacing Obama as president. But to do that, they’ll have to frame the debt issue in a way that engages young people without scaring older voters or neglecting social conservatives.
GOP hopefuls don't get it
Unfortunately, if this past weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was any indication, the 2012 Republican presidential field doesn’t get it.
After three days of speeches and talks with a delegates and potential candidates, it was clear that conservatives are neither united behind a message nor a messenger for 2012. While everyone in the Republican base agrees on the need to cut spending, the CPAC VIPs were rather mixed on how to sell this mantra to the American people, especially to younger voters, who overwhelmingly favored Obama in 2008.
The clearest message on cutting the size of government came from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. In his speech, he called debt the next “red menace.” Beforehand, my radio show co-host asked him what his message is to young people. “Tell your elders you deserve a better break then they are giving you,” Governor Daniels told her, “and join us in shaping America up so you can have the kind of life that they had.”
Mr. Daniels understands that the debt should be a youth issue, maybe even a cause for young people to fight for.
Like Governor Barbour, most of the GOP field has no idea how to talk to young people. The good news is that they don’t have to start listening to Justin Bieber or appear on Comedy Central. Instead, they can both excite younger voters and unite the conservative base by preaching the virtues of New Federalism.
New Federalism is not just an idea. It’s a fundamental policy orientation that decentralizes the Washington establishment and returns power back to the people and their state and local governments.
As Ron Paul and the tea party have demonstrated, young people get excited about freedom, liberty, and the Constitution. The GOP must communicate that these three words are what constitute modern conservatism on the national level.
Governor Daniels tried a somewhat similar approach when he called for a “truce” on social issues in order to focus on tackling the national debt. His message fails on two fronts: People like fighting for a cause, not against one (debt), and social conservatives will not accept this truce. When social conservatives stay home, Republicans lose elections.
Fighting to revive the Constitution should be the primary anthem for all conservatives. By definition, conservatives ought to be trying to conserve something: How about our founding document?
And what does the Constitution say about social issues? Nothing. In the powers enumerated to the federal government in Article 1, Section 8, nowhere can you find references to marriage or protecting life. By way of the Tenth Amendment, these responsibilities fall “to the States respectively, or to the people.”
States have jurisdiction on social issues, and conservatives should vigorously advocate for protecting the unborn and preserving traditional marriage at the state level.
Fittingly, our Constitution also doesn’t grant the federal government any jurisdiction to create a public retirement system, provide health care, or bail out private companies – the main drivers of our debt.
Obviously, most voters – especially older voters – look skeptically on politicians who talk about privatizing or ending popular entitlement programs. But that’s the beauty of New Federalism: It enables conservative politicians to credibly talk about, not ending these programs per se, but either reforming them at the federal level or moving them to the state level so they can be made more efficient, more effective, and more affordable.
Shifting Social Security to the states may be an ambitious project, but it’s more achievable than the conservative movement’s ultimate goal of rolling back all New Deal and other extra-constitutional programs.
The greater purpose of creating sustainable, constitutional government can only be achieved with smaller steps like balancing the budget, reforming entitlements, and repealing Obamacare. This more gentle approach can still work wonders in cutting the deficit and saving America’s future prosperity.
Conservatives need a united front with a powerful message to defeat President Obama in 2012. Only then will we be able to fix the deficit. A freedom-centered message with a dynamic goal of constitutional government properly delegated to state and local governments will get young people excited and bridge the social divide among the conservative base.
Ron Meyer is a senior at Principia College. He hosts the “We the People” Internet radio show and is a contributor to The Daily Caller. He has appeared on Fox News, and his writing has been featured in The Christian Science Monitor, Yahoo! News, Human Events, the Santa Barbara News-Press, and AOL News. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.