Mark Smith notes Scott Walker’s impressive rise in the early polls in his news article for yesterday, and while I agree it doesn’t matter much yet, it does matter some…and not just to Republicans. Democrats rightfully fear Walker, as he is one of the few that has successfully fought their agenda and won. National Review outlines their attack strategy here, based on a slate article here, to paint Walker as a divisive, “whites only” candidate who only cares about his base, not the concerns of broader America. That is standard operating procedure for a party based on group identity; we’re for “XYZ group,” and the Republicans are against you. So the strategy is to divide America by calling the Republicans dividers.
So what should Walker do (or any other candidate–the playbook will be the same)? Go on offense now. Rand Paul gets it, he has already taken several steps to broaden his base now. There is nothing wrong with focusing on core conservative principles that will be especially attractive to historically non-Republican voters. Here are just a few suggestions of how to show you care about all Americans while being true to conservative principles:
1. Start promoting school choice as the fundamental way to improve educational outcomes for our kids. Yes this is in the staple of conservative programs, but make this front and center. Democrats are on especially weak ground here: there are already numerous inner city examples with strong minority support that he could stand by, yet the base of the Democrats is still committed to opposing it. As one analyst said,
“Middle-class kids get served up mediocrity, and black and Latino communities get even worse,”
With conservatives also mixed on common core, by going full force on school choice it offers a program that can unify conservatives on education. School choice can be THE civil rights issues going forward and Mr. Walker could lead the way. If the issue is parents or elites/school unions making the choice, conservatives win every time.
2. Call for a national commission on prison reform and sentencing laws. Say that fixing this in your first term is a major agenda item for a Walker (Huckabee, Paul, etc) administration. There is a huge problem when large numbers of African-American males in their 20s are getting felony convictions for drug related issues, when a felony conviction often has the effect of making them unemployable in the future. Further, Christians should be a large part of this push: I find no Biblical model of prison as the way to deal with crime–certainly not the first best way. The Biblical model seems to be one of seeking restoration and restitution. There have to be more creative ways of dealing with social misbehavior than taking someone made in the image of God and locking them in a cage for several years. Because this is such a tough issue, pledge to work with leaders from all groups to form a commission whose conclusions we can all embrace. Mr. Walker should request a speaking opportunity to the next NAACP event he can get to and unveil this.
3. End the Drug War. This is the hardest for conservatives, but we need to start applying the same standard to the drug war we apply to progressive policies on everything else: has it worked? I don’t think it has worked in terms of significantly stopping drug use, and it has unleashed a whole host of very bad negative consequences: Narco-terrorists that corrupt much of South and Central America, contributing to violence and instability in the region and are one reason we have high immigration. It is a large source of income leading to gang violence in our inner cities (and spreading to suburbia near you). It has led to policies that are a threat to our liberty here at home even if you are not doing drugs, sometimes resulting in innocent people being killed by police. As we tell the progressives, good intentions are not enough–does the policy work? I don’t know of many that will claim that it does work. The question that remains is is there a way to make the drug war work? Unless we can convince ourselves, we need to pull the plug on this war. We’re simply shooting ourselves here.
Edit Update 18 Feb: Headline says 90 year old’s home broken into by police looking for drugs. But granny didn’t have any:
4. Take the lead against civil asset seizure. While not the most pressing on my list, this is easily the most noxious. How can it be that in America, a police officer can stop you, and if you are carrying any amount of money, can take your money without ever charging or convicting you of anything? And keep it to use for local police funding! Think this doesn’t happen? You would be wrong, and this is a monstrous outrage, often but not exclusively related to the failed war on drugs. Conservatives should join libertarians to highlight this injustice.
Ok, this is my list. What do you think? What have I missed?