Last year, after conducting a study on voters’ perceptions of the Republican party, respected pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson concluded: “There is a brand. . . . And it’s that we’re not in the 21st century.”
Facing daunting demographic trends and having lost the last two presidential elections, Republicans face a major choice on the future of the party. Many Republicans inside the Beltway have persuaded themselves that better campaigning and messaging are all that’s needed. They are wrong.
What’s needed today is not poll-tested messages to appeal to Hispanics, African Americans, or Asian Americans. Rather, we need modern, conservative policy prescriptions that can appeal to a wide array of ages and demographics.
The College Republican National Committee (CRNC) report on what went wrong in 2012 concluded that “young voters simply felt the GOP had nothing to offer.” But it wasn’t always so: The GOP is a party founded on big ideas. It is a party that grew to prominence on one very controversial idea — opposing slavery — and there may have been no more powerful special-interest group in the 19th century than slave owners.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has tried to rebrand the GOP as the party of “Growth and Opportunity.” But growth and opportunity come from innovation. That’s why the Republican party must become the Party of Innovation, with the policies to match.
We know how to grow the economy; we know where job creation comes from: It’s from new small businesses — true start-ups. Real job growth comes from new small businesses, not just any small business. From 1980 to 2005, businesses less than five years old accounted for all net new job creation in the United States, and in 22 of 29 years between 1977 and 2005, all net new job creation was due to businesses less than one year old.
Yet Washington is far more comfortable listening to the voices of existing industries, which, far from being job creators, are actually shedding a million jobs annually. Some established companies do innovate, but market incumbents typically favor regulations to protect their bottom lines and stifle the creative destruction that is a key ingredient of economic growth.
A party that is dedicated to free markets, to job creation, and to reinvigorating the U.S. economy is a serious and robust party that will win national elections. As I explained in my cover story in the June issue of The American Conservative:
Given the stakes — the future of the economy — a political party that is not serious about technology and innovation is a party that is not serious about economic growth and job creation. Thus far, the Republican Party is not serious about technology and innovation. Republicans talk about regulatory reform but in practice do little about it.
The GOP must lower the barriers to entry for small businesses by removing regulatory burdens when they are unnecessary or counterproductive. But embracing this agenda requires more than vague talking points about “regulatory reform.” Rather, it means confronting cronyism in our own midst and standing up against senseless occupational-licensing requirements. It means allowing companies like Uber to operate across the country, and reforming our copyright and patent laws so that they serve the purpose the Founders intended, to “promote the progress of the sciences and useful arts.”