Why We’re Losing the Messaging War
The GOP talks a good game on spending but fails to deliver.

House Speaker John Boehner


Jeff Landry

The Republican party has a serious problem, and it’s not that the party isn’t conservative enough. The problem is that Americans are having a hard time understanding what we stand for and whom we represent. Put plainly, it is an identity crisis.

This identity crisis recently almost cost John Boehner his speakership. Those who voted against him — and those who planned to vote against him — did so because they feel that the GOP is being pushed in a direction that requires abandonment of their conservative principles. They went to Congress to defend these principles, not compromise them.

These congressmen are finding it harder and harder to continue down the road that Speaker Boehner placed us on after the 2010 elections. We followed a path that began with a pledge to America to reduce government spending, but led to a debt-ceiling deal that gave the president trillions more to spend, and slashed the two areas of government he and Harry Reid really want to cut: defense and Medicare.

Continuing down this road, Republicans found themselves, at the end of the last Congress, completely capitulating on the cuts the leadership ineptly bargained for in the debt-ceiling deal. To make matters worse, the president got a fiscal-cliff deal that includes much more in new revenue than in spending cuts.

While many will argue that these deals were meant to ensure that Republicans would not be seen as “mean and nasty,” they destroyed Republican credibility. And herein lies the problem: Boehner is more concerned with the media’s perception of the party than with the actual integrity of the party’s philosophy.

Republicans like him are willing to be “Democrat-Lite” as long as they believe it will allow them to keep sitting at the table of power. However, this theory is counterproductive in the advancement of conservative principles — something the GOP should have learned in the Bush years of “compassionate conservatism,” when Bush and Cheney were no less vilified. Did they forget the pummeling we took in 2006 and 2008?

Republicans won big in 2010 because we ran on principle. We stood up for conservative ideas that the American people embraced. The mainstream media claimed there was nothing compassionate about Republicans elected in 2010; yet the movement we saw in 2010 still produced a majority and electoral success.

In the following two years, the Republican establishment in Washington spoiled that political capital by forcing members of Congress to avoid confrontation and principled battles in hopes of pleasing the media and winning over independents. That strategy has failed miserably and will continue to fail. Sadly, the Republican leadership is proving the old adage, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”

Let’s quit falling and start standing. “Democrat-Lite” is not a winning formula. We need principled leadership to stand up for the type of pro-growth policies that created the two decades–plus of economic expansion that began under Reagan. Lower spending, lower taxes, entrepreneurship, less regulation, free markets, and a strong dollar is the recipe for growth. These are the principles that Republicans must fight for if we intend to win the message war and the American people.

— Jeff Landry represented Louisiana’s third district in the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013.