Politics & Policy

Conservatism for the Many

For some time now, a number of conservatives — including the editors of this publication — have been calling for Republican politicians to do a better job of explaining how implementing conservative ideas will make life better for most Americans, countering the widespread impression that their agenda offers benefits only for the rich. Senator Marco Rubio has made a habit of making the case that conservative reforms will indeed work for everyone. In a speech Wednesday at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center in Washington, sponsored by the YG Network, he summed up his efforts so far.

He highlighted a single mother struggling with the cost of living, students burdened with higher-ed debt and no worthwhile degree to show for it, and a family held back by the cost of health care.

These three issues — the cost of living for families, the accessibility and usefulness of higher education, and the price of health care — are persistent problems confronting most Americans today. Jobs and economic growth are important, as ever, and Rubio did not scant them. But voters think about economic growth in terms of their concrete challenges, not in terms of statistics, and conservatives have to speak the same way.

Besides a constant commitment to growth, Rubio has a long list of legislative ideas that he has laid out in other speeches: Modernize Medicare and Social Security; open up the accreditation process to increase choices for higher education; hold colleges accountable for their results; expand the child tax credit to make raising children more affordable; and more.

Rubio’s approach here is not to offer “a program for every problem” that the middle class faces, to quote the old line about liberals; it’s to identify problems created by wrongheaded government interventions, and to address those problems through deregulation, tax relief, competition, and other conservative solutions. The party and the conservative movement will be well served if other politicians — 2016 aspirants, especially — begin to offer their own solutions. That will be an important first step toward a presidential race that ends well for Republicans and the country as a whole.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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