Voters are not in the mood for petty political bickering, platitudes about “hope” or vague promises about creating jobs. As we head into a fortnight of wearing funny hats and listening to hyped up rhetoric, otherwise known as the national conventions, voters are more skeptical of so called “political solutions” and even more negative about the direction the country is taking than they have been in a generation. Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that more American voters now think their children will be worse off than they are.
These factors, among others, are setting the stage for this November’s presidential election.
With an overwhelming majority of voters seeking answers and progress on the challenges we face, our presidential candidates cannot simply expect to win this election merely by “exciting” their respective base. In order to win, these candidates will have to communicate a message that is not bound by party lines, but in fact pulls us together through a common vision that speaks to our prosperity and our security.
For Republicans convening in Tampa, this has suddenly become a particularly daunting task after a week of conversation not about Mitt Romney’s plan to create jobs but rather Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) and his disturbing idea of “legitimate rape” or the late-night skinny dip into the Sea of Galilee by Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-KA). Two words come to mind: offensive and stupid. Mitt Romney cannot be happy with this distraction; after all, it was tough enough just keeping up with the distractions the Obama campaign was throwing at him.
So this convention is the opportune time for Romney to take this wayward party by the scruff of the neck and knock some common sense into it (yes, that means no more coddling crazy) and emerge out of this convention as the leader who will not only instill discipline but who is serious about fiscal stewardship; a leader who will speak with clarity and honesty on the issues that matter in the everyday lives of individuals and families.
To be certain, Mr. Romney is practical enough to recognize that there is no special formula, no magic potion nor secret handshake that will make our problems go away overnight. So he should say that; and while he’s at it, acknowledge the failures of Big Government Republicanism; stop trying to explain his taxes, off-shore accounts or work at Bain; embrace his ability to solve problems and to bring opposing political forces together — in other words, stop running away from his record as governor of Massachusetts.
Further, Romney can help the American people catch their breath after four years of struggling just to keep up with their bills and mortgage payments, as well as help them recover from the pink slips and foreclosure notices, by laying out his specific strategy for a long term recovery that affirms our national commitment to strong families, a strong economy and a safe and secure world.
To win this November, Romney and the Republican Party must present positive ideas and programs for solving the challenges facing state and local communities, Main Street and Wall Street, the poor and the middle class. Voters need to understand that he will secure the future by creating a legacy of ownership in one’s business, one’s home and one’s community, for only individuals can create a legacy of ownership, not government.
The Republican Party’s mission has not changed since its founding in 1856. It remains to empower the people of this great nation to put their hopes into action. This foundational principle is what separates Republicans from Democrats.
Once Republicans effectively make the case that only opportunity can defeat dependence and only self-reliance can overcome adversity, then and only then will voters give us a mandate to lead: A mandate that seeks to empower future generations; that seeks to secure the freedoms our sons and daughters have fought and died for; a mandate that recognizes the values of faith and family inherent in the very fabric of American life.
As this campaign season unfolds and the voters weigh what’s at stake for them, they will want to know which Republican Party will rise to lead: the party of fear and alienation or the Party of Lincoln.
And what’s at stake for the GOP? Well, Lincoln said it best when he noted “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”
Republicans, it’s time to be true to Lincoln and stand right with the voters once again.
Michael Steele served as the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee. He is a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and a political commentator. He will be providing commentary on all things politics for BET.com each week.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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