Ten years ago, the Republican Party in Indiana was treading water, locked out of the governor’s office for 16 years and with a majority in only one chamber of the General Assembly. Then came a Republican Renewal led by Mitch Daniels that endures today.
Daniels introduced the types of reforms that Republicans in Congress dream of: balanced budgets, tax cuts, an expansion of charter schools, implementation of vouchers, privatization of dysfunctional government services and the one thing that has eluded most other states–sustained job growth.
Lessons from my home state of Indiana, along with Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, can breathe new life into the national Republican Party. The stories of the governors, mayors, state office holders and others who have cut taxes and balanced budgets are worth knowing and emulating in part because they have done what Washington has been incapable of doing.
And if Republicans are really serious about returning to the White House in 2016 and increasing their Congressional numbers in the next mid-term election, they would do well to look at what is happening in statehouses across the country. More important, they would be wise to study how Republicans at the state and even local levels succeed with policies that seem beyond the national GOP’s reach.
Michigan, a state long labeled “union friendly,” passed a Right to Work bill with a comfortable majority, much like the one which became law in Indiana just a few months prior.
Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin braced for a recall election due to the pace of his reform agenda, only to bat it away with a rather easy win. In the process, he became the first governor in our nation’s history to survive a recall.
Simply put, the notion of Republican irrelevancy is easily debunked thanks to the work of innovative governors and state legislators all around the country.
Take a look at budget balancing. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, every state–except for Vermont–is required either to balance budgets or are forbidden to carry over a deficit. That has made it easier for state Republicans to push through the economic policies they believe in.
Unfortunately, the Balanced Budget Amendment has repeatedly failed to pass in the United States Congress, by as narrow a margin as one vote.
Why is it that this great idea in 49 states isn’t good enough for Congress?
Clearly, the Republican Renewal won’t come from within the Beltway. It will come from the places where hard-working Americans learn to tighten their belts and watch their spending in tough times. It’s incumbent upon Republicans from coast-to-coast to do their homework and study hard in order to win.
Pete Seat is communications director for The Indiana Republican Party and a former deputy assistant press secretary to President George W. Bush.