By Jennifer Rubin
The Washington Post
Republicans are right to be mad about Mitt Romney's comments attributing his loss to "gifts" President Obama doled out to young voters and minorities. It is one thing to observe that Obama expertly catered to Democratic constituencies (hire 100,000 teachers; make an issue of contraception; a Dream Act executive order). But that is far different from saying that too many Americans are lazy takers so we can't be expected to go get them.
As Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said, "If we're going to continue to be a competitive party and . . . continue to fight for our conservative principles, we need two messages to get out loudly and clearly: One, we are fighting for 100 percent of the votes, and secondly, our policies benefit every American who wants to pursue the American dream."
Republicans including Ronald Reagan appealed to working-class voters, Hispanics and others who wanted opportunity, not a handout. The idea that Americans don't aspire to better lives for themselves and their children and aren't inclined to work cannot be the message of the GOP. Republicans will succeed at the presidential and Senate levels by telling voters what opportunities come from an invigorated private sector and reformed, effective government.
To that end, here are a few things that Republicans should avoid.
1. "If Senator X doesn't do Y or does Z, we'll primary him." When elections roll around, every incumbent should answer for his record as a whole. But serially threatening to run challengers to the right of incumbents whenever they displease the party's most rigid elements is self-defeating (see: Richard Mourdock) and not conducive to finding creative policy solutions.
2. Turn back the clock. Ideally, conservatives would like no new revenue in a budget deal because they believe it won't be used to pay down the debt. But that ship sailed last year when House Speaker John Boehner and then the supercommittee Republicans offered revenue via tax reform. Tax reform has benefits (promotes growth, simplicity and fairness) that conservatives should be embracing, quite apart from the need to forge a compromise with Democrats.
3. Insult the voters. Since Election Day, too many conservatives have preferred to blame voters (too dependent, not educated enough) for their losses. As a practical matter, it is a bad idea to insult the customer. How about explaining an agenda in a compelling way? How about addressing real-world problems (college-tuition squeeze)? Why not reach out to the people who embody entrepreneurial values and long for the American dream: immigrants?
It is good some Republicans have denounced the noxious "voters are hopeless" attitude. But neither should they tolerate tactics that hold the party back from innovating and reviving itself.