Last spring, Paul Ryan attempted to engage in a policy conversation. For too long, he argued, Republican candidates were merely a way for voters to repudiate liberal overreach. The GOP needed to be more than that. They needed to proactively offer solutions to the enormous challenges facing this nation so that voters could vote for Republicans, not just against Democrats.
“We came together and made the decision that it was time to go from being an opposition party to being a proposition party. We dedicated ourselves to looking at the problems facing our constituents and the country and coming up with principled solutions,” Ryan said.
The result was a series of policy agenda, entitled A Better Way, that sought to enlist policy experts to find the intersection between the GOP’s timeless principles—liberty, freedom, self-enterprise, self-determination, government by consent—and today’s biggest problems; things like poverty, unaffordable health care, a slowdown in innovation, and a broken criminal justice system.
“We are offering a better way. Because we believe by engaging with our fellow citizens on these solutions and ideas, we can have the kind of inclusive, aspirational discussion we need to have in this country to earn ourselves a mandate to put these solutions in place and fix our country’s pressing problems,” Ryan concluded. “That is why we are here, and that is why we are offering a better way.”
Unfortunately, the policy discussion that Ryan hoped for this election never happened. Instead, it was sidetracked by ongoing scandal and ceaseless innuendo. The result is that voters aren’t choosing between two sets of ideas on how to govern so much as they picking which candidate they’re less frightened by.
But it’s not too late to begin having the hopeful conversation we always wanted for this election cycle. In fact, it’s never too late, for that is the benefit of being the College Republicans – we get to play the long game.
To that end, Speaker Ryan spoke to a group of college students on Friday, pointing them back towards the key policy decisions that lay ahead. In essence, he asked, what kind of country do we want to be and what kind of future do we want to have?
“I know this election has taken some dark—sometimes some very dark—turns, which is exactly why I think it’s important that we take a step back and reflect on what this election is ultimately all about,” Ryan said.
“Are we are going to be positive and inclusive, bring people together, and reclaim our founding principles? Or we are going to be overrun by liberal progressivism, with more drift, more despair, and more decline?,” he asked. “That is the choice before us.”
Clinton has attempted to muddy the water on that choice. Her campaign slogan is “stronger together,” an attempt to portray the government as the tie that binds society towards a common good. It’s a corollary of Democrats earlier attempt to portray government as “the only thing we all belong to.”
But we don’t belong to the government, the government belongs to us, a point Ryan made in Friday’s remarks.
“When Hillary Clinton says we are ‘stronger together,’ what she means is we are stronger if we are all subject to the state,” Ryan said. “What she means is we are stronger if we give up our ties of responsibility to one another and hand all of that over to government. But there is no strength in that. Only hubris. Only the arrogance to assume we are better off if we fall in line and bow down to our betters.”
“Their theory was that if we enlarged the state, if we stocked the bureaucracy with so-called experts and technocrats who would decide what was best for the collective, we would be better off,” Ryan said.
“In the America we want, government exists to serve the people. And instead of lecturing us, our leaders listen to us and offer positive solutions to tackle our problems.”
An America in the hands of its citizens is vibrant, free-thinking republic, where innovators and entrepreneurs shape the future by turning the power of their ideas into reality. The government’s job is to grease the wheels of that process and ensure that good ideas aren’t left behind because a person wasn’t presented with the opportunity to realize them. That’s a far cry from a cold, bureaucracy-laden state where we drift to the mean because individual passions are snuffed out by the comfort of knowing that government will take care of it.
“The America we want is about empowering people to flourish and thrive,” Ryan said. “That is why we are taking to the country a bold agenda … a better way that means less government and more freedom … less apathy and more ambition … a way that offers the best of what liberty produces.”
These ideas are timeless and it’s never too late to start talking about them,m.