Last Wednesday, former Alabama congressman Artur Davis stopped by the Newsmaker Breakfast hosted by The American Spectator and Americans for Tax Reform. He made headlines earlier in the year with his announcement that he was changing his party affiliation. However; at last week’s breakfast, Mr. Davis was focused not on his party shift, but rather the steps the center-right has and should continue to take to ensure success in the upcoming presidential and congressional elections.
Davis began his breakfast address with what he called a “straight-forward proposition”: What has occurred over the last two years in politics is in fact the single most successful political insurgency the country has seen in the past 100 years. Davis contends that President Obama entered office with four specific policy goals: to dramatically expand and federalize healthcare; to liberalize immigration laws; to mimic the European style of environmental activism; and to repeal the Bush tax cuts. The former Congressman explained that only the first of these four goals has been passed through the legislative process. This legislative goal of the President, far from being a victory for the administration, is in fact notable for being the least popular piece of domestic legislation passed since the 1930s according to Davis. Overall, the priorities of the Obama administration have failed inside a single presidential term.
Both the left and right place the failure of the Obama administration’s agenda upon the President himself. Davis, however, would like to turn the focus to the center-right and to what it can do in order to continue to enhance their political success going forward. The former Congressman explained that the center-right has executed four strategies that account for their success. The first is to pressure representatives in D.C. not to mimic the past, specifically in not cutting the same deals to make compromises in economic policy in order to be well spoken of in cocktail circuits. Davis pointed out if Republicans had made compromises on healthcare, “Obamacare” would today be deemed “Washingtoncare.” The country would still have disliked the legislation, but Republicans would have ultimately been penalized for caving to political pressure.
The second is the center-right movement is aggressively and zealously opposed to following lead opinions. Davis observed during his time in Congress that people in power have a strong tendency to care what powerful people think of them. The center-right, however, has developed an ethos of caring more for following their principles than how they are perceived and written about in the next day’s newspapers.
The third successful measure that the center-right executes upon is that instead of attempting to make their case on K Street or in the board rooms as to why their policies are correct; they are instead making their case to the grassroots. They have taken their message to the “rank and file” rather than to the party elite. Davis credits this strategy with the formation of the “Tea Party” movement.
Lastly, Davis attributed the center-right success to their preparedness to use the American judicial system in the pursuit of their aims. To illustrate his point, Davis pointed out that while the center-right lost the “first round” in the healthcare debate in that the initial legislation passed Congress and into law, they did not wave the white flag in defeat. Rather, the center-right immediately went to the Supreme Court where they made an intellectual argument, stuck with it, and most importantly, sustained it. As a result, the Affordable Care Act may well be struck down in the very near future.
Davis ended the breakfast saying that 2012 is equivalent to 1980. When former President Reagan won office in the beginning of the eighties, economic and social conditions were even worse than today. Interest rates were sky high, government spending had exploded, unemployment was approaching ten percent, and for the first time since World War II, the forces of freedom were on the wane and not in ascension. President Reagan however was a very skilled politician and as a result was able to turn the country around. Davis, however, believes that this time there may not be another “Reagan” to lead the country forward. Instead, the revitalization of the country may well end up being credited to a movement or a combination of people who had the fortitude and savvy to make the right choices in our incredibly difficult political environment. It is Davis’ goal for the future to ensure that good Republicans are elected into office.