This election has seen partisan dogfighting reach a level seemingly unprecedented in American politics, and has been rife with political distractions on both sides, whether it is Obama's divisive rhetoric, or the GOP's internal struggle with reconciling its moderates with the Christian Right. The polls can't seem to agree on who is actually winning this election, and as it is still early August it's still too soon to tell anyway. However, one thing is certain, the Republican Party needs to stop playing defense and get back on message. These five issues are not the only things the Republicans should discuss, but these topics are the ones where the Republican position has cross-party appeal and can rally not only their base, but the all-important independent voters to their cause.
1. The Economy
If you haven't heard, the economy isn't doing too well, and hasn't been for quite some time.
Mitt Romney could not have picked a better time in history to run for president. Of all the candidates that paraded through this primary season, he is singularly more qualified to handle economic issues than anyone else. The American people agree, according to this Ramussen poll, published July 26: Americans trust Romney over Obama 50% to 42% on handling the economy, and the economy consistently ranks as the single most important issue to Americans this election.
2. Taxation and Class Warfare
Democrats love to roll their eyes when they hear accusations of "Class Warfare" coming from the right, but there is a measure of truth to the accusations. Obama started with the fairly innocuous and predictable position of restoring the pre-Bush era tax rates on the higher echelons of the tax bracket. This is not necessarily a popular position (particularly among the members of that tax bracket), but not a ground-breaking position to take. Democrats, as proponents of government programs and spending, have traditionally been associated with higher taxes.
However that stance has evolved in the wake of the financial crisis and particularly by the Occupy Wall Street protests that had their 15 minutes of fame last year. Since OWS took to the streets, taxing the rich for more money has gone from "taxing them because they have some extra cash to spare" to "taxing them more because they aren't paying their fair share." It doesn't take much scrutiny to see the shift to an accusatory tone. The Democrats would have you believe that the rich are rich because of greed and they are hording their gold and doing nothing with it because they don't care about the struggles of average people.
Americans are largely unconvinced. Some of them do support increasing taxes on the wealthy. Obama isn't necessarily wrong when he points out that the gap between rich and poor has grown. However, his own words, and the words others in the party say for him, strongly imply that this is not a fault of the high corporate taxes, and unfriendly atmosphere for business fostered by the administration, but rather of the rich people and corporations who have money to spend into the economy but choose to not to.
A novel approach being proposed by Romney and the GOP: give the corporations an actual reason to spend their money, rather than just chastising them for doing nothing. Even a solid Democrat advocate, Steve Jobs, the late founder and CEO of Apple Inc. voiced his complaints about the administration's hostility to business.
3. Gay Marriage
As a supporter of gay marriage (or rather a supporter of no government involvement in marriage, and civil unions for everyone), it pains me to say this, but Republicans can use the gay marriage fight to their advantage.
Obama made a "bold" move in endorsing gay marriage. I say "bold" in quotes because no one was really surprised that a Liberal supported gay marriage, and while he said it in words, he has not, and continues not to put those words into action.
But something did happen when he took that position officially. He made an army of new political opponents. For some reason, as we saw with the raging success of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, the majority of Americans are not ready to accept gay marriage, and they will vote against gay marriage, even if they agree with the Democratic platform otherwise.
Furthermore, while he certainly excited his base (the part that supports gay marriage), he really excited the Republican base, who feel they must now act, regardless of their ambivalence towards Romney, to protect the "sacred institution" of marriage.
The Republicans must play this carefully, though, or they will lose voters like me. Obama supporting gay marriage is all that matters here. The GOP must avoid taking the other side with too much gusto as there is a fine line between being anti-gay and anti-gay-marriage, and a platform of hate is never attractive and will send potential converst right back to the Democrat camp.
One issue Obama has been weak on is his support of our ally Israel. Obama promised in 2008 that he would try harder to engage the Arab world in peaceful dialogue; what he didn't say, but ended up doing, was that doing it at the expense of our relationship with Israel. It has become a well-established fact that Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama do not get along, as Obama has snubbed him, publicly, on a couple occasions. While by contrast Netanyahu and Romney have a long history of friendship, dating all the way back to when they were young, recent graduates of MIT and Harvard, respectively, working for the Boston Consulting Group.
Every February, Gallup conducts a survey of Americans' views towards Israel, and they have steadily grown more and more favorable, with 71% of Americans taking a very or mostly favorable view towards Israel in 2012. By contrast the Palestinian Authority has a favorability rating of about 19%, and Iran 10%.
It's easy to discount Israel as being significant in this election riddled with higher profile issues like the economy and gay marriage, but as David Weprin, a Democrat and ironically, an Orthodox Jew, learned from his failed attempt at winning Anthony Weiner's vacated seat, Israel always matters. The Roman Catholic, former cable executive, Bob Turner won largely on a pro-Israel message in a district in which registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans 3 to 1. Ed Koch, Democrat and former NYC mayor, crossed party lines to support Turner due to Obama's "hostile position on the state of Israel."
5. Not Being Obama
Obama and the Democratic Party, from the day he was nominated, have sought to present him like he was the next John F. Kennedy. Much in the same way every Republican tries to be like Reagan. However, three and a half years later, Obama's first term strongly resembles that of a different Democrat: Jimmy Carter.
In fact it is the memory of Jimmy Carter that has driven many older independents into the Romney camp. They can't help but note the similarities between the two in terms of philosophy on government, to results of said philosophies on the economy.
Not helping at all is the recent news that Jimmy Carter has chosen this election to remind people that he is still alive and kicking. While George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have had the good sense to sit this election out, much like they did in the last election, Jimmy Carter will be addressing the Democratic Convention via satellite in a prime time slot.
Past the comparisons to Carter, Obama has a set of issues to deal with, wholly his own and in some ways is his own worst enemy this year. Recently, super-Lib Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) blasted the Obama administration for a lack of transparency. Obama had promised to run "the most transparent administration ever," but in reality has fallen well short of the mark.
This is one of many promises that have gone quietly unfulfilled. He also renegged on promises to give congress 5 days to read bills before put to vote, which he most noticeably violated with the Affordable Care Act. Also, he had heavily criticized the Bush administration's use of Executive Orders, yet has been using them himself for similar purposes of circumventing a congress no longer friendly to him. The hypocrisy is not lost on the American people.
Obama has also shown to be condescending. The American people don't want the government's help. They might very well need it at the moment, but they don't like needing it, and don't want to keep needing it when this recession is over and done with. Campaign publications, such as the Life of Julia and gaffes such as the "You didn't build that" speech, only further the impression that Obama believes the American people require government help to get anything done, and would be lost without them. As a side note, "you didn't build that" was such a ridiculous thing to say, it has reached internet meme status.
Had to be done.
I work in the construction industry and in our field, as a general rule, no one ever talks politics. You've got every demographic covered in this industry so you never know where anyone else stands on the issues. However, something has changed in the last year or so. Contractors, building owners, other architects and engineers are all talking about the election. Specifically how imperative it is to put Romney in the White House, and this is in New York City, a liberal stronghold.
It is difficult to impress on people outside the industry how significant this is, I imagine most people on PolicyMic discuss politics regularly, but for it to be discussed openly at the conference table or over lunch is a new phenomenon, and it is so one-sided you would think it is self-evident that Obama needs to go.
We saw in the 1980 election between Carter and Reagan (there are those names again!) that polls are essentially meaningless and the pundits have their fingers so far away from the pulse of America, that one must wonder where they have it. The silent majority is going to have the final say in this election, and the Republicans, by running on a platform of Reagan-esque optimism, but more importantly confidence in the individual abilities of the American people, and sticking to the issues they are strong on that have cross-party appeal, this election is the Republican's to lose.