Save Jerseyans: I know things look bleak at the moment and many of you are booking U-Haul trucks already. Phil Murphy, our Governor-Elect, will become our new governor in 2018 and he’ll have the help of a legislature that will support many of his very expensive goals. But that may not happen without some conflict as not all in the New Jersey Legislature are as far left as Murphy. So what do we do as Republicans to move forward in the short term and long term?
Let’s look at the short term first. Republicans were shellacked this election. Let’s not sugarcoat it. Let’s be honest with ourselves. That’s the only way we can move forward with good solutions. Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno was far from my ideal choice to be the Republican candidate for New Jersey Governor, but she was a good person going into a Christie/Trump headwind in a blue state. But that doesn’t mean we should give up because it’s a blue state.
Populations change, independents’ minds change, and convincing arguments work.
The first thing I would do in the short-term is set up grassroots efforts. Organizations like Americans for Prosperity have been doing this to great effect, especially in swing states. Grassroots efforts work well because they engage people in their communities and they build momentum for people up the ballot. It also allows you to fight stereotypes, such as Republicans being the party of the wealthy. And we shouldn’t fear going into traditional blue areas and speaking to people who don’t necessarily agree with us. This also includes working on issues where we can agree across the aisle, such as civil asset forfeiture abuses. Reaching out to both sides means we gain credibility and aren’t going to tune out good ideas from non-traditional places. But you can’t have grassroots efforts without a mission.
The question: what is the mission of the New Jersey GOP?
At the moment, it’s not abundantly clear. Lower taxes is the idea but it’s too amorphous and many Republicans unfortunately haven’t lived up to that mission within the state (i.e. the gas tax increase). Republicans traditionally stood for free markets, fewer taxes, greater transparency in governance, and letting people live their lives free of government interference (i.e. oppose the nanny state). The main problem with this is there currently is a schism at all Republican levels (hence why we have a Trump and NeverTrump movement), but there is especially one in New Jersey where the Republican establishment has this concept that conservatives and libertarians cannot win statewide. As we saw this election, that strategy is untenable at the moment and unsustainable in the long term. It is failing us and giving us Governor-Elect Phil Murphy and Lieutenant Governor-Elect Sheila Oliver along with a heavily Democratic legislature.
So I would propose we focus on five issues in the state we can almost all agree on as a Republicans and would appeal to a broad base of the New Jersey population. Here would be my five:
- Lower property taxes by reducing or eliminating the mandates, such as the Abbott decision and Mount Laurel decision, the state judiciary and legislature has placed upon us.
- Create a flat income tax for all and return it to its originally designed purpose of temporarily supporting school districts that aren’t making the cut.
- Reach out to urban areas and create a statewide school voucher program to minimize failing districts and give parents the choice to opt out. This can be achieved by giving access to better public school districts as well.
- Look for obvious government abuse and waste in the budget and eliminate it. Re-assess all programs and see if they are working or not. Eliminate, reduce, or change programs that are not.
- Enact term limits on all in the Assembly and Senate.
You may be saying that these aren’t bold proposals.
My response: We need to keep the ideas realistic, tangible, and achievable. These are issues that can apply to all different demographics, including suburban and urban voters. Who wouldn’t want to see their rent or mortgage go down, keep more of what they earn while still helping failing school districts, watch their children go to better public schools, cut out fraud and obvious waste in the government, and eliminate lifetime politicians? Policy is not what people are looking for. They are looking for outcomes that give them greater freedom and safety in their lives and situations. So how you present those policy proposals is critical to the reception of those proposals.
If we have a grassroots campaign and a mission now, what’s next? The long term strategy. We need to live our values every single day. Grassroots efforts will help that out. Let’s create private organizations and charitable causes that can replace or at least ween us off public welfare and institutions. For instance, why can’t we create a private organization that gives a basic income to those who are disadvantaged in return for doing jobs where it is difficult to find workers? There are plenty of other ways to go about this. Be creative. And to those doing this already, you are doing yeoman’s work and it is helping our cause long-term.
The next long-term goal is to cultivate and support our young leaders. That was done this cycle to an extent and I’m proud of all Gen-X’ers and Millennials that ran excellent campaigns in New Jersey, even if they didn’t win. Young leaders bring new ideas, more enthusiasm, and most importantly keep the party and the ideals going forward. And it doesn’t hurt to also have people who are trying to buy houses, build a family, and feel the weight of the current policies talking to the voters. They are going to be more relatable and not come across as disingenuous to the voters.
I believe this is a recipe for success for the New Jersey GOP. Electing and appointing people who hold conservative and libertarian values, are relatable, live their own values, and can message outcomes rather than polarizing policy will be critical to our success going forward. We are losing the battles for hearts and minds but the war is not lost yet, Save Jerseyans. We must get back to our grassroots and communities and win back what we have lost for so long if the New Jersey GOP hopes to have any future during, or after, the Age of Murphy.