The GOP at Risk: A Symposium on the Big Tent Strategy—Steve Forbes

Steve Forbes

1996 presidential candidate, chairman and CEO of Forbes Inc

A great political party wants as large a following as possible. But to attract such a following a great party must have a moral compass and deeply held core principles. Its leaders must know where they want to lead the country, offer a convincing road map, and persuade others to follow.

Some in the GOP believe you can build a big tent on the sinking sand of polls, focus groups, and “niche marketing.” I disagree. That’s a prescription for disaster. Instead, the GOP must build its house on the solid rock of three fundamental principles: life, growth, and freedom.

We must respect the sanctity of human life and pursue a commonsense, step-by-step strategy to protect the weakest among us, including the elderly, the infirm, and the unborn. Properly argued, this defense of individual human life can unite rather than divide. With respect to abortion, our goal must be to put it on the road to extinction. To get there, we must codify the law where we have a consensus (such as banning partial-birth abortions) and then persuade others to join that consensus.

With respect to economic growth, we must put the anti-family tax system on the road to extinction. Let’s replace this corruptingly complex tax code with one low rate and generous exemptions for adults and children, while reducing government waste and eliminating job-killing regulations.

With respect to freedom, Americans should be free to choose schools that work, doctors they trust, and savings and investment options that can give them a real nest egg for retirement. We must also promote free elections, free markets, and freedom of worship around the globe.

Vigorously and unapologetically asserting these three principles will create an explosion of grassroots energy like the one that made the Reagan coalition so successful in the ’80s. Disdain for and abandonment of these principles, however, will further cause a rapid dissolution of political energy that has already caused the GOP to lose the last two presidential elections and is now stalling the party’s momentum.

It is time we articulate our core principles again. Some will disagree with what we say. Those who are warming up to us, we must encourage. Those who are skeptics, we must gently persuade. This is a strategy for success.

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