VOLUME 36, ISSUE 1
Distributed quarterly by mail and email, the Conservative Caucus of Delaware's newsletter contains relevant information and insights from noted leaders, authoritative stakeholders and like-minded members who demonstrate their passion for the truths we hold dear by putting pen to paper!
Rubio's Talking Points on Tax Reform
By Sam Friedman
For those of us paying attention to last year's Presidential debates, we finally got to see some of the GOP's leaders standing on the stage and revealing who they truly are. Whereas Donald Trump and Ted Cruz grabbed the title of “anti-establishment,” Marco Rubio joined the ranks of “establishment” candidates like Jeb Bush and John Kasich.
It's a shame, really. Yes, it's true that Rubio is not a truly committed conservative the way Ted Cruz is. And yes, Marco is more cozy with the Political Class than Trump will ever be. However, what Rubio lacks in credentials, he makes up for it in good branding tactics-something the GOP sorely needs.
Part of Trump’s problem is that, while he is a master of media manipulation, he is not reliable at articulating a clear message to the general public that will also help his fellow Republicans. Simply put, Trump's biggest issue is that he can keep his base but not necessarily advance the rest of the party electorally (see: Alabama Senate race, Virginia Governor's race) As we move toward the 2018 midterms and 2020 re-election, the Republicans need to do more than win the elections: They need to build their base for the next
generation so all the work being done now is not undone later.
That's why Rubio's actions on the tax bill may have earned him criticism in some quarters. For example, he famously threatened to vote no on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act unless they expanded the child care credit. The
result was around a $2,000 per child credit which critics on the left say isn't
enough and on the right say it’s too much of a subsidy.
Most conservatives do not understand Rubio’s genius here. For one, expanding the child tax credit is indeed a bit of a government subsidy for families, but being able to position your bill as trying to help working families and not just the uber-wealthy or mega corporations is critical for the GOP. Second, Rubio’s statement is on the mark-the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act did not do enough to simplify the tax code or make it more fair by removing some of the loopholes the Donor Class has become accustomed to, even as it grows government or hurts free enterprise.
The GOP’s biggest mistake, something I genuinely believe Rubio gets, is that too many conservatives,
particularly older folks who listen to talk radio, keep thinking Reagan won because he was a “real conservative.” To me, Reagan’s greatness was not so much in his values, but in how he articulated those values to the public at a time many had accepted big government as the norm. A great communicator with strong principles moves more people than just principles. We saw this in 2012, when a lot of Republicans thought they
could win if they just compared Obama to Carter and rerun the 1980 election, and we will see this again if
Republicans think the tax cuts will magically make people want to vote for them next year.
There’s a saying, “perception is reality.” What matters is not your policy, but in how you articulate it. Pure Constitutionalists may think they can win arguments by
discussing the values of ‘economic freedom’ or ‘family values’, but if the so-called “low-info voter” thinks you’re just giving rich people tax cuts while slashing benefits for those struggling to get by, and you give the opposition a chance to ‘prove it’ to the public, all the tax cuts in the world won’t matter when Democrats run next fall by promising to “give back” the things the mean Republicans took from them. I say in all honesty the GOP and conservatism have a branding problem, and it’s not all the fault of the media or leftist college professors: you must convince ordinary people you care about them and are fighting for them, and not the “One Percent.”
I really hope the GOP understands that Rubio is giving the Republicans a good branding message for future elections about caring for Main Street. Follow the messaging lead, and win big. Ignore it, and the GOP will be playing a deadly game of Russian Roulette with its future. ■