USA TODAY OP-ED: The Republican Party is mired in the 1950s and ignores today's America at its peril
Gov. Kasich recently authored the following op-ed on change:
Republicans need to break their own self-made mold of being naysayers instead of doers. It means designing solutions that actually solve problems.
It’s a new year and almost two decades into a new century, yet so much about American life and our political leadership — notably in my own Republican Party — seems stuck in the 1950s. While nearly every aspect of the world around us has been changing, sometimes with breakneck speed, and while the complexion and complexities of our demographics have shifted so dramatically, those who fancy themselves as leaders are plodding far behind the march of time. Sadly, too many Americans are content to plod along with them.
Perhaps they think denial is protection from the change that swirls around them. No doubt they’re threatened by the new diversity of voices that have joined the public chorus, by the long-ignored problems that a new generation wants to solve, by an unsettled world that no longer follows America’s lead. But they’ve learned absolutely nothing from their skunking in the midterm elections. They didn’t watch, or chose to ignore, the new Congress being sworn in the other day. It was a more energetic, diverse and self-assured group than those chambers have seen before.
But ignoring change like that won’t stop it. And failing to find solutions to our problems will only lead to greater challenges down the road. A case in point: Opponents of Obamacare ask how such a thing came to be, oblivious to the fact that their own inaction is to blame. By ignoring giant holes in America’s health care system and failing to find a ways to fix them with hard work and compromise, they watched that vacuum filled with a behemoth they deplore.
Yet people like these at all levels of government find themselves caught on the same, well-worn treadmill time and again. By failing to come up with fresh ideas and real solutions for our most vexing problems, congressional Republicans, the White House and other power structures in Washington let those problems fester or reluctantly patch them up with half-baked solutions that only make things worse. That same change-ignoring inertia holds back progress in our states.
Old problems need new solutions
Think of the problems that cry out for solutions: health care, immigration, deficits and debt, income inequality, urban violence, drugs, climate and environment, free trade, prescription costs, infrastructure decay, cybersecurity, education and workforce readiness, student debt … how many pages do I have to go on?
These aren’t new problems, but many have grown worse. And none can be ignored any longer in a younger, more diverse and more demanding America that’s increasingly impatient with the old way of thinking. This emerging leadership won’t be put off, ignored or disenfranchised, but I’m confident that they will be open to new ideas and the kind of commonsense approaches that truly solve problems — and solve them for all Americans, not just a privileged few.
In this changing world, successful leaders must look each problem squarely in the eye, listen to their customers, and realize how dramatically those customers have changed. No one will survive by practicing politics the way Sears or RadioShack practiced retail, stuck in the 1950s while the world moved on with Amazon, Uber and others who have broken the mold. For Republicans, this means breaking their own self-made mold of being naysayers instead of doers. It means designing market-driven, center-right solutions that actually solve problems while revealing their compassion.
Republicans must get in step or they fall behind
We’ve done that in Ohio. For example, we worked to expand access to technology for Ohioans with developmental disabilities, helping them use those advances to improve the quality of their lives. We made important progress improving our health care system by providing incentives that encourage providers to focus on quality care rather than quantity. We added more than 568,000 jobs over eight years, shedding Ohio’s “Rust Belt” image by replacing our government-run development bureaucracy with a private, not-for-profit economic development effort managed by industry experts — in the process becoming the focal point for a new “Knowledge Belt.”
There’s no reason the same formula can’t be applied nationwide. It’s time for Republicans in our state capitals and Washington to get in step with the fast-moving parade. Otherwise, they’ll lose. Because there’s one thing we learn from parades: Anyone falling behind gets swept up by those guys who follow the horses.
Read the original op-ed here.