By STAR PARKER
There’s a lot of talk these days of about the Democrats regaining control of Congress in the upcoming elections. Polls are showing as much dissatisfaction with Republicans as they showed toward the Democrats when Republicans gained control in 1994.
But there’s a big difference between today’s reality and the reality of 1994. And Republicans should note this.
The Contract With America that Republicans ran on in 1994 was more than a slick election gimmick. It set forth a clear vision about where the country needed to go and said that the Republican Party was prepared to be defined by this vision.
I remember those days well because it marked the beginning of my getting active on the national scene as a consultant on welfare reform. I understood the problems with welfare because I was inside this world and I knew that the Republican revolutionaries of 1994 were on target that government was the problem, not the solution.
The massive and growing welfare rolls, and the broken families and human beings that went along with this, were a clear problem that reflected a vision of the world that saw government as an answer to poverty. Republicans put up a clear alternative vision to relocate responsibility from government to individuals.
The whole Contract With America was defined by these principles.
When Americans went to the polls in November 1994 they weren’t just voting out incumbents. They were casting a vote for a clear alternative vision for how the country should be governed.
There was also leadership. Newt Gingrich was an aggressive and bold spokesman for the Republican alternative.
Although polls today may be showing strong voter dissatisfaction with the Republican-controlled Congress, I see little that reminds me of 1994.
Not only are Democrats not offering an alternative, I don’t think they have any prospect of doing so.
Agendas are not gimmicks. They reflect underlying reality.
The clear underlying reality is that America’s future demands that we continue in the direction of restoring traditional values in our communities and continue to limit the role of government. This isn’t about ideology; it’s about facts.
Unless Democrats are prepared to totally re-tool and out Republican the Republicans, I think Washington will remain a Republican town as long as the GOP can reconnect clearly with its natural agenda and articulate it with Gingrich-like clarity.
What’s the agenda for 2006?
First, let’s get the marriage amendment passed. The recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health showing direct correlation between what teenagers are exposed to in all forms of media _ magazines, movies, TV, music _ and the sexual behavior of these teenagers, is just the latest evidence of the influence of environment. It is essential that America provide a legal and cultural environment for healthy families. The traditional family is not a lifestyle. It is the building block that sustains our lives and guarantees our future.
Second, let’s have vouchers as a central part of national reform of education. It insults every American to think that in a country that is supposedly free that parents cannot choose where to send their children to school. Certainly, nothing short of bringing education into the marketplace will fix inner city schools.
Third, privatize Social Security. There are 35 million Americans over the age of 65 today. There will be twice this number in 25 years. By then we will have almost two retired Americans for every one working. It is simply impossible to sustain a retirement system based on payroll taxes. However, aside from the fiscal arithmetic, why, again in a country that is free, should every working American not have complete control of their wages and how they choose to invest for retirement?
Fourth, level the playing field regarding the tax treatment of health care and drive this product into the marketplace so that all Americans, whether they are working for big companies are not, are looking at the same realities for purchasing health care.
Americans are looking for clarity and leadership. Despite the complicated situation we’re in abroad, we can still get aggressive with our domestic program.
When welfare reform passed 10 years ago, many, particularly those on the left, refused to believe that welfare mothers could change for the better and that the way to do it was to give them more, not less, responsibility. Ten years later, welfare rolls have dropped 60 percent and poverty rates among single women with children have dropped by 20 percent.
Republicans shouldn’t be thinking about a replay of 1994 as a threat. They should view it as an opportunity. They just need to remember what made that revolution in 1994 a success.
(Star Parker is president of CURE, Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education (www.urbancure.org) and author of the new book "White Ghetto: How Middle Class America Reflects Inner City Decay.")