The tone of the GOP presidential race, so far, has been diffused, angry, and in recent days, focused almost entirely on the former incumbent’s legal perils.
Perhaps that’s understandable. Turning a bright light on the failings – real and imagined – of the current incumbent and his party is a tried and true political strategy. Up to a point. A relentlessly downbeat campaign, particularly one as long as a presidential nominating contest, can also be exhausting for the candidate and voters alike.
So it’s refreshing to read that optimism is making a comeback among the Republican presidential contenders:
Vice President Mike Pence cast himself in his campaign announcement as a sunnier, Reaganesque Republican, appealing to “the better angels of our nature” and maintaining he isn’t “convinced our country is as divided as our politics”— despite a mob trying to kill him on Jan. 6, 2021. Doug Burgum, the near-anonymous North Dakota governor, talked about small-town values and “fighting to unite the country” in his campaign launch. “I’m a business guy, a strategic guy — I wouldn’t have gotten into this race if I didn’t think there was a path,” [Burgum said]. He added: “It’s not just a lane, there’s a huge lane to get out and tell our message.”
To be fair, the anger angle is the one working right now for frontrunner Donald Trump and second place contender Ron DeSantis. And working well. The candidates running sunnier campaigns are mired in single digits.
At least for now. With the first presidential debate scheduled in August and the Iowa caucuses still several months away, there is time for a more positive, policy-oriented, grievance-free message to break through and capture the minds (and votes) of Republicans who are ready to look forward to the future.
I’ve noted it before, but Ronald Reagan still stands as a powerful example of how a candidate can sharply criticize the incumbent Democrat, but offer a positive alternative:
In his nomination acceptance speech, Reagan laid out an indictment of the Carter administration, blasting it for runaway taxes, surging oil and gas prices and the forward march of the U.S.S.R. Against that backdrop, he proposed his plan for America, anchored by a conservative governing philosophy that still looms large over U.S. politics.
“I pledge to you a government that will not only work well but wisely,” Reagan said, “its ability to act tempered by prudence and its willingness to do good balanced by the knowledge that government is never more dangerous than when our desire to have it help us blinds us to its great power to harm us.”
A prudent, limited government that works wisely in the broad public interest. That’s a flavor of optimism – and responsibility – that’s been absent for far too long on America’s presidential campaign trails. Which is astounding, considering how successful a message it’s been.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of The Republican Standard. It first appeared in American Liberty News. Republished with permission.