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Election results weren’t even final last November and Republicans, who barely scraped together a House majority, made clear what they would prioritize in the next Congress.
Investigations, investigations, and more investigations.
“In just 47 days, House Republicans will have the gavel, and we will be prepared to hold the Biden administration accountable from day one,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted. “Our investigations are just getting started.”
Curiously, investigations didn’t make it to the top of voters’ concerns heading into the midterms, nor were they even close.
To be clear, Republicans should certainly be a check on progressive policies and actions that have run amok. Republicans also have every justification to probe the Hunter Biden laptop ordeal, the inexcusably botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the origins of COVID.
However, the signal coming from Republican leadership is that investigations will be zealously pursued, taking precedence over the issues that are of actual concern to everyday Americans.
To do so will be a mistake.
The single mom trying to fill her gas tank and the small business owner struggling to keep the doors open don’t care whether Project Veritas was unfairly targeted by the Justice Department or if the FBI wrongly raided Melania Trump’s closet in search of classified documents.
Republicans – both in Congress and state legislatures – would be better off spending their political capital doing the things Americans voted them in to do. That is, demonstrate they’re listening and ready to solve real world problems.
This approach paid off handsomely for Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida this year and Gov. Glenn Youngkin in Virginia in 2020. Both politicians managed to excite their base, while also bringing newer, previously unaligned voters into the fold, such as disaffected Democrats, Hispanics and suburban women. By actively engaging with voters early on, they were able to understand that issues like education freedom and a strong economy appealed to people of all backgrounds.
Focusing on the policies that will have a real impact on peoples’ daily lives has allowed the groups I’ve led to some of the biggest policy and legal wins at both the state and national level.
Take for instance, defeating Illinois’ progressive income tax ballot measure in 2020, a signature initiative for Gov. J.B. Pritzker. In one of the country’s more liberal states, we were able to tap into voters’ anger about how the measure would disproportionately impact the income of retirees and the middle class.
Or our efforts that led to the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME that non-union government employees would no longer be required to pay union fees as a condition of working in public service.
For Republicans to be successful on the policy and political front, they must lead on the issues voters care about.
Just as important, Republicans must stay in touch with constituents leading up to 2024. According to LegiStorm data, Democrats are doing a much better job of that. In 2021, Democrats held 1,307 in-person and virtual town halls – 52 percent more than the 864 that Republicans hosted.
Understandably, elected officials are reluctant to hold townhalls in a hostile and divisive political environment. Yet recent research by the Center for Effective Lawmaking shows that legislators with the fewest legislative accomplishments also hold fewer town hall meetings. In contrast, the most highly effective lawmakers hold the most town hall meetings.
While constituents won’t agree with their representative on everything, they’re more likely to respect them for showing up, which can translate to votes. The impact is particularly dramatic for swing voters, with one study showing that a person with a 50 percent probability of voting for an incumbent member is 73 percent more likely to do so if he or she participated in a town hall.
This is revealing. If Republicans want a “red wave” mandate, they need to have the courage to face voters every day, in town halls, on the airwaves, and in the press. Going on offense requires listening to the working class and the non-elites they claim to be for, and then determining how they can best serve them.
Donald Trump came to power in part because Republicans equivocated on their agenda the moment they gained power. Meanwhile, Democrats seize and use their political power with purpose, even with the narrowest of majorities.
The best way to ensure that 2024 is policy focused rather than personality driven, is to listen, sell, and enact policy that improves the lives of most Americans. Investigations are necessary, but they don’t change peoples’ lives for the better. Policy does.