by Bob Barr
All things considered, 2021 was a good year for Republicans. In 2022 will the GOP build on its 2021 successes, or allow itself to be dragged back to 2020?
The answer is right in front of our eyes. This year has been a disaster for the Democrats largely because they refused to move forward, electing instead to remain mired in the past and fighting yesterday’s battles. If Republicans take the same course in 2022, they will likely reap the same disappointing harvest.
The events of last January 6 at the U.S. Capitol will predictably be a focal point for Democrat campaigns heading into 2022. They really have nothing positive from 2021 on which to campaign, so they will use 1/6 as a lure to drag Republicans down, too. The last thing Republicans need is to take that bait and fight on that playing field; doing so would be a sure way to turn off moderate Republicans, as well as independent voters who the GOP must reach in order to regain majorities in the House and Senate.
This, of course, is easier said than done. In addition to Democrats chumming the waters, some on the GOP’s own team refuse to move forward. They see 1/6 as a positive flashpoint and Biden’s heavy-handed response to it as a wedge issue to churn up anger on the Right. This would be a major strategic mistake
As right as these Republicans are about the federal government’s overzealous response to 1/6, it is not the winning message going forward. Voters, especially those not already committed to the GOP, yearn for a vision for the future rather than to be repeatedly enraged by the past.
The tone Republicans should strike is found in one of Ronald Reagan’s most famous speeches, where he defined America as a “shining city on a hill.” This was a clear and timeless reminder of the greatness America can reach if the principles of free markets and individual liberty are allowed to thrive.
For an America tired of fearing COVID, inflation, crime, and losing what little precious freedoms they still enjoy, Reagan’s truly is the message for the moment; but it needs to be delivered by leaders who can express it and who have the backbone to follow it through.
Fortunately, there have been several gubernatorial standouts for the GOP answering this call. When facing a social and economic nightmare created by federal incompetence these governors turned lemons into leadership, with undeniably positive results.
Democrat-led states continue to suffer from the Left’s hapless response to COVID, while Republican-led ones (in particular Georgia, Florida, and Texas) continue to show incredible resilience against a rudderless federal government listing wildly from side to side.
On top of their economic successes, Republican-led states and localities have maintained public safety without locking down citizens like criminals. These governors and mayors were the first to realize America must learn to deal with COVID rather than run from it, if a sense of normalcy is to return. Meanwhile, Democrats continue to pump doom and gloom, even as they admit they have no idea what they are doing.
Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s recent, incredible victory in Virginia presents Republicans with a roadmap for victory in 2022. Rather than relying on divisive rhetoric to motivate the GOP base, Youngkin presented a clear and consistent vision for restoring conservative governance that appealed to Republican and independent voters alike. Sure, he was aided in his effort by a Virginia Democrat Party that relied on worn-out messages delivered by tone-deaf messengers, but the win was delivered by Youngkin and those candidates on his ticket.
The GOP entered 2021 battered and bloody, but as the year ends the Party is poised to crush Democrats in 2022.
The question Republicans must ask themselves at this juncture, however, is do they want to be dragged back to November 2020 and January 2021, and risk suffering the same consequences that befell Democrats this year by doing just that? Or should they march forth with a vision for the future, keeping in mind what they actually have accomplished this year by not looking backward? The answer would seem to be a no-brainer.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.