The American political landscape is changing again.
As the global economic crisis continues, a remarkable shift in public opinion has occurred since last November's election: a majority of Americans are now concerned government will do too much, rather than too little, to "help" the economy.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel has now famously observed that a crisis should not go to waste, and Democrats in Washington are taking full advantage of the current crisis as an excuse to advance an entire policy agenda, whether the individual items relate to economic recovery or not.
President Obama got a $787 billion "stimulus" bill that was little more than a grab bag of Democrat pet projects passed under the guise of helping the economy. Government is moving in to control banks and auto companies. Public debt is skyrocketing. The scourge of protectionism is back, threatening American exports and jobs.
In response to the interventionist agenda Democrats are implementing in Washington, Americans are rightly turning against such government control of the economy – something unprecedented in modern times.
While Barack Obama continues to enjoy the support of a majority of Americans, that support is more directly related to approval of his style and personal traits than support for his policies.
For many of us, this is no surprise.
Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton, who reached out to capture the ideological center by advocating some centrist and even conservative ideas, such as promoting free trade and signing comprehensive welfare reform. Obama, by contrast, talks in soothing centrist terms, but his policies are uniformly liberal.
Now, we see the Administration in Washington moving far to the left on taxes, the role of government, the environment, trade, and foreign policy.
As Obama's policies move progressively farther away from his centrist rhetoric, Republicans are being given the opportunity to lead. To take advantage of this opportunity, we must provide a positive, alternative vision for those Americans who are turning against Washington's economic policies and plans for an even larger and more intrusive federal government.
Americans undeniably expressed their desire for change in the 2008 election, and Barack Obama represented a bigger break with the previous eight years than John McCain did. Yet, the last few months have demonstrated that Americans did not fundamentally shift their views on the role of government in their lives and the economy. Washington is overreaching, and in the process creating a gap with voters.
Providing a real alternative to the Democrats doesn't mean standing around saying "we're not them" – it really does mean providing a compelling vision for the road to recovery and future prosperity, rooted in solid principles and tied to the tangible benefits our ideas will mean in the everyday lives of families.
That vision will undoubtedly include ideas to make it easier to create and keep jobs in California by improving our tax and regulatory competitiveness. Let's help the unemployed by making health insurance portable so a job loss doesn't automatically trigger a family health insurance crisis. We can provide tax relief to distressed families who are forced to sell a home at a loss, instead of only smacking them with a big tax bill when they sell at a gain (something that's not happening much these days anyway).
The 1930's taught us that while big government might look like a response to economic crisis, it's also a great way to prolong and worsen an economy, just as it did then. There are alternative, and better, answers. And we give the Democrats in Washington a big "thank you" for creating the opportunity for Republican solutions to now be heard.