By Chris Bond
America desperately needs a positive, forward-looking conservative agenda that tackles the big challenges facing middle-class families.
That's the key takeaway from the first edition of YG Network's new monthly tracking poll of the 90 most competitive Congressional districts (as defined by the Cook Political Report).
As Americans struggle through the sixth year of the Obama economy, it's no surprise that respondents told us they feel the country is on the wrong track, and that jobs and the economy are their number-one priority. With longterm unemployment remaining a stubborn problem, labor force participation still at historic lows, and the costs of key priorities like healthcare, higher education, and energy continuing to rise, jobs — and job security — are bound to be first and foremost on Americans' minds.
Even more concerning is this: when it comes to the future of our country, battleground constituents are most concerned with the decline of working, middle-class families. Notably, by a 10-point margin, our polling shows that women are even more inclined to express concern about the decline of the middle class than are men.
The feeling of insecurity among middle-class families goes beyond any single issue. It goes to the heart of the American Dream, the confidence that Americans can make their own destinies, and the question of whether parents in this country will ever again feel optimistic that their children will be better off than themselves.
So how should policymakers address these real, long-term concerns?
To start, they should not attempt to do so through invasive, expensive, Obama-style big government. A 64-percent majority of battleground respondents tell us they want smaller government, and tellingly, 57 percent of respondents, including 70 percent of seniors, say the troubled rollout of Obamacare has made them less confident in the government’s ability to address national problems. It's clear that Americans don't believe the one-size-fits-all, big-government policies of the Left have made life easier, or will anytime soon.
Instead, Americans deserve policies that are grounded in fairness, make life work, and help make middle-class life more affordable so families can get back on track.
Thankfully, we're already seeing some great ideas percolating through the conservative reform movement.
For example, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) has championed a proposal that would expand the child tax credit and let families keep more of the money they earn, so they can use it to take care of their own priorities — things like childcare, buying a home or saving for the cost of college tuition.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and other House conservatives are also championing ideas that tackle a wide range of middle-class pocketbook challenges, from creating jobs, to giving working families more flexibility, to controlling the costs of healthcare and higher education, to making home energy more affordable.
And leading conservative thinkers — like the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Strain, Frederick Hess and Andrew Kelly, the Independent Women's Forum's Carrie Lukas, the Manhattan Institute's Scott Winship, the Ethics and Public Policy Center's Yuval Levin, Peter Wehner and James Capretta, among others — are making exciting strides in developing the policy details of this much-needed conservative vision.
Today's confluence of strong reform leaders and workable, principled, new ideas is producing an exciting moment and a unique opportunity for conservatives to demonstrate how our values and vision can help middle-class families flourish for generations to come. If we can seize this moment, our country — and our conservative movement — will flourish along with them.
Bond is the communications director for YG Network, a non-profit 501(c)(4) dedicated to supporting conservative center-right policies and the efforts of policymakers who fight for those policies.