Help Wanted: Seeking Skilled Candidates to Make The Case for Conservatism | Opinion

After a disappointing midterm election, there is no shortage of advice on what Republicans need to do to improve their prospects in 2024 and beyond. It would be wise to recognize that much of that advice is coming from people who do not wish the party well.

Democrats, understandably relieved at avoiding an expected steamrolling, are quick to suggest that Republicans, who managed to capture the House of Representatives by the slimmest of margins, should abandon the values that earned those victories in order to reach across the aisle and help them further the Biden agenda.

Meanwhile, moderate Republicans who suffered every day of the Trump administration, and who deny or deplore the former president's continuing influence, rush to proclaim the end of an era, and the arrival of a sensibility more reminiscent of the style of a Mitt Romney or a John McCain.

Both are wrong. And so are the analysts who say Republicans stumbled because voters rejected a conservative message. There is nothing wrong with the message. What conservatism needs is better messengers.

That is not meant as a Mitch McConnell-style barb at the perceived "candidate quality" of GOP offerings in 2022. It is a suggestion that the Republican pitch moving forward needs to contain some elements voters did not detect this year.

Republican candidates properly diagnosed the sorry status quo under Joe Biden and one-party congressional rule. Inflation continues to suffocate, crime continues to spike, and our borders continue to erode. But the independent and swing voters needed for success did not sufficiently crave a change in leadership. GOP hopefuls may have established the case for dissatisfaction with Democrats, but they did not spark the necessary urge to dismiss them in search of new policies.

Every candidate in every race had two jobs: explain the flaws of the opponent and offer an attractive alternative. Republicans did well at the first and not as well at the second.

So what does it look like to improve at that task? It does not involve, as Democrats and centrist Republicans will insist, watering down the conservative message. Did Ron DeSantis dilute his views to attract the middle? Did Ronald Reagan do it in either of his two presidential landslides? And for that matter, did Donald Trump, in a 2016 win helped by independents?

Republican Senate leadership
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks during a news conference following a meeting with Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol on November 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. McConnell overcame a challenge from Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) as Republicans voted to re-elect him the Senate Republican leader for the new Congress. Also pictured, L-R, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT). Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Candidate styles will differ, but the common element in those success stories is a certain level of comfort and confidence in the message. Conservatism has a language, and conservative voters can tell when a candidate lacks fluency. The failures of McCain and Romney to energize those voters was a direct result of their inability to express the themes that brought about the victories of the modern Republican era.

And those themes reach well beyond dry explanations of the need for strong borders, sane fiscal policy, and robust Second Amendment protections. Arguments like those will earn nods from reliable Republican voters, but more is needed to draw fresh supporters to the fold.

Nothing attracts new voters like successful results. DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott built decisive reelection margins on the foundation of strong economies and reasonable COVID policies, winning the approval of more than the Republican base.

But a brighter 2024 at every level will involve unseating Democratic incumbents. Arguing against them will involve not just disproving their claims but promising solutions that can demonstrably improve people's lives. It is unlikely that America's various problems will be markedly better when the next primaries are taking shape just over a year from now. When it comes time to point to a still-sagging economy, a still-disturbing crime problem, and a still-open border, candidates would do well to paint broad pictures of what it will look like for average Americans when those problems are better.

Give suburban moms a reason to imagine safer streets. Give minorities of every race the promise of better job opportunities when we get a grip on illegal immigration. Give struggling families hope with a pledge to rein in wasteful spending and stop waging war on American energy.

Even election procedures, the source of so much current strife, can be part of this upbeat message. Instead of wallowing in past grudges over 2020, focus on a future where legal votes are cast and reliably counted, and in a timely manner.

Every plank of this platform involves adherence to conservative guiding beacons of liberty, free markets, and law and order. A bright future lies not in softening those instincts, but honing them in an inviting manner.

Liberals will fight against every item on this positive Republican checklist. Making Democrats the "party of no" for once can pay big dividends.

Mark Davis is a talk show host for the Salem Media Group on 660AM The Answer in Dallas-Ft. Worth, and a columnist for the Dallas Morning News and Townhall.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.