It's time for Republicans to tell us some detailed plans for spreading the economic wealth of this country more broadly. Cleveland — home of the 2016 Republican National Convention — is a great opportunity for the GOP.
President Obama hammered home the shrinking middle class in his State of the Union address — and he framed a major issue for the 2016 presidential election. And you thought NPE 2015 was coming up fast … when it comes to politics, we're already talking about 2016!
Obama is a lame duck and now the ball is in the Republicans' court. The Republicans swept the midterm elections, gaining control of the Senate and adding to their majority in the House of Representatives. How did they do it? By linking their Democratic opponents to Obama in raw political calculation that said nothing about what they offer, instead.
The Republicans have to show Americans their plan to improve living standards and renew the middle class, without big deficit spending. Obama jumped on this, proposing to raise taxes on capital gains and dividends for couples making more than $500,000 a year and raise taxes on inheritance taxes for the wealthy. Regardless of what you think of those ideas, at least Obama is giving some specifics.
You have to give Republicans credit for picking Cleveland for their 2016 convention. Yes, Ohio is a major swing state. But Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are strongly Democratic.
Clevelanders have a blue-collar attitude. There aren't many yuppies. Even the white-collar guys go for a shot and beer, although it's probably a Glenfiddich and a microbrew.
Here's my point: If the Republicans can craft a common-sense message, aimed at the average Clevelander, they could easily win the presidency. That's a big “if.”
I'm a native Clevelander. Here's what we want: Tell us how you can improve the people's lives. We're sick of class warfare. America should be a place where if you work hard and get a good education, you can have a solid middle-class lifestyle. We don't want pandering, the Democrats give us that. No, from the Republican Party we want a clear message.
Explain how weak wage growth, including in manufacturing, is mainly caused by globalization and technology. In the plastics industry, automation means companies need fewer workers, but the ones they do need higher skills than our education system is putting out.
Here's what we don't want: People who just want to polarize the debate. Let's talk about something beyond abortion and guns.
I travel a lot for Plastics News, and I have to say that Cleveland is the most “real” big city in America. Clevelanders are plain spoken. They can be critical, cynical and self-deprecating, but it's not an act. Cleveland is what it is.
I know that a political convention is played for a national TV audience. But Republicans, you should play to Cleveland. We need some adult conversation about the middle class. Nothing phony.
Let's get real.
Bregar is an Ohio-based Plastics News senior reporter.