November 4th was a good day for Republicans. They won the Senate and significantly expanded their majority in the House. In 2015, they will hold 31 of 50 governorships and control 69 out of 99 state legislative chambers. But is the Republicans’ success a victory for America?
If conservatives want their recent successes to have real meaning, they must offer their own positive agenda for 2015 and beyond. When the GOP only controlled one half of one branch of the federal government, it had a hard time making its case to the nation. Now there are no excuses.
Over the years to come, conservatives should emphasize that their policies are good for all Americans. Republicans in Congress and in statehouses across the nation could pass a new reform bill every day to restore confidence in our nation’s political institutions. Every day, Congress could put a popular bill with Democratic support on the President’s desk. Obamacare fixes. Immigration reforms. Anti-poverty efforts. Trade bills. Education bills. Body camera laws. Prison reform. You name it, every day. Whenever the President vetoes these bills, then it’s on him.
Conservatives must propose solutions to problems in our criminal justice system. We should not hesitate to acknowledge the role of modern policing in the precipitous decline of rape and murder in recent years. But some aspects of the criminal justice reform need fine tuning – adding body cameras on police, for instance, makes sense.
Texas, one of the most conservative states in the nation, has recently found incredible success in reforming their prison system, which used to be one of the most broken (not to mention expensive) in the nation.
In true conservative form, Texas chose to focus on the individual criminal and the choices they made that led them to commit crimes in order to fix the way prisons worked in the state. Through programs such as the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, which teaches inmates useful business skills and even offers them a chance to get a certificate of entrepreneurship from the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University, Texas has been able to enable inmates to find employment options when they leave jail.
Because of its effective reforms, Texas has been able to close three prisons instead of building new ones. As Marc Levin, a criminal justice researcher with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, notes, “studies have shown that vocational education reduces recidivism more than anything else you can do”. The Prison Entrepreneurship Program is an especially good example of this, as it has been found to reduce recidivism by 380% compared to the average of other rehabilitation programs in Texas, not to mention yielding a 340% return on investment due to avoided incarceration, increased child support payments, and reduced reliance on government assistance. All of these programs focus on building a sense of purpose, community, and brotherhood between past and current inmates, and are all built upon a foundation of conservative values of liberty and personal freedom (it is Texas, after all).
Instead of increasing the reach of the nanny state, Texas has shown that empowering individuals to lead the life they want to live discourages a life of crime. Texas’s conservative approach to law enforcement, one that seeks to do more than tear people down, should be lauded across the nation.
Now that conservatives have regained power across the nation, it is time for them to show America that conservative values can not only empower people to live the life they choose, it can also help them get back on their feet when they fail.