By Jon Hunstman (Feb. 21, 2013) The party of Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan has now lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. The marketplace of ideas will render us irrelevant, and soon, if we are not honest about our time and place in history. Unfortunately, much of the discussion has focused on cosmetic solutions to, say, our underperformance among ethnic and young voters. This is a mistake: we cannot cross this river by feeling for stones. Instead, we need to take a hard look at what today’s conservatism stands for. Conservatives can start by examining how Republicans working with Democrats have governed in several successful states, including Utah; free-market-based healthcare reform, tax reform that eliminated deductions and closed loopholes to bring down rates, and practical education reforms that spoke to 21st-century realities. Instead of using immigration reform as a wedge issue, like many leaders in Washington, Utah passed legislation to help manage immigration based on our real economic needs. If conservatives come to the table with solutions that put our communities first, it will go a long way toward winning elections. But it’s difficult to get people even to consider your reform ideas if they think, with good reason, you don’t like or respect them. Building a winning coalition to tackle the looming fiscal and trust deficits will be impossible if we continue to alienate broad segments of the population. We must be happy warriors who refuse to tolerate those who want Hispanic votes but not Hispanic neighbors. We should applaud states that lead on reforming drug policy. And, consistent with the Republican Party’s origins, we must demand equality under the law for all Americans. While serving as governor of Utah, I pushed for civil unions and expanded reciprocal benefits for gay citizens. I did so not because of political pressure—indeed, at the time 70 percent of Utahns were opposed—but because as governor my role was to work for everybody, even those who didn’t have access to a powerful lobby. Civil unions, I believed, were a practical step that would bring all citizens more fully into the fabric of a state they already were—and always had been—a part of.
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