Republican presidential candidates and messages of false hope

2016 Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
2016 Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

“Defeat the Washington machine! Unleash the American dream.” This is the campaign slogan of Republican presidential candidate, and current Kentucky senator Rand Paul. Paul, a doctor turned United States senator, is the son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul who was a congressman from Texas for more than two decades.

Rand Paul railed against the “Washington machine” during his speech announcing his run for President.

Paul claimed that rolling back the role of the government would make America more prosperous. He is not the only one to preach a message of hope.

The campaign websites of other declared Republican presidential candidates include slogans like Dr. Ben Carson’s “Heal, Inspire, Revive” and Mike Huckabee’s “From Hope to Higher Ground.”

There is something deeper in these slogans of hope. Republicans saw how effective President Obama’s messages of hope, change and progress were in getting through to voters, not only once but twice.

The effectiveness of these ideas is rooted in fundamental shifts occurring in American life over the past 40 years.

The middle class is being squeezed. Stagnant wages, regressive tax policies and the loss of manufacturing jobs because of new global economic competition have devastated many. The Republican’s talk of tax cuts, trickledown economics and big government only go so far for people in the middle class who have limited income, and the poor who rely on the government to help them if they get sick or can’t feed their children.

It seems that the Republican losses in the last two presidential elections have finally convinced them that they need to do more to address the concerns of everyday people. Republican candidates now talk about opportunity, the right to rise and the American dream in a way that may resonate better with the American people.

While many believe Republican efforts to most likely be disingenuous, it is almost refreshing to see Republican presidential candidates pretending to care about all Americans. This is a far cry from the last presidential election in 2012.

The 2012 Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, was obviously out of touch with the majority of Americans.  His infamous 47 percent comment was a perfect example of this. In a secret recording he was caught telling campaign donors that the 47 percent of Americans who do not pay taxes were not going to vote for him. He claimed it is because they are people “who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims.”

Senseless comments like that confirmed the suspicions of many voters that he really didn’t understand their struggles. While the 47 percent comment may not have been the whole reason he lost, it was certainly a large part of it.

Republicans seem to be upping their game this election cycle. While they have always claimed that they stand with working people, it was usually in response to legitimate questions regarding their policies’ negative effects on the middle and lower classes.

Many Americans remember what happened the last time a Republican made it into the Whitehouse. In 2004, George W. Bush was elected to a second term. When he left office four years later, his legacy included two unfinished wars in the Middle East and an economic meltdown caused by deregulated financial markets.

It is going to take some brilliant messaging and Democratic missteps for this appeal to Americans to work — and that’s assuming the eventual Republican presidential nominee can make it through the Republican primary without saying something that makes them unelectable in a general election.