Republican voters across the country recognize the 2012 election is truly the most important election of our lives.  The stakes simply couldn’t be any higher.  Our economy has faced the deepest recession in the last 70 years and a stagnant recovery at best.  Our debt has reached historical levels, causing a downgrade of our credit rating and suffocating economic growth.  Members of Congress continue to wrongly believe they can borrow and spend America to prosperity.  The American Dream is under assault and the values that have always defined America seem to have been forgotten.

The stakes are so high precisely because President Obama has had a successful first term.  In fact, he has achieved more than he probably thought he could in four short years.  This is exactly why he “badly” wants a second term– to finish what he has started.  He was elected with his own deceptive, yet subtle mandate for America: to fundamentally transform it.  He has done more than that.  Using the recession as his excuse, he has attempted to redefine American society arguing for redistributive policies that punish success, drastically expand the power of the federal government and promote dependency.  From the unconstitutional appointments and health care legislation, to the historical number of costly, executive regulations, government mandates and new taxes, President Obama has brought our economy to its knees while dependency on the government grows exponentially. Not surprisingly, the economy grew just 1.7% for the entire year due to Obama’s attempt to transition America away from a free enterprise system.

The pieces of legislation President Obama has been able to sign into law are both numerous and devastating.  The way in which he has arrogantly implemented them is tyrannical and alarming. Republicans are wrong to suggest he doesn’t have a record to run on. Don’t be fooled, in the eyes of his liberal base he has already achieved many of their wildest dreams.

The next election is certainly about making Obama a one-term president. We have to expose the devastating results of his actions and explain to the American people that everything they thought he was could not be further from the truth.  But this election isn’t just about the fact that Obama has failed to revive the economy, it is about showing what he believes in, exposing those who share his ideals, and systematically repealing and reversing course — the only way that will save our future as a free people.

As Ronald Reagan so succinctly explained in his speech “A Time for Choosing” on October 27, 1964,

“This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”

In other words, the issue of this election is broader than any one specific policy proposal.  It would be a grave mistake to simply make 2012 ‘Obama versus the Republican nominee.’  It must instead be about liberalism versus conservatism; collectivism versus capitalism; and statism versus liberty.  Republicans must explain as clearly as Reagan did 16 years before he was elected President, “there is no such thing as a left or right.  There’s only an up or down—[up] man’s old—old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.”

The reason why the American people blame both Republicans and Democrats is merely because they have grown to dislike Washington and perceive both parties equally guilty.  Republicans have failed to attack the ideas of the Left.  Many are unwilling to go beyond criticizing specific policy proposals or timid about defending conservatism.  In many respects, this is why Republicans usually fail to get their message out.  Republicans must instead be on the offensive and correct the fallacies promoted by the media.  They must be unapologetic, exposing the myths of liberalism and offering a distinct, bold conservative vision for the future of America.  The American people need to see that there is a defining difference between the values of the two parties and understand the roots of why liberalism stands in the way of economic prosperity and opportunity.

The first Republican candidate who gets on this message will unify the base and win the nomination.  It’s that simple.  The base of the party rightly wants a brave defender of conservatism, someone who will lead the party back to its conservative roots.  Paul Ryan always emphasizes it, Marco Rubio personifies it, and Mitch Daniels and Scott Walker are both implementing it.  Republican voters are desperately looking for someone who, as Rush Limbaugh recently stated, can “articulate conservatism.”  This is the main reason why Gingrich won in South Carolina and is only a few points behind in Florida.  Romney doesn’t seem up to the challenge and would rather depend upon his private sector resume or campaign surrogates for the nomination.

2012 is more important than the candidates. It is the modern day “time for choosing.” Republicans must make this election a referendum not just on Obama, but also on liberalism as a whole.  Most importantly, it is the only way to defeat liberalism and save America.

David Milstein :: Dickinson College :: Carlisle, Pennsylvania :: @DavidAMilstein