How the GOP Can Get Its Mojo Back

If the Republicans are looking to restore their credibility with the American people and differentiate themselves from the Democrats, they might do well to focus on two issues. Both relate to fundamental liberties, both put the Republicans on the same side as large majorities of American voters, and both have the Democrats trapped by virtue of their dependence on Big Labor. In short, these are winning issues, both on policy and on politics, for Republicans.

The first is school reform. The Republicans in Congress need look no further than out of their windows to see opportunity. In the horrid Washington D.C. school system, the Schools Chancellor, 38-year-old single mother Michelle Rhee, is struggling to upgrade standards, institute charter schools and school choice, and, if needed, break the back of the teachers' union which has stood foursquare against her efforts to remove bad teachers. The Washington Post reports that she and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty are contemplating a "Plan B" to declare a "state of emergency" and allow the school district to bypass union negotiations.

This, of course, would cause a major clash with the teachers' union and their Democratic allies, specifically President-elect Barack Obama. In the last presidential debate, Obama offered mild support for Rhee's efforts to institute charter schools within the district, but falsely suggested she did not favor a voucher program to allow students to select private schools (some of the very institutions Obama and his wife are now considering for their daughters). In fact, Rhee favors both -- and is now apparently willing to battle the teachers' union to the death. (Unlike the Obamas, her daughters attend public schools.)

This presents a golden opportunity for Congressional Republicans who would have to vote on a measure to declare the D.C. school district in a "state of emergency." What better way to stand up for parental rights, take the side of minority and poor children, and make clear which party stands with Big Labor and which with educational reform advocates? In this fight, there likely are few parents in the country who wouldn't be cheering on Rhee, Fenty, and the Republicans.