NEW YORK—Presidential campaigns are supposed to be about America, or at least what voters want, not Donald Trump's and Ben Carson's clumsy statements and political correctness.
Hillary Clinton, even with her integrity impugned, beats GOP hopefuls in head-to-head polls because she addresses issues voters care about. Jobs, fairness, education, health care, equality.
Instead, Republicans offer repackaged Reaganism such as Job Bush's tax package and incredible promise to accomplish 4 percent growth.
That's why conservatism—and by derivation the Republicans—must change with the times and recognize solutions that worked for Ronald Reagan don't resonate today.
Democrats have an advantage. European-style democratic socialism offers plausible sounding, even if tragically flawed, solutions. Clinton has a fresh list of free stuff and wrong-headed mandates for private business, even though two generations of handouts and affirmative action have failed to raise the African-American living standards to anywhere near parity with other Americans.
Palliatives nearly always fail. Subsidized student loans, grants, and government coerced minority and low-income enrollment have driven tuition costs out of sight. Medicare prescription drug coverage for seniors has accelerated the rise in drug prices.
For conservatives to win, they must offer understandable proposals that get to the root causes of job loss, student debt, unaffordable health care, and remaining discrimination, or they simply can't win.
Globalization is victimizing many Americans by driving down wages and pushing too many workers into the contingent economy where they work erratic hours, get poor benefits, and face zero job security. Trade agreements with China and others have offered virtually unimpeded access to U.S. markets, while foreign governments target American jobs with artificially cheap currencies, subsidies, and discriminatory regulations.
GOP candidates must promise to do whatever it takes to eradicate the $500 billion trade deficit and restore four million good-paying jobs.
Americans can't compete without affordable universities, but a river of federal student loans has only left a generation too heavily in debt, and that harms the economy. The GOP presidential candidate should promise to cut off federal aid to institutions that don't slash tuition by 20 percent and limit future increases to inflation.
No matter what they earn, Americans increasingly are up against monopoly abuse. Each year computer and communications technologies become less costly but home cable bills rocket, banks pay hardly any interest for deposits but still charge double-digit interest rates on credit cards, hospitals and drug manufactures enjoy government subsidies but extort prices a pharaoh couldn't afford, and fuel prices may be down but air travel becomes more expensive and uncomfortable.
Big businesses in all these sectors have merged and acquired smaller competitors, snuffed out competition, and jacked up prices. In the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt, the GOP should promise to bust up monopolies and get ordinary folks a fair shake in the marketplace.
Health care in the United States is 50 percent more costly than in Germany and Holland, which also have mandatory private insurance and quality care, because prices there are much lower.
Repealing "Obamacare" is no longer practical because too many folks could not get back their old policies, and businesses have rearranged practices to accommodate the law. The GOP candidate should promise to require drug companies, doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies to benchmark prices and practices against those in Western European countries with mandatory private insurance.
Hillary's trump card is gender—many women want a woman president. The GOP candidate has to convince women in explicit language that he (or she) feels their pain.
Simply stated, half of his (or her) cabinet and political appointees must be female. Corporate America would be compelled by that example to follow suit. If the GOP candidate does not commit to that, then President Hillary Clinton will surely enforce the same.
It's all very radical but conservatives should be about empowering ordinary people, be they white or not, male or female, gay or straight.
Peter Morici, professor at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, is a recognized expert on economic policy and international economics. Previously he served as director of the Office of Economics at the U.S. International Trade Commission. Follow him on Twitter @pmorici1.