The Perfect Republican Stump Speech

We asked former Republican speechwriter Barton Swaim to write a ​totally pandering stump speech for an imaginary GOP presidential candidate — one who ​espouses only positions that a majority of Republicans agree with. ​Here’s the speech he wrote, including notes to explain his phrasing, behind-the-scenes pro tips on appealing to Republican voters and the data he used to decide which positions to take.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Who’s ready to stand up for America? [applause] Who’s ready to take this country back? [applause] Who’s ready to send a message to the elites in Washington? [slightly waning applause]

You know, the Democrats want to make this election complicated. They want to convince you that taking more money out of the private sector and giving it to bureaucrats in Washington will somehow improve the economy.

How would that work? They’ll tell you, “It’s complicated; just trust us.”

They want to convince you that giving Iran’s extremist thugs whatever they want — and trusting that they won’t build a nuclear weapon — will somehow make the Middle East more stable.

How, exactly? “Well, it’s complicated. Just trust us. Just trust the Obama administration. Just trust the Democratic leadership in Congress, like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.”

They’re going to try to convince you that putting government in charge of your health insurance is somehow going to improve our health care system. You might wonder how putting government in charge of anything makes it more efficient or improves its quality.

It hasn’t exactly worked that way with the Postal Service, but hey — it’s complicated. You’ll just have to trust them.

[pause; wait for a few people to boo]

It’s actually not complicated, and Americans aren’t going to trust them anymore.

In fact, this election boils down to a few very simple principles. To understand these principles, you don’t need an advanced degree in the latest trendy subject from an Ivy League school. You don’t need to get your opinions from the New York Times. You don’t need to be some policy wonk in Washington, and you don’t need to be a member of the intelligentsia.

You really just need two things to understand what this election is about: You need your God-given intelligence, and you need a deep and abiding love for this country.

The principles are these.

On the economy, the best thing the government can do is get out of the way.

We’ve seen it time and again in American history: When we remove the burdens of over-regulation and allow Americans to spend and invest more of their own money, we unleash their potential to create prosperity and opportunity for everybody — especially those struggling to make ends meet.

Our Democratic friends seem to think we can improve our economy by passing a few laws. So they want to raise the minimum wage. That’s great. I worked in a job making minimum wage once, and if you had asked me if I thought the minimum wage should be raised, I would have probably said “sure.” (I was 15, OK? Cut me some slack.) But Democrats know as well as you do that mandating an increase in the minimum wage — while it may sound great — stunts the private sector’s ability to get new people into the workforce.So people already in the workforce get raises, and people looking for a job will find it that much harder because employers can’t afford new workers.

We know government has a duty to look out for the poor. But never at the expense of making the poor dependent on public aid. We need to encourage states to reform welfare eligibility rules to ensure we’re not encouraging dependency.

Now President Obama and his allies in Congress want to raise the threshold for overtime pay. So they actually think — they actually think — that politicians and bureaucrats in Washington have a better idea of who ought to get paid what salaries than the people running businesses right here in [whatever town we’re in].

On trade, we must embrace the reality that we’re in a global economy while never failing to safeguard the American economy.

The Democratic Party is still held hostage by the labor unions — coercive and outdated pressure groups that still think American workers can’t compete with any other country in the world.

We can’t turn a blind eye to currency manipulation and human-rights abuses, but as Republicans we know that the American economy is the best in the world and that we can compete with anybody, anywhere, any time.

On government spending, we need to speak the simple truth: Spending more money will not somehow reduce the federal deficit or magically reduce the budget.

It’s sad that we even have to point this out. President Obama and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill told us in 2009 that if we spent several hundred billion dollars on an “economic stimulus,” we’d improve the economy and somehow reduce the deficit.

It didn’t happen.

We were told that passing Obamacare, with its massive expansion of Medicaid, would somehow help to balance the budget.

Obviously, that didn’t happen. Because you don’t spend more to balance the budget. You spend less.

We’ve got to take a more realistic approach to spending in this country. That starts with taking a hard look at welfare programs that encourage dependency and simply don’t work. We need to act quickly on deficit reduction — we can’t keep kicking the can down the road on tough budget questions.

Our budget deficit is killing us — we’re spending exponentially more than we have, and sooner or later it’s going to catch up with us. And so to bring the deficit down, we’re going to have to make some decisions that — let’s face it — are gonna make a lot of people mad. We’re going to have to cut programs, and any time you do that, special interests will fight like demons to keep you from doing it. But if we’re going to save this country from a fiscal apocalypse, that’s what we’re going to have to do, and I need you to stay engaged when the fight comes.

Any time there’s a budget crisis, the Democrats’ first move is to raise taxes.But the first move has always got to be cutting government spending.

There’s a time and a place to talk about revenue, but for the Democrats, raising taxes is the answer to every question, the solution to every problem. As president, I’ll make sure Washington understands this: The bloated budget of the federal government gets cut before a single American pays more in taxes.

On foreign policy, the right approach is actually a very simple one. We need to strengthen our allies and distrust our enemies — not the reverse.

This administration gets it the wrong way around. We strengthen our enemies by, for example, cutting arms deals with them, knowing full well those enemies will use the provisions of the deal to seek and obtain the nuclear weapons we want to keep out of their hands.

Let me be absolutely clear: The Iran nuclear deal is a joke. The Iranians intended to violate the letter and spirit of that agreement the moment they signed it.

And while we’re strengthening our avowed enemies in Iran, we’re doing next to nothing to help our allies in Israel, Ukraine and elsewhere. President Obama has openly feuded with the prime minister of Israel, doing everything but actually campaigning against him. Meanwhile the administration lets Vladimir Putin virtually annex half of Ukraine without offering anything more than empty rhetoric as an objection:We’re not supplying our Ukrainian allies with weaponry, we’re not strengthening our naval presence in the Black Sea, we’re doing almost nothing to further NATO’s plans for a missile defense system that would check Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.

I will change that.

When President Obama came into office, he said he wanted to bring a new approach to the world, and many of us were ready to see what he could accomplish. But he has systematically encouraged our enemies and insulted our allies. We don’t need to take America back to some Cold War mentality, but we do need to speak and act with moral clarity about the naked aggression of Russia; about terrorist governments in Syria, the Palestinian territories and North Korea; and about the expansionist ambitions and ongoing human-rights abuses of China.

And this administration’s confused and irresolute foreign policy has resulted in total incompetence on the question of Syrian refugees. Clearly the United States can’t sit by and do nothing while families flee the savage violence of ISIS and the Assad regime. Many of our ancestors fled violence when they came to these shores — think of persecuted religious minorities in the 1600s or Jews seeking refuge from Western Europe in the 1920s and ’30s — so we’re not going to turn a blind eye to these people.

At the same time, we can’t — as the administration is proposing to do — simply shuffle thousands of men with possible terrorist connections into the United States and hope they don’t cause any trouble once they’re here. The attacks in Paris have reminded us that terrorism is alive and well in the West, and now is not the time to let down our guard. So yes, we’ve got to welcome people fleeing persecution, but we absolutely cannot let men with terrorist ambitions take advantage of our hospitality.

We’ve got to address this problem at its source — Syria. Does that mean sending troops into Syria? I don’t think we know the answer to that yet, but I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean: It doesn’t mean we should declare an intention to stay out of Syria. You don’t proclaim your intentions to your enemies in the way this administration has done. Never. [with annoyed expression] Why would we give Assad and ISIS that kind of assurance?

On immigration, again the principle is very simple: Let’s keep those who work hard and contribute to our economy, and let’s keep the lawbreakers out.

This administration has not led on immigration. It has followed, and as a result it has failed badly. We were told — for years we were told — the president would produce a plan to deal with the catastrophe that is our immigration system. All we got was an executive order saying illegals didn’t have to obey the law.

No plan. No proposed legislation. No negotiation with Congress. Just an executive order.

That’s not “immigration reform,” and it’s not leadership. [shouting] That’s sheer lawless autocracy.

President Obama, we still have a Congress in this country, and we fought a war to get rid of a king. Illegal executive orders are no substitute for leadership.

On health care, we need to put the individual in charge, not bureaucrats. It’s as simple as that.

The misnamed Affordable Care Act did precisely the opposite by empowering the federal government to commandeer the nation’s health insurance market. When I’m president, item No. 1 is going to be reversethe entire bureaucratic nightmare we call Obamacare.

We can’t just say “get rid of Obamacare,” though. We’ve got to replace it with commonsense free-market reforms — reforms like allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines and getting rid of mandated insurance benefits that drive up costs for everyone.

On abortion, we need to regain the moral clarity we’ve lost.

We need to remember what the pro-life movement understood nearly a half-century ago, when abortion was first legalized across the nation by judicial fiat. And that is this: that human life is sacred, that we as a nation have a right to protect human life with our laws, and that the unborn aren’t to be treated as morally insignificant collections of cell tissue and sold like meat at a supermarket.

When I’m president, I will make it my mission to see that Planned Parenthood is not only defunded but investigated.

That brings us to the courts. We need people on the bench who understand that they’re not cultural warriors — they’re judges.

Unfortunately the Court again overstepped its bounds by unilaterally redefining marriage. Whatever your view on same-sex marriage, I think we can all agree that five justices in Washington, D.C., have neither the wisdom nor the right to redefine an institution.

I reject that understanding of the court’s role. As president, I can promise you that I’ll appoint federal judges and Supreme Court justices who understand their role: to rightly interpret the laws and the Constitution, not to invent new moral imperatives and impose them on an entire society.

If you feel the same way on these issues, and I know the vast majority of Americans do, I need you to get out there and do your part. I need you to stay engaged, [dramatic hand gesture, as if pointing to a plane in the distance] all the way to November.

Because remember: This election isn’t about me, or Hillary Clinton, or anyone else. It’s about where we’re headed as a nation, and I believe we’re headed up toward economic freedom, self-governance, strength abroad and prosperity at home.

Thank you, and may God bless America.

Illustration by Joel Plosz.