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Garrett Murch, who worked for 20 years in politics and public policy in Washington, D.C. and in Maine, wrote the 2022 novel, “Ezzy’s Education–A story of politics invading a high school.”

The 2022 elections shocked many observers and disappointed Republicans, especially in Maine. Contradicting “red wave” chatter from the political class — and presumptive swagger by many a Republican in that class — Democrats won both Maine congressional races, the governor’s race, and held both chambers of the Legislature. Despite debilitating inflation and a public grown weary of overbearing pandemic responses — under Democrat-led governments in Washington, D.C. and Maine — Republicans writ large failed to convince voters to change leadership.

This was like missing a layup in basketball.

Polls showed the economy and inflation to be the top issues on voters’ minds. Even Democrats, in the final weeks, shifted their focus away from “fascism” and “threats to democracy” and toward ensuring people’s financial security. Republicans focused all year on this.

Yet voters rejected Republicans anyway. Why?

Republicans have searched for explanations. Was it the Dobbs decision, undoing Roe v Wade? Was it bad candidate recruitment or failure to adequately support weak candidates? Was it the shadow of former President Donald Trump or the failure to embrace him?

What is known is voters are not sold on Republican leadership, despite the party’s rhetoric aligning with crystal-clear polling data. In this time of uncertainty and insecurity, the public does not trust Republicans to bring the stability and security it so craves.

Voters will not be swayed by the old bromides about government excess and incompetence, however true they may sometimes be. The age of winning by being “against” is over. Voters want plans that allow them and their families to lead more predictable and prosperous lives. They need to believe the specific conservative ideas Republicans champion will in fact make them better off.

Dobbs put a larger question on the table for all would-be political leaders: How would you ensure women and families are protected, especially those most vulnerable financially? Republicans would be wise to answer with a credible vision of an America where pregnancy does not mean poverty and the benefits of cohesive families are available to everyone. The GOP, in short, should prove its oft-stated commitment to opportunity for all.

The financial pressures of parenthood are frightening and often lead to undesired outcomes — abortion in many cases, but also mothers whose economic survival demands a nearly immediate return to work. This premature separation from mothers steals from newborns those first few weeks of bonding that study after study have shown are critical in early child development — and to positive adolescent and adult outcomes.

Relieving burdens on new families should therefore be a prime focus for everyone. But for a political party claiming strong families are central to its vision, this focus is imperative, if for consistency’s sake alone.

One real, workable way to help new families should be a no-brainer for Republicans and is achievable even in a closely divided Congress. Prioritize an expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) in year-end tax policy while the White House is willing to make a deal. The CTC has provided crucial financial support for families raising children since it first passed in 1997. It was temporarily expanded as part of the COVID relief package in 2021, but has since reverted to its pre-COVID level of $2,000 per child–a level widely recognized as too low to maximize its effectiveness, even before inflation spiked.

Fortunately, some efforts to expand and alter the CTC are gaining steam in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, has introduced a bill to increase the CTC to $4,200 for children under the age of five, and $3,000 for children ages 5-17. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah,, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, also have proposals to expand the CTC.

These Republicans understand that, as a society, we must ensure the best foundation possible for young families. Relieving financial pressure from parents means the decision to raise a family becomes easier to make, and support like the CTC provides means more opportunity for happier, healthier children and stronger families. And every conservative knows more strong families means less government dependence.

Voters are (correctly) choosing results over rhetoric. The Child Tax Credit, with its measurable social benefits, can become an early centerpiece of a pro-family, pro-opportunity, pro-society vision of what a Republican-led government would look like. When voters begin to see the Republican Party as an earnest participant in bettering our communities, with real lives improved, voters just might trust it to lead again.