I hate disagreeing with George Will and Charles Krauthammer because they’re such intelligent people. Still, that’s what I have to do because, last night, I loved watching Cathy McMorris-Rodgers’ response to President Obama’s depressing SOTU Address. Here’s the first highlight of Rep. McMorris-Rodgers’ speech:

Tonight the President made more promises that sound good, but won’t solve the problems actually facing Americans. We want you to have a better life. The President wants that too. But we part ways when it comes to how to make that happen. So tonight I’d like to share a more hopeful, Republican vision…

One that empowers you, not the government…It’s one that champions free markets — and trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that decides for you. It helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable.

This is a beautiful explanation of why Republicans believe what they believe. Absent were apologies or tip-toeing so Republicans don’t offend liberals. It was just old-fashioned optimism based on the ability of families to “make their own decisions.” Thankfully, Rep. McMorris-Rodgers’ speech wasn’t a laundry list of conservative proposals. This had the feel of a chat at the dinner table. That said, idealism was an integral part of the speech:

The chance to go from my Washington to this one was unexpected.

I came to Congress to help empower people, not politicians, to grow the working middle class, not the government and to ensure that everyone in this country can find a job. Because a job is so much more than just a paycheck; it gives us purpose, dignity, and the foundation to build a future.

While I watched Rep. McMorris-Rodgers’ rebuttal to President Obama’s SOTU Address, I thought it was sad that President Obama couldn’t sincerely tout these principles. President Obama talks about empowering individuals but only within the context of government first making things possible.

While the speech was idealistic, it also sent the message to Democrats that Republicans won’t put up with Democrats’ policies of decline:

Because our mission, not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become.

That is the gap Republicans are working to close. It’s the gap we all face: between where you are and where you want to be. The President talks a lot about income inequality. But the real gap we face today is one of opportunity inequality…And with this Administration’s policies, that gap has become far too wide.

We see this gap growing every single day. We see it in our neighbors who are struggling to find jobs…a husband who’s now working just part-time…A child who drops out of college because she can’t afford tuition or parents who are outliving their life’s savings.

Last month, more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one. Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the President’s policies are making people’s lives harder.

The great thing about Rep. McMorris-Rodgers’ speech is that it wasn’t negative. It’s that she offered a vision to get America working again:

Republicans have plans to close the gap, plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts, and red tape. Every day, we’re working to expand our economy, one manufacturing job, nursing degree and small business at a time. We have plans to improve our education and training systems so you have the choice to determine where your kids go to school…so college is affordable…and skills training is modernized.

The impressive takeaway was that it connected with people. SR-Bing measured people’s online reactions, splitting it into Republicans, Democrats and independents. While Democrats stayed luke-warm throughout, independents gave Rep. McMorris-Rodgers high marks throughout the speech.

The lesson Republicans should take from Rep. McMorris-Rodgers’ speech is that independents appreciate a political party that empowers families, not politicians and bureaucrats.

While it isn’t likely that many people saw Rep. McMorris-Rodgers’ speech, that isn’t what’s important. What’s important is that she’s given Republicans a path forward to winning elections this fall. That’s why this speech was a success.

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