FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2015 file photo, Republican presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump speaks in Derry, N.H. Trump sells himself as a bold empire builder, the kind of businessman who could force through big changes in Washington as president. Yet for all his bravado: “I’ve done an amazing job,” the Republican White House hopeful boasted during his announcement speech _ a review of the billionaire’s financial filings and recent deals suggests he’s no swashbuckler. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm, File)

Last week, as I was going through an old spreadsheet of writing notes from about a year and a half ago, I came across the typed-out line "conservatism has got to be about ideas."

That, of course, isn't an earth-shattering notion, so to remind myself of the larger context I was pondering some 18 months ago, I started clicking web links I'd included under that line.

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Columnist David Martin

Soon, I was reading through a collection of news stories about various conservative personalities still calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act roughly four years after its passage.

Now don't get me wrong, I've never been an advocate of the ACA — not even close. However, after losing count of how many times House Republicans voted to repeal the law, I was obviously in the mood to see more emphasis on the "replace" part of the "repeal and replace" GOP mantra.

There is definitely something to be said for "standing athwart history, yelling stop," as William F. Buckley used to put it. And as the Obama administration has bullied its way around for the last six years, conservatives have rightly adopted that stance. However, to win the hearts and minds of voters moving forward, the right will need to boast a more proactive rallying cry.

It will take more than conservative impulse — shouting "stop!" It will take ideas.

They've got to be good ones, and of late, we've seen some admirable ideas advanced by Republican presidential hopefuls. Just this week, two candidates, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker, rolled out their ACA "replace" plans. Each have their merits.

Both plans put much emphasis on refundable tax credits, giving Americans — including the most vulnerable among us — the ability to purchase their own health insurance. They would introduce more competition to the health care marketplace, which would drive down costs, while also taking on the tricky topics of Medicaid and Medicare reform.

On the tax front, Rand Paul introduced his flat tax plan at the end of June, which was received by many on the right with welcoming arms.

Anyway, though Paul's flat tax rate of 14.5 percent isn't as cut and dried as it sounds at first blush, it would represent a gigantic step in the right direction, simplifying the tax code and slimming the bureaucratic heft of the IRS. Hallelujah!

Unfortunately, not all recent Republican ideas have been good ones. Case in point, Donald Trump's belief that upending the 14th Amendment and eliminating birthright citizenship would somehow be wildly beneficial to Americans.

Yeah, we've got plenty of work to do on the immigration front, but trying to undercut an important piece of our national being that's existed since it was written into the Constitution nearly 150 years ago — and upheld by the Supreme Court 30 years thereafter — isn't the best way to tackle the matter.

Especially since the idea is being floated by a candidate whose main goal is to say as many outlandish things as possible to keep the cameras trained on him. It's not a serious idea and has no good place on the campaign trail, but sadly it's being parroted by some other GOP White House hopefuls — I'm looking right at you, Ted Cruz.

The only silver lining Trump brings to Republicans right now is his ability to attract media attention. But it will be up to the rest of the field to steal some of the limelight off of him and direct it to conversations about legitimately helpful ideas.

This might be easier said than done, but it will be imperative in showing the electorate that conservatives are able to do more than shout "stop!"

David Allen Martin is a syndicated columnist who writes from Chattanooga. You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @DMart423.