By GARY SASSE As the GOP gathers for its 42nd quadrennial national convention (albeit virtual) questions are being asked about the Party's future. Are the changes President Trump brought to the Party sustainable, and what will the Republican Party be
As the GOP gathers for its 42nd quadrennial national convention (albeit virtual) questions are being asked about the Party’s future. Are the changes President Trump brought to the Party sustainable, and what will the Republican Party be like after Trump?
As Gerald Seib wrote in the Wall Street Journal, Trump has “turned Republicanism away from four decades of Reagan-style, national- greatness conservatism into a new gospel of populism and nationalism.”
The days of Republicans respecting the rule of law, championing federalism, limited government, conservative fiscal policy, collective security, and free-trade have faded. Perhaps nothing draws a sharper contrast between Trump and the Republicans who came before him than differing views about America’s role and responsibility on the world stage. Ronald Reagan told Russia to tear down the Berlin Wall, while Trump patronizes Putin. For decades the center piece of American foreign policy has been security alliances. Trump has threatened to withdraw from NATO, and has left the Paris Climate Accord.
The New York Times David Brooks summed it up by observing, “If you came of age with conservative values and around Republican politics in the 1980s and 1990s, you lived within in a certain Ronald Reagan-Margaret Thatcher paradigm. It was about limited government, spreading democracy abroad, building dynamic free markets at home and cultivating people with vigorous virtues…”
The evolution of change in the Republican Party pre-dates the election of Donald Trump. According to Seib Republicans like Pat Buchanan, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and the Tea Party began the process of turning the GOP in a populist and nationalist direction. They astutely recognized that too many citizens felt that opportunity was slipping away. Also, many in the middle class saw an economic system as being more concerned about shareholders than jobs. They perceived they were being disregarded by elites who did not share their cultural outlook as well as government at all levels that was ineffective and insensitive to their vital concerns.
Today our political system is failing to address the problems most Americans worry abouteducation, affordable health care and income security.
Regardless of who wins in November, Republicans will be faced with the challenge of creating a conservative governing strategy that deals with these concerns and does not rigidly cling to a philosophy of free-markets and smaller government that is not working for too many Americans.
The successful Republican governing agenda must aligns moral and social policy with fiscal concerns, promotes employment policies that help get people good paying jobs and enable parents to balance work and family, not blindly champion Wall Street and corporate elites, reestablishes a “peace through strength” foreign policy and restores the confidence in government which has been shaken to its foundation by the coronavirus.
Commentators have identified Republicans and conservative thought leaders who are thinking about the party after Trump and proposing key elements of a conservative governing strategy.
The Atlantic reported that Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a potential presidential aspirant, “rails against income inequalities, condemns the policy deference afforded to corporations, and speaks warmly about the civic virtues of labor unions.”
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida (in whose 2016 Presidential campaign I participated) is promoting “common good capitalism” which finds that our economic system places too much emphasis on shareholders and not enough on the needs of workers and communities. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina got a law enacted to use public incentives to stimulate private investments in disadvantaged communities.
Behind the scenes conservative intellectuals are suggesting new ways to solve our problems. At the state level governors like Larry Hogan in Maryland and Mike DeWine in Ohio are demonstrating their leadership skill in handling COVID.
President Trump has brought profound changes to the Republican Party and nobody can stay with certainty how the Party will evolve, but it won’t be your father’s GOP.
As Michael Barone, co-author of the Almanac of American Politics observed, our parties adjust to changing situations by attracting new constituencies and losing old ones while adapting to a competitive political marketplace.
Gary Sasse is the Founding Director of the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University.