In the last 12 months, the Republican National Committee and its cognates have declined to create a platform and seem uninterested in conducting an assessment of their losses at the presidential and congressional levels in the most recent election.
Given that failure, it seems useful to offer a few thoughts about possible policies and the current Republican Party.
The center of gravity in the party is shifting toward working-class Whites and Hispanics and away from its more traditional roots among college-educated Whites. This trend is especially pronounced among college-educated females, who are now more reliably Democratic in their voting than Hispanic males, although in 2020 Republicans barely won college-educated males as well, which is concerning.
At the moment, there are about twice as many college-educated White female voters as there are Hispanic male voters. That will change over time, but for now Republicans need to devise policies and messages that can appeal to both the new and old elements of the party.
Is that possible? Absolutely. Most American voters are drawn to policies that are practical, that minimize the need for interaction with the government, and that maximize the ability of the individual to make decisions about their own life. It is pretty rare to run across a voter who thinks salvation comes from the federal government (or any government).
How those sentiments get embedded in policy is the relevant question. The good news is that most of the conservative agenda — which tends to emphasize personal autonomy — is a natural fit for a new Republican agenda.
Since the party “leaders” have failed, perhaps it is time to crowdsource a platform for the new Republican Party. I’ll start by suggesting a few obvious issues and a sentence or two for each.
• Economy. People should keep as much of their hard-earned cash as possible. Laws and regulations that substitute the judgment of bureaucrats for citizens are bad. An overaggressive government is bad because it limits people’s agency and responsibility for their own decisions.
• Immigration. President Trump was right. If you don’t have a border, you don’t have a country. Immigration, especially of the illegal variety, reduces wages for the working class and benefits the rich. Moreover, illegal immigration doesn’t just depress wages and benefit the rich. It also makes a mockery of our commitment to the law and those who abide by it.
• Labor unions. Residual anxiety about prevailing wage questions should dissipate (who really cares?) and be replaced by anxiety about public-sector unions being able to negotiate for wage (and tax) increases. Teachers who refuse to work in the classroom are not only stealing taxpayer dollars, but also violating their duty to put the interests of children first.
• Education. Republicans need to be in favor of students, not systems and not bureaucracies. In the wake of a pandemic that made the argument against teachers’ unions for them, the Republicans should emphasize this, especially to suburban moms. Republicans should also emphasize equity with respect to subsidies for apprenticeships and skilled trade schools and “higher” education. Make student loans easier to forgive on a case-by-case basis, but blanket forgiveness is a direct gift to the children of the rich.
• Welfare reform. Given recent Democratic efforts to roll back 30 years of efforts to encourage work and the emerging demographic composition of the party, Republicans would be well-served to emphasize the virtue of work and the pathologies of dependency. Tax credits that are about to be extended by Team Biden are bad ideas, primarily because of their deleterious effects on humans, not on budget scores.
• Health care. People need more choices, not fewer. There is no reason why the government should limit the types of insurance plans that can be offered. It is probably worth opening up the discussion about whether we are heading toward a bifurcated system, and, if so, how best do we design that.
• National security. Don’t start wars you don’t intend to win. Follow Mr. Trump’s lead on this and treat China as what it is: an adversary that the United States needs to confront in all arenas.
• Spending. Simplify the old-time religion: Spending is a zero-sum game, and whatever the government spends, you can’t. Deficits matter both because they make your children poorer and also because — think about the new audience — they transfer money from taxpayers in the middle class to bond holders, usually rich folks.
• Taxes. Broaden the base, simplify the code. Tax capital gains and income at the same rate. Shrink the tax gap.
• Energy. Avoid any policy that makes energy more expensive. Stop acting as if people prioritize climate change.
• Infrastructure. To the extent possible, get the federal government out of the infrastructure business and let states do their thing.
• Big Tech. Given the stakes in this discussion, facts should be central. It is worth determining whether Big Tech is a platform or a publisher, then proceeding accordingly.
I encourage everyone to offer additions, deletions, edits, comments, etc. Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will include them as we address each issue in turn in subsequent columns.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to President Trump and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.
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