October 9, 2020


Trump's Focus on the Past Leaves Republicans Without a Future (Francis Wilkinson, October 9, 2020, Bloomberg View)

When the coherent half of the Republican ticket participated in the vice presidential debate this week, it was an opportunity for viewers to learn what the future holds. Yes, Vice President Mike Pence may be a talking-point machine, but to a debate audience that's a more useful device than a random-lie generator. You can learn things from talking points.

There's only one problem: Republicans have no points to talk about. If elections are about the future, the GOP plans are the blank piece of paper to which President Donald Trump affixed his signature in his Covid photo-op at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The Republican Party attracted a lot of attention, most of it bad, when it declined to produce a platform at its convention in August. In lieu of an explanation of its positions, it issued a short proclamation whining about the news media conspiring with Joe Biden and being mean. Less noticed is that the Trump campaign website offers no better guidance. The future doesn't exist there, either.

We obviously can't rule out the possibility that the GOP will choose not to have a future, that it will stick to the old white make grievance politics of Donald.  In such a case, demographics takes care of the rest.  

There is also a possibility, maybe even a likelihood, that we are head for a few wilderness years.  Ego and bankruptcy could give us a separate Trump party, allied with the ONAN network and publications like The Federal, First Things, etc., and dedicated to nothing but the Identitarian causes of the Right.  This would peel off a third of the Republican Party which would then be forced to modernize.

But if the Party stays relatively whole and chooses to reform, there really isn't any question about its future: it will return to compassionate conservatism, the Third Way of the right.  This would involve a panoply of market-oriented reforms of the welfare state: school choice; personal retirement accounts; universal HSAs; etc. It would also look to restore the free flow of goods and peoples.  It would put America back on the side of democracy and the oppressed in the Arab World, China, etc. It could also propose more fundamental reforms like strengthening federalism on issues like abortion, sexuality, drugs, and the like.  And envision weakening the Executive by constraining the Administrative State and limiting executive orders and such.  These latter ideas would mesh well with the potential rulings of the Court and offer a clear path forward should the Justices start scaling back the "rights" their predecessors invented.  This emphasis on free markets, self-determination, personal responsibility and republicanism is not just comfortable territory for the party historically, it affords a way to start bringing the naturally conservative members of other cohorts across the aisle.  Right now, there is no way a self-respecting black, Muslim, Asian, Latino, female, etc. can vote for Donald, but polling consistently shows that none of those groups are actually monolithic in their policy views.  Welcome them and let the ideas do your sales job and the party would become competitive again in short order.  

Posted by at October 9, 2020 7:29 PM