If Republicans hope to unify their party and realign American politics in their favor, they’ll have to do more than pour billions of dollars into television ads that highlight rampaging looters and the despairing jobless. They have to offer hope, tied to an achievable vision. Americans are ready for an alternative to Democratic fearmongering and stagnation. Give it to them.
Standing in the way of Republicans developing a comprehensive agenda they can agree on is the deepening rift within the party. On one side is the legacy party, represented by McConnell and Romney and other so-called moderate Republicans. Opposing them is the MAGA movement led by Donald Trump and backed up, among other things, by the Freedom Caucus which now constitutes a majority of the House Republicans.
The opportunity to heal this rift lies with the American voters themselves, whose sentiments on a few fundamental policy issues are coalescing into a consensus bigger than the political parties that supposedly speak for them. Embracing these unifying issues and emphasizing them will hand Republicans a populist bloc of voters that will include almost all grassroots Republicans, along with Independents and Democrats. It will attract voters irrespective of their income or group identity and it will cross ideological lines.
These core premises that might enable Republicans to realign American are on the issues of education, immigration, affirmative action, and climate change. In every case, powerful special interests among Democrats and Republicans will consider these policies, which have the potential to unify grassroots voters, to be mortal threats to their agenda. But only if they are promoted without compromise, and only by leaning in to the controversy and the heresy, will Republican politicians and their party acquire the credibility they’re going to need to be successful.
Success on these four issues will realign America, leaving the country far better positioned to address every other challenge. Restoring quality education will create high information voters and a skilled workforce. Merit based immigration and merit based college admissions and business hiring will build individual character and industrial competitiveness. Replacing the “climate agenda” with realistic energy and infrastructure policies will save small businesses, make America affordable again, reduce international tensions, disempower an out-of-control oligarchy, and even refocus attention on genuine environmental challenges. Specifics matter.
For example, in education policy, Republicans should stand for school choice, where parents receive annual payment vouchers they can redeem at public or private schools. And even more to the point, traditional public schools should be completely restructured, with curricula based on classical education methods that emphasize developing fundamental skills in math, reading and writing, as well as character development and a firm grounding in the virtues of Western Civilization.
With immigration, it isn’t enough to regain control of America’s borders, although that must happen before anything else. It is necessary to completely revamp America’s immigration policies to prioritize admission of people who bring skills that our nation needs. Most immigration into America should be based on merit. It is not possible for America to absorb the world’s poor. If altruism is a value Americans want to incorporate into foreign policy, than aid and investment in poverty stricken nations can help hundreds of millions of people far more cost-effectively than mass immigration.
Moral arguments can frame every plank of a coherent new Republican agenda. Rejecting the false premise that America is still an inherently racist nation is the moral justification for eliminating affirmative action and other supposedly anti-racist and anti-sexist policies that persist in American society. At the same time, however, Republicans must explain that meritocracy is the only possible way for a society to provide equal opportunities to everyone, and it is the only way to ensure that individuals will recognize hard work and learned competence as the path to success in life. Without meritocracy, the character of individuals and of society is corrupted. Meritocracy is tough, but there is no alternative.
The biggest threat to freedom, and the biggest false premise that Republicans must replace, is that climate change, caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions, poses an existential threat to the planet. It does not. And in rejecting that premise, Republicans must replace it with a new premise: Oil, gas and coal, extracted and clean burning using the most advanced technologies, is the pathway to peace and prosperity, and is more sustainable and causes less harm than so-called renewables.
The climate agenda, pushed by nearly every politician in America, reduces the standard of living of all but the wealthiest Americans. Along with extremist environmentalism in general, it concentrates wealth in the hands of multi-national corporations and billionaires, and all but wipes out the middle class. Misguided, extreme environmentalist policies have already taken away the ability of ordinary Americans to purchase homes and build generational wealth. The regressive impact of environmentalist laws and regulations is an attack not so much on private property, as it is an attack focused on private property that isn’t owned by corporations and billionaires. Denying Americans ownership opportunities takes away the incentive to work hard and achieve. It is another way that meritocracy is undermined.
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but they are probably the biggest issues for which there is the potential to unify a supermajority of Americans. Republicans have to embrace these four controversial premises without reservations: Classical education and school choice. Merit based immigration. Replacing affirmative action with meritocracy. And replacing climate change alarm with a commitment to prosperity through an all-of-the-above energy strategy that includes oil, gas, coal, and nuclear power.
President Trump is firmly in favor of all these policies. Republicans are challenged to find other leaders of national stature who will back them just as unequivocally. Without collective agreement on these basic and radically differentiating positions on the issues of education, immigration, meritocracy, and energy and the environment, Republicans are indeed merely RINOs, members of the uniparty, participating in the inexorable demise of a great nation.
The people who have supported Trump have supported these policies. They deserve leadership that demonstrates the courage to promote all of them, not just one or two of them. Voters should demand that Republican candidates answer four questions:
“Will you fight for (1) school choice and classical curricula in public schools, (2) secure borders and merit based immigration, (3) an end to race and gender based discrimination of all kinds, and (4) unrestricted development of clean fossil fuel and nuclear power?” There are plenty of other important issues, but these four are all profoundly disruptive while retaining the ability to attract American voters of all backgrounds and ideologies. If these four goals are fulfilled, many other issues will resolve themselves.
Leaders who commit to these four goals will be condemned just as Trump was condemned, even if their rhetoric is tactful and their logic impeccable. When that day comes, voters will realize that it has not been Trump’s personality that invited seven years of relentless attacks on him and all his supporters. It was the policies he fights for.
The power and promise of these ideas, expressed without reservations or compromise by a united Republican party, will attract majorities across all voting segments. When you realign the electorate, the entire biased and rigged system cannot stop the weight of the landslide.
This article originally appeared in American Greatness.
Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
To help support more content and policy analysis like this, please click here.