By Arab News
By Dr. John C. Hulsman
As Washington insider Jim Papa puts it: “If the Republican Party had its own Mount Rushmore, that mountain would have three faces: Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. The goal of every Republican candidate should be to become the fourth face on that mountain.” After the unimaginable, sickening events of last week, suffice it to say that outgoing President Donald Trump will not be joining the pantheon.
Instead, for any good that he has done, Trump’s name will historically be forever linked with the US Capitol violence. But what of the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan, how can it reconstitute itself from the ashes of Trump’s reign? Here are five steps that can save the Grand Old Party.
First, the real-world facts of the 2020 election must be accepted.
Republicans are surely entitled to different feelings than the Democrats have about objective reality — but what they are not entitled to are different facts. Trump’s self-serving theories of voter fraud have led the GOP along the disastrous path of unreason, with the party increasingly serving as a refuge for conspiracy theorists. To be taken seriously, it must now act seriously. The 2020 election is what it is: The Republicans lost and it is well past time to get over it.
Second, Trump himself, and his immediate minions, must be anathema. Incitement to sedition must never be excused, condoned or explained away if the Republicans are to truly put this behind them. The traditional Party of Union (think Lincoln), the working man (think Roosevelt), and personal decency and responsibility (think Reagan) must not eschew these values precisely when they are needed. Trump must be forthrightly censured (through impeachment and conviction) and his enabling minions — such as feckless Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz — must be marginalized within the party. Patriotic love of country is at the base of Republicanism; it must once again serve as the party’s central organizing principle.
Third, while Trump is anathema, moving ahead, the party must adhere to the portions of Trumpism that have served the country well. In terms of domestic issues, a belief in deregulation, tax cuts, nominating originalist judges, and giving the working class a fair shake are all policies the party ought to forthrightly champion and retain.
In terms of foreign affairs, a laser-like focus on China as America’s new superpower rival, supporting the gains made in the Middle East signified by the Abraham Accords, and the US’ tilt toward the Gulf Arab states and Israel to balance against an expansionistic Iran that they symbolize, must also be retained. More than this, the party’s general shift back to its traditional realist foreign policy stance — where American national interests are paramount — must be seen as the present and the vital future for the party’s overall foreign policy orientation, eschewing its disastrous earlier flirtation with neoconservatism.
Fourth, the best way to come back is to serve as a loyal opposition to the new Biden administration, supporting him when his policies coincide with Republican ideals and respectfully opposing him when they do not. When the Biden White House governs from the center, Republicans must support his policies, in the name of serving the country. For example, a significant further coronavirus stimulus and a desperately necessary infrastructure program deserve GOP support when they are sent to the Hill.
On the other hand, Democratic Party efforts regarding court packing, ending the Senate filibuster, and advocating a ruinously expensive Green New Deal must be vigorously — if respectfully — fought tooth and nail as contrary to basic Republican beliefs and as not in the interests of the country as a whole. But, moving on from the discord Trump came to epitomize, disagreements must be centered on policies and not the people espousing them, who must be respectfully treated as the patriots they are, even if Republicans believe they are misguided.
Fifth, winning back the party on these terms will be an uphill battle. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of Oct. 31, 2020 — taken just before the election — found 54 percent of GOP voters saying they were supporters of Trump primarily, while only 38 percent said they were Republicans first.
Incredibly, 139 of 211 Republicans in the outgoing House, even after the insurrection, voted to contest the 2020 election results, defying the clear will of the people. Trump’s December 2020 Gallup poll approval rating with GOP voters was 87 percent and throughout his term this has been regularly over 80 percent — consistently the highest in Republican polling history, greater than Dwight Eisenhower’s popularity or even Reagan’s. There will have to be an uphill climb to redeem the party’s soul.
Winning back the party from the detour of Trump will take years of patiently pushing this five-point agenda. But, to put it mildly, this is what Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan would have us do. For those of us who are heartsick Republicans, it is the challenge of our time.
- Dr. John C. Hulsman is the president and managing partner of John C. Hulsman Enterprises, a prominent global political risk consulting firm. He is also senior columnist for City AM, the newspaper of the City of London. He can be contacted via chartwellspeakers.com.