by Edward Ring
If Republicans hope to unify their party and realign American politics in their favor, they will need 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 agenda. 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 Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and other so-called moderate Republicans. Opposing them is the MAGA movement led by Donald Trump and backed up by, among other groups, the Freedom Caucus, which now constitutes a majority of 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 greater than the political parties that supposedly speak for them. Embracing these unifying issues and emphasizing them would hand Republicans a populist bloc of voters that will include almost all grassroots Republicans, along with many independents and even millions of Democrats. This message would attract voters regardless of their income or group identity, and it will cross ideological lines.
These core premises that might enable Republicans to realign Americans concern education, immigration, affirmative action, and climate change.
In every application of these central principles, 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 into 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 would realign America, leaving the country far better positioned to address every other challenge. Restoring education will produce 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.
In all four cases, 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 the admission of people who bring skills that our nation actually 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, then 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 antiracist and antisexist 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. 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 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 carbon dioxide 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 multinational 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 property that is not owned by corporations or billionaires. Denying ordinary Americans ownership opportunities takes away the incentive to work hard and achieve. It is another way to undermine meritocracy.
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 alarmism with a commitment to prosperity through an all-of-the-above energy strategy that includes oil, gas, coal, and nuclear power.
Donald 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 fought and continues to fight 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.
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Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is also is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. Ring is the author of Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism (2021) and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022).