As our nation observes one of the most sacred and solemn traditions in our republic, the peaceful transition of power, on so many minds is the question: What’s ahead for the Republican Party?
I, like millions of Americans of all political stripes, was horrified by what took place at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. I was equally horrified by the misinformation and false rhetoric that allowed it to happen in the first place. Make no mistake, the president’s rhetoric directly contributed to the violence against our nation’s greatest symbol of democracy. It must continually be denounced by Republicans and Democrats.
But what about the last four years? What about the America First agenda that led to not only the most vibrant but also the most inclusive economy in modern history? Under the Trump administration, we saw record low unemployment for virtually every group including black Americans, Hispanic Americans, women, and individuals with and without a college degree.
These achievements were a direct result of the pro-growth, America First agenda championed by the administration along with Republicans in Congress. Prior to the pandemic, these policies brought about 7 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, 3% GDP growth, and record stock market gains. These historic achievements were a direct result of a deregulatory agenda, pro-growth tax policies, and prioritizing American investment. It was a conservative economic vision, and it wasn’t a fluke.
What about the foreign policy achievements of the Trump administration? These included rebuilding a depleted military, eradicating the ISIS caliphate, brokering historic Middle East peace agreements, restoring deterrence with Iran, holding China accountable, and finally getting NATO allies to contribute more to our collective defense.
This was all a direct result of a foreign policy approach of dealing with the world as it actually is, not as we hope it would be. The administration’s foreign policy unapologetically put America first and in doing so put our allies in the best position to succeed and our adversaries on notice that we meant business.
The America First agenda grew long-sought-after coalitions of Republican voters, including record turnout among Hispanics and blacks. The Republican Party cannot afford to lose these gains. But imagine what we could do if we continue smart economic opportunity policies and emphasize inclusive, inspiring leadership?
Republicans lost support among suburban women and college-educated white men, and seniors. But on a policy basis, those constituencies shouldn’t be hard for Republicans to win back. We are the party of safe communities, of health care choice for families, of school choice, of paid family leave -- an effort championed by Ivanka Trump -- and of economic mobility for all people. Imagine if the party of Lincoln goes back to being the party that stands by minorities -- that fights for them and unequivocally denounces bigotry in all its forms.
After the siege on the Capitol, there is an effort among influential wings of the GOP to erase all that is Trump. That would be a terrible mistake. I would implore those who want to rebuild the party to not throw the good policy out with the bad rhetoric and bad leadership.
At the same time, Republicans must come to grips with the fact that we’ve lost the moral high ground as a party. We’ve allowed our better angels to be replaced with convenient demons for electoral victories. We’ve allowed destructive moral equivocation on issues that should be easy to unequivocally denounce. We allowed the public to be misled into believing the democratic election was stolen. Some even gave a subtle wink and a nod to dangerous conspiracy theories like those propagated by QAnon. We regain the moral high ground by first and foremost embracing the truth.
Any future Republican presidential candidate should be vetted as thoroughly for character and integrity as they are for their policies views. The party of Lincoln and Reagan must remember: The president should be the moral conscience of the country, and embody the high character of our nation. We must take lessons from Trump but restore the days of Reagan, when character was king.