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The Case for the Republican Establishment
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The New Right paints a picture of the country that is very dark. It embraces the rhetoric of catastrophe and apocalypse (flight 93 election). A recent and relatively mild anti-establishment statement comes from Kevin Roberts of Heritage.
we face many different challenges: Cultural Marxism, corporate anti-Americanism, an increasingly weaponized federal government, anti-parent schools, family disintegration, and the crisis of boys. And the fact is that tax relief, budget cuts, and a military buildup are not going to solve these new existential problems.
The term “existential problems” is what I mean by a dark view.
The Republican establishment rejects this dark view. For example, Yuval Levin wrote,
The challenges confronting this particular generation when it comes to sustaining that effort are nowhere near the worst our country has seen. I am just not all that impressed with the contemporary left and its hold on the future, and I don’t think most Americans are either. The trouble is that we on the right are also not giving them much to be impressed with. There have been many moments in our history when it would have been far more reasonable to give up all hope for the constitutional project than it is today, and we are fortunate that prior generations did not do so. Future generations deserve no less from us.
Avik Roy is another figure in the Republican establishment. He and others put together a Freedom Conservative manifesto that is intended to contrast with what I call the Revanchist Right. I found the manifesto rather wishy-washy. But Roy points out that it makes a
commitment to a constructive approach to reducing the debt in the deficit. So this is something that’s completely ignored by the national conservatives, and frankly, by President Trump when he was in office, he dramatically increased the deficit in the debt. And has argued passionately that the deficit in the debt don’t matter, and I’m not going to do anything about it, basically. And so this is incredibly important, because young people, people coming out of college today, the deficit in the debt are going to be the dominant problem, economic problems that they face because we’re entering a situation where in six years, five to six years, we’re going to be paying more on interest on the national debt than we pay for national defense. And over time, that problem is going to get worse and worse. It’s going to lead to decreased economic growth, higher inflation, and a bunch of other problems that are going to make America gradually weaker and weaker.
He also says,
if you’re a freedom conservatism, you understand that you can grow the pie. You can grow the pie through economic growth, through trade, through innovation, through ingenuity, through immigration. But all these things can lead to a greater pie and more prosperity for everyone. And the nationalists don’t believe that
On immigration, the Democrats seem to favor illegal immigration. The Natcons seem to want to mobilize anti-foreign sentiment against even legal immigration. The Republican establishment wants order at the border but views legal immigration as a good thing. That makes sense to me.
On the economy, both the Democrats and the Natcons seem to favor high government spending, trade restrictions, and industrial policy. The Republican establishment is skeptical about all of those. Count me with the skeptics.
The Democrats and the Natcons spend more time talking about culture war issues than about the opioid crisis. I say that they seem to care more about Princeton than about Peoria. The Republican establishment does not seem to care about either.
I would like to see less economic opportunity near the Beltway (North of Richmond, as Oliver Anthony puts it) and more economic opportunity in Trump country. The Democrats aren’t bothered by the corrupt state of affairs, and neither is the Republican establishment. The Natcons aren’t bothered enough to do anything about it, unless you think that scapegoating libertarians and immigrants counts.
The Democrats and the Republican establishment both seem to like our foreign policy to be that of a Wilsonian (I borrow terminology from Walter Russell Mead’s Special Providence) empire, making the world safe for democracy. The Natcons are more Jacksonian, wanting the United States to be feared, not necessarily loved. Or perhaps even Jeffersonian, wanting the United States to try to keep a low profile in the world. A Hamiltonian foreign policy would focus on maintaining the safety to trade. I am somewhere between Hamiltonian and Jacksonian, but the other approaches are not entirely without merit.
In terms of political strategy, the Republican establishment still wants to try to build a coalition and appeal to moderates. The Natcons want revenge. They want to fight everyone, including libertarians and moderates who otherwise might be allies. I don’t want to see the U.S. turned into Weimar, so I prefer the establishment’s approach.
My overall scorecard has one point against the Republican establishment (foreign policy), three points in their favor (immigration, economic policy, and political strategy), and disappointment with everyone on bringing economic opportunity to Trump country and paying more attention to the opioid crisis than to Wokeism.