I’m about to turn 60, which means I have now lived long enough to have seen the American media pronounce the Republican Party dead several times.
I have also seen countless real and would-be public intellectuals endlessly discuss civil wars in both parties, supposed electoral college locks for both parties, and shout time and time again that this or that event or personality was unprecedented or the worst the nation has ever experienced. But I’ve also lived long enough to know nearly all of this gloomy prophecy has proven wrong.
America endures. America continues to be the world’s most powerful and prosperous nation. America thrives, continuing to be the world’s most innovative nation. America strives, continuing to show the resilience of its democracy and open society, its true potential, despite enemies and dispiriting disruptions, foreign and domestic.
This does not mean, of course, that there are not serious challenges and struggles for power both within our country’s two major political parties, both of which are in fact coalitions of people with different views and interests, and between the two political parties, which do indeed represent competing visions of the nation and its future.
The question of the moment — but it rhymes with questions presented by other moments in our history as well — is whether the loudest and most demanding voices in each of the two parties will be running them, whether the specter of an AOC primary challenge will control the decisions of Senate Majority Leader Schumer and an insatiable left will turn on President Biden, and whether President Trump’s loyalists, like those in Arizona who voted to censure their sitting governor, former U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, and the widow of Senator John McCain, along with QAnon believers in the Congress, will control the GOP.
Both parties do face extremism within as much as they face competition between, as they both seek to win future elections in a country where a substantial and growing plurality has already said “a plague on both your houses” by registering independent and showing independence in swing and split-ticket voting.
This country remains center-right. There is no mandate for the neo-Marxists’ agenda, nor any majority for “transforming America” into Denmark, nor for the neo-Maoism of the “woke” cultural revolutionaries.
All we Republicans need to do to win in ‘22, ‘24 and beyond, is be less crazy than this stuff. How hard is that?
So what can all Republicans agree on now, and tomorrow, which can resonate with a majority of Americans? What can we agree on with which enough millions beyond our small share of registered voters also agree? For what must we stand, both to win and to deserve to win?
Well, here’s a beginning:
1. We are the conservative party. That means we believe there is far more good about America than bad, far more that morality requires us to protect, to preserve, than that which should be overturned or radically transformed.
2. We believe in democratic capitalism, not socialism in any form. We know America is richer than any other nation because we figured out how to create more wealth than any previous society and that Americans with more wealth almost always created that wealth through enterprise and innovation, not because they took anything unfairly from folks who have less.
We know there are people left behind by globalization and by the concentration of wealth in a few elite sectors of the economy, but we want to empower more opportunities for all Americans, not make or keep any American downtrodden and dependent on entitlements from the government, paid for either by suffocating taxes or endless debt.
3. We believe in tolerance and justice for all, not a spoils system of rewards and punishments for different groups in society. We freely admit that neither our party nor our country has historically lived up to this creed of justice based on the moral equality of all persons, but we reject that there is or can be any other path toward justice but one based on that original American creed — certainly not through the path of replacing the American idea of individual rights with the left’s vision of “social justice.”
Our goal remains a society in which all Americans are judged only by the content of their characters and rewarded only for the contributions they make to our national livelihood, not by their race, or any other immutable and irrelevant characteristic of their birth or “identity.”
4. We know climate change is real and that it’s a real threat to the next generation’s prosperity and security. It thus requires amelioration, but we will not allow this challenge to be a Trojan horse for socialism, nor for the bizarre anti-Americanism of the left which would intentionally choke our economy with regulations and expenses not equally imposed on our main economic and geopolitical competitor, China.
Instead, we believe the unlimited natural resource of American ingenuity can address the climate change challenge if Washington comes on the playing field as an honest referee, not as the quarterback calling the plays and throwing the ball.
5. On world affairs, we know that America is, as our party’s greatest modern leader never tired of reminding us, a shining city on a hill, with both the capacity and responsibility to help ever more of humanity emerge to live lives more like those we Americans are blessed to have.
We know America is a villa in a jungle and that when we don’t tend the grounds carefully and consistently, the jungle threatens to overtake us. We do not want world events to be dominated by the Chinese Communist Party, by Vladimir Putin, by Iranian ayatollahs or by Islamist terrorists. Period.
We still believe everyone is created equal and has inalienable rights, not only all Americans.
So there you have it. Only a scaffolding for sure, but a strong one I submit on which to stand and hang the full structure of a GOP which can reclaim a broad and deep American majority.
Craig Snyder was chief of staff for former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, a GOP congressional nominee in PA-1, and is a visiting scholar at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.