Writing in The Washington Post, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) argues that “the old Republican Party is dead.” Senator Hawley was reflecting on the disappointing midterm election results for the Republican Party and is arguing for a new path forward which centers on an American First policy agenda. “As frustrating as the election outcomes are, the death of the old GOP is no reason to mourn,” wrote Senator Hawley. Senator Hawley is correct that Republicans need to focus on a policy agenda that supports working class people. Nevertheless, even though Senator Hawley urges Republicans to “forge something new” the policies he outlines are based within traditional conservatism.
Senator Hawley argues that the reason Republicans did not do as well as predicted in the midterms is not necessarily candidate quality, but on policy substance. “For the past two years, the Republican establishment in Washington has capitulated on issue after issue, caving to Democrats on the Second Amendment and on the left’s radical climate agenda (“infrastructure”),” wrote Senator Hawley. In addition, he argues that Republicans have acted against the interests of working-class Americans in terms of trade, immigration, and providing too much support for big business.
“In the name of ‘growth,’ these same Republicans have supported ruinous trade policies—such as admitting China to the World Trade Organization—that have collapsed American industry and driven down American wages,” stated Senator Hawley. Further, Senator Hawley argues that as a result of disastrous trade policies has led to not only shipping jobs overseas, but also hollowing out many towns and has made it increasingly difficult to raise a family on one income. As evidence Senator Hawley notes that “our trade deficit with China has cost this country 3.7 million good jobs, while a crisis of drug overdose deaths—particularly among working Americans—has ravaged many of the same communities that have suffered most from deindustrialization.” In the first nine months of this year the United States already has a $309 billion trade deficit with China.
Whether it is trade or immigration, Senator Hawley is correct that Republicans must follow an approach that places America first. The American First agenda is actually rooted within traditional conservatism. President William McKinley campaigned for the presidency on the slogan the “Full Dinner Pail,” which was also used by President Calvin Coolidge. The “Full Dinner Pail” slogan reflected the Republican support for tariffs, manufacturing, and good paying jobs.
The policy agenda of Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge consisted of not only placing limits on immigration and supporting Americanization, but also supporting tariffs to protect American workers and the economy. Senator Hawley argues that “no nation ever got strong by consuming stuff other people make.” Alexander Hamilton, along with Presidents McKinley, Harding, and Coolidge, would agree with Senator Hawley.
It is not just trade or immigration policy that Senator Hawley addresses, but also the need to restore domestic energy production, fighting the tyranny of big tech, and hiring more law enforcement to ensure that families are protected.
Finally, Senator Hawley addresses tax and entitlement policy. He calls for a tax code which supports marriage and families. He also warns Republicans that prudence is needed in terms of entitlement reform, and he cites former President George W. Bush’s efforts to privatize Social Security as an example not to follow.
Conservatism is about prudence and one challenge for Republicans is the necessity to reduce spending and address the national debt. This also means taking a responsible look at reforming entitlement programs. Once again Republicans can look to Presidents Harding and Coolidge who made fiscal restraint a priority.
“Right now, the Republican Party stands at a crossroads. Its leaders can, of course, attempt to resurrect the dead consensus of offshoring, amnesties, and ‘free trade.’ That’s the path to further losses,” argues Senator Hawley. This was the agenda of the Bush-McCain-Romney Republican Party, and it is an agenda that many hope to see restored. This is an agenda that placed the interests of Wall Street ahead of Main Street and working Americans.
Senator Hawley is correct that the Republican Party needs to follow a conservative path that places America First. This is a conservative agenda that the Republican Party followed before it embraced liberal internationalism.
It is time for the Republican Party to fully embrace conservative nationalism. Senator Hawley offers a conservative roadmap that Republicans should follow.
As President Harding said, we are forever devoted “to safeguard America first, to stabilize America first, to prosper America first, to think of America first, to exalt America first, and to live for and revere America first.”