Opinion | The Republicans need a long-term plan


Chris Kleponis, Pool, Abaca Press | TNS

United States President Donald Trump holds a news briefing at the White House on Aug. 4 in Washington, D.C.

By Michael Clifford, Staff Columnist

The general election season is usually considered to be in full swing around this time of year, when the major parties host their conventions and release their platforms. In one corner, though, instead of writing a new party platform attuned to the issues confronting America this election, the Republican Party has chosen to keep their platform written in 2016 word for word, and pledged to continue to support President Trump.

While support for the incumbent president is what any party defending the White House would be expected to do, that support must come grounded in a clear set of principles. What happens if — Lord help us — Democrats win the White House and Senate? Would there be no plan to prevent them from moving ahead with their political agenda?

Besides that, it reads like a clear case of “one of these things doesn’t belong.” The 2016 platform is full of phraseology criticizing “the current president” — at the time the document was written, Barack Obama. Was it too hard just to change those parts to indicate you understand it’s not 2016 anymore?

The Republican National Convention was wrought with good ideas. Issues like school choice, which have the potential to unite the GOP base, and have even attracted historically Democratic demographics to vote red in swing states, were featured prominently.

Yet more than that, the Republicans hope to paint this election as a fight between two competing outlooks on American society — one which puts trust in individuals, institutions and communities, and one which puts trust in government.

But that says nothing of recent developments. Republicans need to be talking constantly about repressive coronavirus-related policies and recommendations, which economists, psychologists and epidemiologists increasingly agree are having long-term social, educational and economic costs for Americans that outweigh their short-term potential benefits.

Rather than using their platform to denounce this flagrant display of governmental overreach, several GOP governors seem to have accepted the premise that business closures save lives regardless of their scope, and are needed whenever and wherever infections are rising. In fact, some red states, such as Arizona, Texas and Florida, that were well on their way to fully reopening, reversed course after a rise in caseloads over the summer, despite hospitals in those states always having ample capacity to accept extra patients, with few exceptions.

They ought to spend every day putting Democrats on the defensive when it comes to education. The last few weeks have been punctuated by teachers’ unions organizing unlawful strikes, which are illegal in 38 states — although the number should be 50 — against reopening schools, as well as overtly partisan and self-interested demands such as bans on charter schools and wealth taxes.

Worst of all, though, has been a nauseating callousness toward the educational and social losses students are suffering. The unions have even argued for limits on the time teachers have to do virtual sessions with their students.

Rather than a moratorium on charter schools, why not a moratorium on collective bargaining by government employees? In 1981, Ronald Reagan fired 11,000 air traffic controllers and decertified PATCO — a union that supported his 1980 campaign — after an illegal strike. If Republicans really want to be like Reagan, they should have zero issue capsizing these corrupt institutions that serve no real social purpose. Certainly we can’t expect Democrats to do it — unions, and teachers’ unions in particular, are a huge financial constituency for them.

There needs to be a clear statement of action on what the plan is to handle the rioting and looting that has destroyed millions of dollars in property in American cities, adding insult to injury for businesses already suffering due to mandated closures. The shutdowns are also triggering clauses in business interruption insurance contracts that could lead to uncovered losses.

Absolutely, police need to be given the green light to arrest insurgents — they have been told to do the opposite in some cities — or we will be gripped by this violence for months into the future. But since the federal government does not have authority to dictate how these cities govern themselves, they ought to emphasize the importance of the right to self-defense, and how the Democrats are a threat to gun rights, in times like these. Historically, these riots have had a lasting impact on the local economy and community.

All of this is to say, the least Republican voters deserve is a clear indication of what the party wants to do once in power. The Democratic Party, objectionable as their goals may be, have a unified spirit despite some internal differences, and a motivation seeking to radically alter American society. To see this in action, one need look no further than the joint effort between the “moderate” nominee Joe Biden and “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders — supposedly ideological enemies — to compose a 110-page report of detailed left-wing policies for the party to follow.

Democrats aren’t a party divided. They didn’t lose their way after losing the 2016 election. They doubled down. Every time they had a defeat, someone new stepped up to the plate to pick up the slack. It would be a great mistake to portray them as incompetents who don’t have a chance, rather than a very real threat, and treat them as if they posed no challenge at all. Even if they lose this November, what do they have in store for 2022, 2024, 2026 and so on?

If the right — with its competing factions of Christians, fiscal conservatives and libertarians — wants a chance at preserving an America worth living in, they need to have the fortitude the left has to cooperate and get things done.

We can only hope.


Michael writes about politics and economic policy for The Pitt News. Write to him at [email protected].