How the dom­i­nant GOP can suc­ceed

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Charles Krautham­mer is syn­di­cated by The Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group. Charles Krautham­mer Colum­nist

Don­ald Trump won fair and square and, as Hil­lary Clin­ton said in her con­ces­sion speech, is owed an open mind and a chance to lead. It is there­fore in­cum­bent upon con­ser­va­tives (like me) who have been highly crit­i­cal of Trump to think through how to make a suc­cess of the com­ing years of Repub­li­can rule.

It be­gins by rec­og­niz­ing Trump’s re­mark­able po­lit­i­cal in­stincts. As Paul Ryan noted in his morn­ing-af­ter olive-branch news con­fer­ence, Trump heard “a voice out in this country that no one else heard.” Trump spoke to and for a work­ing class squeezed and ru­ined by rapid tech­no­log­i­cal and eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion.

One of the prin­ci­pal tasks for the now-dom­i­nant GOP is to craft a gov­ern­ing agenda that ac­tu­ally al­ters their lives and prospects. In the end, it was this con­stituency of those left be­hind by the new glob­al­ized dig­i­tal econ­omy that de­liv­ered the pres­i­dency to Trump.

Nonethe­less, this elec­tion was not just about the so­cial/ eco­nomic di­vide. It was also about the ide­o­log­i­cal di­vide be­tween left and right. The most over­looked fac­tor in the elec­tion is the con­tin­u­ing deep and wide­spread dis­sat­is­fac­tion with Oba­maism.

It tends to be over­looked be­cause Pres­i­dent Obama re­mains per­son­ally pop­u­lar (58 per­cent job ap­proval in the lat­est Gallup poll). As a charis­matic cam­paigner, when­ever his name is on the bal­lot, he wins. But when it’s not — 2010, 2014, now 2016 — the Democrats get shel­lacked.

The rea­son is no mys­tery. The prob­lem was never with Obama him­self, but with his poli­cies. Be­fore each of those los­ing elec­tions Obama would cam­paign say­ing that his name wasn’t on the bal­lot but his poli­cies — and now his legacy — were. The vot­ers made clear what they thought of his poli­cies and legacy.

Sim­ply put, from the be­gin­ning of his pres­i­dency, Obama over­reached ide­o­log­i­cally, most spec­tac­u­larly with his sig­na­ture leg­isla­tive achieve­ment — Oba­macare. The spike in Oba­macare pre­mi­ums and de­ductibles just two weeks be­fore Tues­day’s elec­tion proved a par­tic­u­larly dam­ag­ing re­minder of what Oba­maism had wrought.

Hence the other prin­ci­pal task for the now dom­i­nant GOP: Undo Oba­maism. Be­gin with can­cel­ing Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive or­ders on ev­ery­thing from im­mi­gra­tion to cli­mate change. Then over­turn his more elab­o­rate leg­isla­tive ad­ven­tures into over­ween­ing lib­er­al­ism, start­ing, of course, with Oba­macare.

The prom­ise of a Trump pres­i­dency is that, if it can suc­cess­fully work with a Repub­li­can Congress, it could turn Oba­maism into a his­tor­i­cal paren­the­sis. Repub­li­cans would then have a chance to en­act the Rea­gan­ite agenda that has been in­cu­bat­ing while in ex­ile from the White House.

For years, Wash­ing­ton grid­lock has been at­trib­uted to GOP ob­struc­tion­ism. On the con­trary, se­ri­ous leg­is­la­tion, such as Medi­care re­form passed by the GOP House, was ei­ther stran­gled in the Se­nate by Demo­cratic leader Harry Reid or died by veto on Pres­i­dent Obama’s desk.

Be­yond the un­do­ing, there’s now the prospect of do­ing. Se­ri­ous bor­der en­force­ment, in­clud­ing a wall, for ex­am­ple. That’s not only a good in it­self, it would of­fer lever­age in a grand bar­gain that would in­clude even­tual le­gal­iza­tion of res­i­dent illegal im­mi­grants, an idea sup­ported (ac­cord­ing to the exit polls) by more than seven in 10 vot­ers.

An­other given is a re­shap­ing of the cur­rently rud­der­less Supreme Court with the nom­i­na­tion of a con­ser­va­tive jus­tice to re­place the late An­tonin Scalia.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, Trump’s pop­ulism of­ten clashed with tra­di­tional Rea­gan­ism. The key to GOP suc­cess is to try to achieve an ac­com­mo­da­tion, if not a fu­sion. Two agen­das: one ide­o­log­i­cal, one so­cioe­co­nomic. They both need to be ad­dressed. Onto the Rea­gan­ite core of smaller gov­ern­ment and strict con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism must be added a se­ri­ous con­cern for the griev­ances of the con­stituency that an­i­mated the Trump in­sur­gency, the long-suf­fer­ing, longne­glected work­ing class.

If Rea­gan­ite con­ser­va­tives want to head off wrong­headed so­lu­tions — such as mas­sive tar­iffs, mer­can­tilist eco­nom­ics and trade wars — they must be pre­pared to ac­cept such mea­sures as fed­eral wage sub­si­dies and tar­geted re­straints on trade. This in­volves giv­ing up a mea­sure of eco­nomic ef­fi­ciency. But the pur­pose is to achieve a mea­sure of so­cial peace and re­store dig­nity and se­cu­rity to a stressed and slid­ing work­ing class. Some might even call it com­pas­sion­ate con­ser­vatism.

The key to suc­cess for a Trump pres­i­dency is for the Rea­gan­ite and pop­ulist el­e­ments in the party to be will­ing to ad­vance each other’s goals even at the cost of ide­o­log­i­cal pu­rity. This will re­quire far-reach­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween a Trump White House and a GOP Congress. The Repub­li­cans have gained con­trol of all the po­lit­i­cal branches. They have the means to de­liver. They now have to show that they can.

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