One of President Trump’s 2020 campaign pitches was “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” On the campaign trail in 2016, he was pretty specific on key priorities like Supreme Court nominations, border security, the economy, and trade. When he could use the Chief Executive powers, he delivered on more of his promises than any president in my lifetime, even dragging congressional Democrats along when further obstruction would hurt them politically.
Now he has tapped Newt Gingrich to develop a modern version of a very successful idea from the 1990s. Gingrich was the author of the Contract with America, a document that gave congressional Republicans and candidates the message discipline to make their case to the American people. Historians credit this contract with allowing Republicans to retake both chambers of Congress in 1994 for the first time since 1953. Politico reports Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Senator Lindsey Graham are also involved.
While the phrases America First and Make America Great Again both resonated with voters, they did not result in a cohesive set of governing principles for the Republican Party. The 2020 election made it obvious the coalitions behind the two parties are shifting in significant ways. Trump picked a larger share of minority voters than a Republican candidate had in decades.
Biden completed the shift of the Democrats to a party of the wealthy and highly educated. Their continued descent into wokeism under the current administration is likely to accelerate the shift in working and middle-class voters, regardless of other demographics, to shift away from the party. Inflation, tax increases, and other features of the Biden agenda will impact these voters far more than the Democrat’s wealthy donor base.
Republicans need a specific agenda to communicate to their base and those negatively impacted by the Biden’s. America First is a straightforward overarching philosophy. It demands that American citizens’ prosperity, safety, and security are central to all domestic and foreign policy decisions. Developing a specific plan to support this philosophy will provide message discipline for Republicans at all levels of government to articulate a consistent governing philosophy.
There probably needs to be a new title for the plan. Calling it a Prosperity Pact or something that signifies the intent to lift all Americans out of the reemerging malaise under Biden could work. Prosperity requires safety and security, so it is reasonably descriptive of the entire philosophy. Unfortunately, the simple concept of America First has been hijacked by some that mainstream Republicans do not include in their coalition, like Nick Fuentes. He has a history of antisemitic and racist rhetoric. Replacing it is probably the cleanest way to make a break.
Some of the elements are obvious. It should include policies that will provide durable and significant improvements to border security and immigration. Highlighting the success of the policies under President Trump and the horrific results of the Biden administration’s reflexive anti-Trump reversals is a no-brainer. And Republicans should have no heartburn about telling the Chamber of Commerce to get lost at this point. Especially after their role in the so-called shadow campaign during the 2020 race.
Another commitment has to be restoring energy independence. It should articulate an energy policy that includes natural gas, safe nuclear, and innovation in the long term, as experts like Michael Shellenberger recommend. Recovering energy independence in the short-term keeps prices on everything lower and also increases national security. President Trump explained how being energy independent created leverage in brokering peace agreements in the Middle East during a debate. In short, it negatively impacts the oil-dependent economies in the Middle East and Russia and reducing the leverage of those countries over the United States. It is not complicated.
President Trump never shied away from issues in the culture war. Any GOP platform must address these issues, even if squishy Republicans like Paul Ryan would rather avoid them. First, laws that require all K-12 curriculum, federal contractors, and universities to become compliant with Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the First Amendment. This requirement should kill all curriculum and required training based on critical theories since they violate these statutes and related case law.
Title VI and VII prohibit discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in any program or activity that receives Federal funds or other Federal financial assistance and in the terms and conditions of employment in the private sector. This prohibition would eliminate assigning characteristics, motives, and societal roles to individuals based on their race, which is a primary feature of critical theory. Another feature is compelled speech, which mirrors the struggle sessions in authoritarian regimes by forcing students and employees to confess their racism, sexism, or complicity in white supremacy. These activities violate the First Amendment.
Laws should also include these requirements for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. Several professional associations such as the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and some large hospital systems incorporate the ideas of equity and critical theory into their governing principles and how they will deliver care. Conditioning federal reimbursement in accordance with Title VI could end this trend.
Finally, one of the most important elements of President Trump’s foreign policy was making a clear distinction between our allies and our enemies. Republicans must incorporate this perspective in all foreign policy and trade policy. Manufacture of critical medical supplies and pharmaceuticals should return to the United States and allied democracies. Same with essential technologies of defense. Companies who choose to enter into business in China should be prohibited from bidding on defense contracts. The sad truth is creating a rising China made them more authoritarian, not more democratic. The United States needs to lead western and Asian democracies in reversing this trend.
Creating a pact or contract that clearly articulates the electoral bargain with America will also disrupt the media narrative to some degree. The continued desperation of Democrats and their allies in the legacy media to divide Americans according to their race is becoming increasingly apparent. Using clear and concise legislative and policy commitments along with honest messaging on how they will benefit all Americans, Republicans have an opportunity to pierce this narrative by taking their case directly to the voters.