Since this is a presidential election year, and the Republican Party wants Americans’ votes, it is fitting to ask the question: What do Republicans stand for?
Writing in Politico Magazine, chief political correspondent Tim Alberta hit the nail on the head: “The supposed canons of GOP orthodoxy — limited government, free enterprise, institutional conservation, moral rectitude, fiscal restraint, global leadership — have in recent years gone from elastic to expendable. Identifying this intellectual vacuum is easy enough. Far more difficult is answering the question of what, quite specifically, has filled it.”
The Republican Party held a truncated convention in Charlotte last month because of coronavirus restrictions on gatherings and concern for the safety of convention attendees. Every four years at their convention, Republicans adopt a new party platform — but not this time. Even though the Democrats adopted a new platform for 2020 and a 110-page statement of recommendations issued by the Biden–Sanders unity task force, the Republican National Committee (RNC) “unanimously voted to forego the Convention Committee on Platform, in appreciation of the fact that it did not want a small contingent of delegates formulating a new platform without the breadth of perspectives within the ever-growing Republican movement.” Had the Platform Committee convened, it “would have undoubtedly unanimously agreed to reassert the Party’s strong support for President Donald Trump and his Administration.”
So, instead of adopting a new platform, the GOP resolved:
- That the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.
- That the 2020 Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention.
The 2016 Republican Party platform is therefore still in force. Moreover, the GOP has issued eleven “Principles for American Renewal.” They concern the Constitution, the economy, the federal budget, health care, veterans, security, education, poverty, values, energy, and immigration.
President Trump’s reelection campaign has also released a set of “core priorities” for a second-term agenda under the banner of “Fighting for You!” It is a hodgepodge of pie-in-the-sky promises, Trump pet peeves, hollow slogans, vague initiatives, utopian pipe dreams, pious platitudes, unconstitutional proposals, and the usual worthless partisan campaign pledges. It includes
- Launch Space Force, Establish Permanent Manned Presence on The Moon and Send the First Manned Mission to Mars
- Create 10 Million New Jobs in 10 Months
- Create 1 Million New Small Businesses
- Return to Normal in 2021
- Hold China Fully Accountable for Allowing the Virus to Spread around the World
- Build the World’s Greatest Infrastructure System
- Fully Fund and Hire More Police and Law Enforcement Officers
- Teach American Exceptionalism
- Wipe Out Global Terrorists Who Threaten to Harm Americans
And then there are President Trump’s prepared remarks on the last day of the convention, which include more of the same:
- In a new term as President, we will again build the greatest economy in history — quickly returning to full employment, soaring incomes, and RECORD prosperity!
- America will land the first WOMAN on the moon — and the United States will be the first nation to plant its flag on Mars.
- We will end our reliance on China once and for all.
- We will have a safe and effective vaccine this year, and together we will crush the virus.
There are three key issues mentioned by Republicans that I want to focus on: education, health care, and foreign policy.
One of the GOP principles for American renewal is to “provide school choice to every child in America.” One of the Republican Party core priorities is: “Every child should have an equal opportunity to get a great education; no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing school.” In President Trump’s convention speech he promised, “In a second term, I will EXPAND charter schools and provide SCHOOL CHOICE to every family in America. And we will always treat our teachers with the tremendous respect they deserve.”
The Republican Party used to call for the elimination of the federal Department of Education, but those days are long gone. Although the Constitution doesn’t authorize the federal government to have anything whatever to do with education, Trump and the Republicans are fully committed to increased federal involvement in education. It is downright untrue that parents are forced to send their children to failing schools. And every family in America already has school choice.
Aside from public schools, parents throughout the United States have many choices for educating their children: parochial schools, Montessori schools, religious schools, independent private schools, private tutors, home-schooling, community schooling, online schooling. The fact that some people don’t have the money to pay for their preferred education choice doesn’t justify the government’s forcing someone else to pay for it. There is nothing inherently special about education that makes it right for government to provide it or force people to pay for it.
The Republican Party’s core priorities for health care include
- Cut Prescription Drug Prices
- Put Patients and Doctors Back in Charge of our Healthcare System
- Lower Healthcare Insurance Premiums
- End Surprise Billing
- Cover All Pre-Existing Conditions
- Protect Social Security and Medicare
- Protect Our Veterans and Provide World-Class Healthcare and Services
President Trump reiterated those things in his convention speech:
We will protect Medicare and Social Security.
We will always, and very strongly, protect patients with pre-existing conditions, and that is a pledge from the entire Republican Party.
We will END surprise medical billing, require price transparency, and further reduce the cost of prescription drugs and health insurance premiums.
There is just one problem. The Constitution nowhere authorizes the federal government to have anything to do with health care or health insurance. And as beneficial as they may be, it is not the proper role of government to seek to cut prescription drug prices, lower insurance premiums, end surprise billing, guarantee insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions, or provide world-class health care and services. Instead of scaling back the intervention of the federal government in the heath-care industry, Trump and the Republicans want to protect the current system of socialized medicine (Medicare) and increase federal involvement in health care.
Social Security is not part of health care, but since Republicans say they want to “protect” it, I should note that Social Security is an intergenerational wealth-redistribution scheme that is the cornerstone of the welfare state. Why Republicans say they want to protect it instead of privatize, reduce it, or eliminate it shows just how committed to the welfare state they are.
The Republican Party’s core priorities for an America First Foreign Policy include
- Stop Endless Wars and Bring Our Troops Home
- Get Allies to Pay their Fair Share
- Maintain and Expand America’s Unrivaled Military Strength
In his convention speech, President Trump criticized Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for sending Americans’ “sons and daughters to fight in endless foreign wars.” Trump claimed that “unlike previous administrations,” he has “kept America OUT of new wars — and our troops are coming home.” He vowed to “keep America OUT of endless and costly foreign wars.” But at the same time,
We have spent nearly $2.5 trillion on completely rebuilding our military, which was very badly depleted when I took office. This includes three separate pay raises for our great warriors.
We also launched the Space Force, the first new branch of the United States military since the Air Force was created almost 75 years ago.
Retired Army colonel Andrew Bacevich didn’t buy Trump’s statement that he kept America out of new wars and our troops are coming home, calling it “nominally accurate” but “also profoundly misleading.” Trump’s promise to end America’s “endless wars” in the Middle East “remains unfulfilled.” In Syria, “instead of a realistic policy defined by clear national interests, the United States drifts toward a confrontation with Russia in a place that virtually no American believes is worth dying for.”
Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan asked some pertinent questions:
With the ISIS caliphate dead and buried, why are 500 U.S. troops still in Syria a year after Donald Trump said we would be pulling them out?
Is America prepared to fight China over fortified rocks and reefs in the South China Sea to which we have no territorial claim? Are we prepared to fight China to prevent the gradual absorption of Taiwan, which Richard Nixon conceded in 1972 we do not deny is a part of China?
If U.S. foreign policy was not reckless, belligerent, and meddling; if the Department of Defense did not act like the Department of Offense; if the U.S. military did not have hundreds of bases on foreign soil and hundreds of thousands of servicemen stationed all over the globe; then we wouldn’t need to spend a dime on rebuilding the American military. Trump is less of a warmonger than George W. Bush but more of a militarist.
What do Republicans stand for? The same things they stood for when they recited their meaningless mantra of limited government, federalism, fidelity to the Constitution, individual freedom, private property, free markets, traditional values, and free enterprise. Like the Democrats, they stand for big government, the welfare state, and the warfare state. Republicans are just fighting with Democrats over who is going to control those things.
Libertarianism is the only way to make America great again.