How the GOP can leave Trump without losing its voters

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Former President Donald Trump has signaled his intention to run for president again. But the polls tell a different story about whether or not he should. Less than half of Republican voters support him as their preferred choice in the latest polls, many of which put him neck and neck with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Trump is particularly unpopular with those under 35, with a clear majority of voters – 56 to 41 – holding an unfavorable view of him.

With numbers like these, it’s clear the GOP needs to find a way to push Trump off the stage. The trick is knowing how to do it while keeping your voters. If the GOP reverts to the libertarian free market party, it was. pre-Trump, that’s not going to happen.

What is needed is a party that is progressive on economic issues and conservative on social issues. It’s the sweet spot of American politics, and if progressive conservatism sounds like an oxymoron, it’s because of a flawed understanding of progressivism, conservatism, the GOP, and America.

Indeed, the party’s leading statesmen were progressive conservatives: Lincoln for raising the issue of economic mobility, Theodore Roosevelt for his willingness to fight corruption, and Eisenhower for making peace with the New Deal. They knew, with Edmund Burke, that “a state without the means of some change is without the means of its preservation”.

Lincoln invented the American dream – the idea that whoever you are, wherever you come from, you can thrive and know that your children will have it better than you. He ended slavery, of course, but on July 4, 1861, he told Congress that the fight to preserve the Union was about a larger principle. America’s central idea was the promise of income mobility and the ability for everyone, black or white, to rise to a higher rank in life.

TAMPA, FL – JULY 23: Former United States President Donald Trump speaks during the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit held at the Tampa Convention Center on July 23, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. The event includes student activism, leadership training and a chance to participate in networking events with political leaders.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Since Lincoln, American progressive conservatives have supported policies that would allow free men to rise and knew that the American dream did not happen by itself, that it required progressive reforms, things like policies of sensible immigration, good schools and the rule of law.

But are we still the land of the American dream? In a 2014 poll, a majority of Americans said no, and the evidence backs it up. In the first world ranking of intergenerational mobility, we are at the back of the pack.

This should have been a sign of an impending political revolution and a major issue for Republican candidates. In 2016, however, only one of them mentioned it. We elected him president.

But now is the time to relieve Trump, and whether or not he is ready to leave, his constituents will only be left with a Republican Party that embraces his policies.

So how do we do this? What do we need to do to bring back economic mobility? For an answer, look at countries that are much more mobile than us. In part, this indicates a progressive agenda, such as limiting government student loans to colleges unless they cap tuition fees. I would also provide bankruptcy protection for student loans and make colleges foot the bill for students they educated poorly.

Additionally, a majority of Americans would support replacing Obamacare with a catastrophic national health insurance plan. We don’t mind having a $25 copay, but we don’t like to hear we’re bankrupt when we get out of a hospital.

Then there is immigration. Our immigration system imports immobility because we transfer immigrants who would be more successful and make American citizens more prosperous. There is no mystery on how to solve this problem. It’s called the point system, and it’s something Trump has supported. The immigrant would get points for being young, speaking the language, and having job-related skills. We wouldn’t admit people just because we expect them to vote Democrat.

Education is another crucial element of a progressive conservative agenda. Democrats are creatures of teachers’ unions and oppose school choice programs that have helped students in other countries. As it stands, our students are performing very poorly on international tests, but the Democrats want them to remain captive to the unions.

The regulatory state weighs on people who want to get ahead, but it is the heath in which many of our elites live. It provides direct jobs for many of them as civil servants and indirect jobs for lawyers, lobbyists and economists hired to navigate around it and shape its rules. Fighting this reality is another crucial element of progressive conservatism.

As you can see, it’s not hard to come up with progressive conservative policies that would make us more mobile. Ironically, those who oppose it are democrats who, for the sake of self-interest, would keep things as they are: unequal and immobile. They might plead ignorance, but self-deception only makes it worse.

What’s particularly troubling is the way Democrats complain about racism when it’s their policies that disproportionately harm African Americans, through open borders that rob them of jobs and bad schools. If you think you are opposed to structural racism, ask who built the structure.

So you have your answer on how to keep Trump voters while pushing him out of the party: talk about their interests and values. It’s not hard to do.

FH Buckley is a foundation professor at Scalia Law School. His latest book, Progressive Conservatism, was published this year by Encounter Books.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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