What does it mean to be a Republican the era of Trump?
Do Republicans support $1 trillion in new spending for infrastructure? A $20 billion border wall? $30 billion in additional spending for defense? Entitlement spending leading to public debt of 150 percent of U.S. GDP? Or exclusively small government?
Well, from the ongoing battle within the GOP over “repealing and replacing” ObamaCare to the potential fight over fiscal 2017 funding, it is increasingly clear that these are open questions and that the Republican Party is continuing to undergo something of an identity crisis.
Why is this identity crisis occurring? Is it because the party is changing? Or perhaps is it because the country is changing?
On Jan. 23, 1996, then President Bill ClintonBill ClintonLe Pen and the right wing hit a wall in French vote Bill Clinton jokes Clinton Center 'has been bugged' NYT: Comey distrusted Lynch on Clinton MORE famously asserted during the State of the Union address: “The era of big government is over.” However, throughout the 2016 presidential election, we witnessed the reality that the American people, from across the political spectrum, are changing in their view of the role of government.
Perhaps, for now, we can say the era of small government is over.
I am a Republican, and I believe that a smaller, more efficient government is better for our country and supports the ideals enshrined in the Constitution. However, there are two key phenomena that are changing our politics: (1) the fallout from Great Recession and (2) the aging baby boomer population.
The Great Recession dealt a deep blow to our economy, jobs and wage growth. It also decimated people’s savings, retirement and investments — not to mention their confidence in the future. These events, along with the aging baby boomer population, have revealed a general acceptance from across the political spectrum of government playing an active role in our economy and society.
As a result, the size of government is no longer the central question within our politics in this moment. Rather, what are the priorities of government and how can the government effectively and efficiently conduct its business are, in fact, the central questions of our politics — and in our time.
At first glance, a shift in the centrality of the size of government within our politics may appear to threaten the GOP and its orthodoxy. However, I see it as an opportunity for Republicans and a context in which the GOP actually has unique competitive advantage.
What is the Democratic Party’s answer to every political debate, every policy question, every social ill? The government. Yet, we know that given the rapid pace of change and the complexity of society in the 21st century, a government-centric approach is too one-dimensional, too superficial, too costly and overly simplistic for the challenges that we face.
So, from an ideological perspective, because we, Republicans, place the merits of the private sector and the power of the markets at the core of our political orthodoxy, we are actually better positioned to achieve more innovative ideas and creative policy solutions.
It is, in fact, Republicans who should be leading new ideas that leverage the private sector to achieve new and sustainable policy solutions. It is Republicans who should be advocating for innovative public-private partnerships that can efficiently and sustainably address the complexity of the challenges that we face.
Republicans must recognize the shifting views within the American body politic and renew our party by putting forward new ideas that are creative, market-oriented and sustainable. This change is not only necessary given the evolving views of the American people, but it is also a winning national strategy because the GOP would be focused on addressing the actual challenges that the American people face.
But it is going to take a new Republican who, like President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump won't comment on Le Pen's advancement in French election Le Pen and the right wing hit a wall in French vote French election: Le Pen, Macron will face off MORE, takes the case to the voters. A new Republican who does not myopically argue for a small government. One who, instead, begins his or her argument from the standpoint of the priorities of the government — with an emphasis on activities that support our economy, our economic interests, and those who have been left behind by the changing economy — from cities to small towns, from suburbia to rural America.
In our time — in this moment — the American people want our government to act, lead and operate effectively and efficiently. The essential political debates of our time should be over the priorities of government — and the associated creative and sustainable policy solutions. In other words, over “the what” and “the how” — not exclusively “the why.”
It will take a new Republican to promote and lead this new approach and political worldview in the 21st century.
Call it “New Republicanism.”
Alex Gallo served as a professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee for five years. He is a West Point graduate and combat veteran and a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School. His work has been published by The Washington Post, National Review, The Hill, and Foreign Affairs.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.