Judd Gregg: Wherefore art thou, GOP?

Judd Gregg: Wherefore art thou, GOP?

The Shakespearian question has resonated through time and is applicable to so much: “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?”

Today, it could be asked of the Republican Party.

With the Democratic Party, we at least know its purpose.

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Democratic leaders — whether in Congress or among the 20-plus people running for president — have made their themes and objectives clear.

The Democratic Party is now the party of expansive government.

Its leading lights have called for nationalized healthcare; universal employment; largely-free college education; an increased national minimum wage; universal paid family leave; an end to carbon-emitting cars, planes and electricity plants; the right of felons to vote; national legalization of narcotics like marijuana; national price-setting for drug sales; and rent subsidies for anyone making less than a particular sum of money. And the list goes on.

The Democratic Party now believes that the path of socialism — some, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBiden narrowly ahead in Iowa as Sanders surges, Warren drops: poll Democrats reach cusp of impeachment Progressives hopeful for deal with Pelosi to avert showdown on drug prices MORE (D-N.Y.), call it “democratic socialism” — is the right one for the nation.

It is an ideological strand that has significant historical roots within the Democratic Party. But not since Democrats crowned then-Sen. George McGovern (S.D.) as their 1972 presidential nominee has it had the dominance it now enjoys.

Still, we know where the Democratic Party stands. We know where its leadership wants to take the nation. It has chosen a clear course.

This is not true of the Republican Party.

To return to Shakespeare, in this case Hamlet: “Alas poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is…"

The Republican Party of Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and the Bushes finds itself like “poor Yorick” today — a skeleton of its former self.

The party once had clear causes.

Among them — maybe even top of the list — was a commitment to fiscal restraint.

The GOP controlled the field when it came to giving the American people policies that would lead to a solvent, fiscally strong federal government.

This claim can no longer be made.

Under President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump supporters at Pa. rally 'upset' after Democrats introduce impeachment articles Trump on removal of protester at rally: 'We don't want to be politically correct' Trump rails against FBI, impeachment during Pennsylvania rally MORE, deficits are exploding.

For the first seven months of this fiscal year, the government rang up spending that exceeded its income by about $531 billion, setting a new deficit record for the period and exceeding the prior year’s deficit by approximately 38 percent.

This binge is only the beginning. More is to come, with deficits projected to exceed $1 trillion annually as far as the fiscal eye can see.

The Republican Party under Trump is now the most profligate and debt-driving party in the nation’s history.

Fiscal restraint is no longer part of the cloth the Republican Party wears.

On the global stage, it was once the Republican Party that built coalitions of allies that could be used to advance and defend our national interests.

This core idea animated Republican presidents prior to Trump.

NATO has been the keeper of peace in Europe during and after the Cold War. Its effectiveness was cemented back in the days of President Eisenhower, who understood the critical importance of working with allies.

President George H.W. Bush was able to fight the first Gulf War with numerous nations at our side, sharing both the military burden and the financial burden.

Bush understood alliances with other democratic governments.

Trump has been clear in expressing his disdain for such alliances.

During his trips to Europe, he either intentionally affronts our allies or, at best, fails to grasp the history of our nation’s involvement with them.

America First — and by ourselves — is now the policy.

It is the same story across the board.

An interventionist industrial policy — specifically, the idea that the government should pick the winners and losers in our market economy — used to be the natural milieu of the left.

But Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinLawmakers push spending deadline to Thursday The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — House Dems charge Trump with abuse, obstruction of Congress in impeachment articles White House, Democrats edge closer to deal on trade MORE revel in embracing those industries they like and punishing those they deem undeserving.

The administration’s infatuation with industrial policy should concern conservatives who used to believe that when a government manages the marketplace, economies are stalled by the misapplication and waste of capital investment.

As for international trade, words are almost superfluous.

The GOP was once the party of economic expansion through access to world markets.

Trump and his team have turned this approach on its head.

The Republican Party of Ronald Reagan and the Bushes was one that sought civility.These past presidents believed that the person in the Oval Office ought to express and reflect the fundamental decency of the American people and our culture.

This idea has been frittered away in a stream of late-night tweets.

The underlying themes are fury, crassness and meanness. This is no small thing. It has changed the nature and perception of the presidency, both for the American people and the world.

To take a bit of license with Shakespeare: Wherefore art thou, GOP? Gone like Yorick.

Many look on this as a good outcome, of course.

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The principles built over time by presidents like Eisenhower, Reagan and the Bushes were too “pro-establishment” for their tastes. They needed a fundamental overhaul, a complete shaking up, those people believed.

Trump made this argument and it got him elected.

But to call the president’s policies “Republican” is a reach. They mostly reflect his many eccentricities.

They are his personal causes — conceived in most part, it seems, by watching Fox News shows.

He enthusiastically rejects the history and traditional perspectives of the Republican Party.

This is not a Republican administration.

The president’s ardent supporters, who shout their adulation at his rallies, do not wish to be identified as Republican.

They are of a new party.

Their beliefs have no anchor in fiscal responsibility or international alliances — or, for that matter, in any commitment to this nation as an example of civility, opportunity and liberty.

This new party is one that merely responds to the president’s whims, as expressed in tweets of limited depth and base vocabulary.

His ideas can and do change without notice or discernible ideological reason.

The only constants are populist anger and a flailing at people he deems his enemies, whether foreign or domestic.

This is a new party.

There is no doubt about that.

It has vanquished the establishment that was the party of Eisenhower, Reagan and the Bushes.

Those who subscribe to it should call themselves “Trumpians.” 

This will allow them not to be confused with the old Republican Party — ironically called the “Grand Old Party” — which has now joined “poor Yorick.” 

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.