To reclaim its Lincolnesque transformation, the GOP needs to fundamentally pivot on the role of government. Laissez-faire ideology has its merits, but cannot compete successfully with a population weaned on the welfare state, whose members are keenly attuned to their vulnerability in our volatile era.
By admitting that government is sometimes a necessary partner in nurturing and sometimes financing infrastructure critical for economic expansion, Republicans can offer their own vision of what growth-inducing services such as new roads—as opposed to the increased regulation and transfer payments and pension bloat peddled by Democrats—government can and should provide. This could appeal to Hispanics, Asians, and younger people who would be the prime beneficiaries of tangible investments.
As generational chroniclers Morley Winograd and Mike Hais have suggested, most younger people support government action to solve problems but generally dislike the kind of top-down solutions often supported by Democrats. As these voters age, seek to buy homes and start businesses, they might listen to a sensible alternative that does not seek to enhance the left-wing clerisy’s ambition to control all aspects of their lives.
It’s time for Republicans to break with the traditions of Goldwater, Reagan, and, particularly, Bush and shift to something more akin to the party’s roots in the mid-19th century.