How to rebuild the Republican Party

Trump saw that Republican voters are much less religious in behavior than they profess to pollsters. He saw that the social-insurance state has arrived to stay. He saw that Americans regard healthcare as a right, not a privilege. He saw that Republican voters had lost their optimism about their personal futures—and the future of their country. He saw that millions of ordinary people who do not deserve to be dismissed as bigots were sick of the happy talk and reality-denial that goes by the too generous label of “political correctness.” He saw that the immigration polices that might have worked for the mass-production economy of the 1910s don’t make sense in the 2010s. He saw that rank-and-file Republicans had become nearly as disgusted with the power of money in politics as rank-and-file Democrats long have been. He saw that Republican presidents are elected, when they are elected, by employees as well as entrepreneurs. He saw these things, and he was right to see them.

The wiser response to the impending Republican electoral defeat is to learn from Trump’s insights—separate them from Trump’s volatile personality and noxious attitudes—and use them to develop better, more workable, and more broadly acceptable policies for a 21st-century center-right. That doesn’t mean inscribing Trumpism as the party’s new orthodoxy. The GOP needs less orthodoxy, not more! What a wiser response to the defeat does mean is joining what can usefully be extracted from Trumpism to the core beliefs of the Republican Party: individual initiative, a free enterprise economy, limited government, lower taxes, and a proud defense of America’s global role.

Instead of drawing up lists of the people never to be forgiven for their roles in 2016, Republicans should be thinking about how they can work more harmoniously.