Trying to Turn Republicans into Liberals Is Now Hopeless

Republicans have surrendered to Donald Trump and his philosophy. Classical liberals should work with the Democrats.

View of the Washington Monument from the General Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington DC, July 3
View of the Washington Monument from the General Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington DC, July 3 (DoD/Reese Brown)

David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, argues in The Atlantic that the Republican Party should become the party of liberalism in the United States.

As the Democrats move to left on economic policy, there is room for a party that defends free markets, free trade, limited government and personal liberty.

I agree, and before Donald Trump I was optimistic that the Republican Party could move in this direction. I called it Republican Party 2.0.

On the eve of the 2016 election, when I was still confident Hillary Clinton would win, I even urged Republicans to purge Trump’s insurgents and return the party to its pre-Newt Gingrich center-right bearings.

But then Trump won and now Republicans have surrendered to him and his philosophy.

Which party?

I would like to see the same party as Frum, one that:

  • Forbids the corrupt practices of the Trump Administration;
  • Accepts that expanded health coverage is here to stay and works to increase competition, incentives and fair pricing in health care;
  • Seek fiscal and environmental balance, by cutting spending, taxing greenhouse-gas emissions and shifting taxes from labor and investment to consumption;
  • Restrains monopoly abuse but upholds free enterprise and private property;
  • Opposes both racial preference and racial prejudice; and
  • Champions internationalism, alliances and free trade.

But I think Democrats are more likely to become that party than Republicans.

Choice

Yes, Democrats are moving to the left on economic issues. But on social and foreign policy, their views align more closely with those of classical liberals.

Republicans, by contrast, have moved away from liberalism on all fronts.

For liberals and libertarians, the choice is between moderating Democrats and reforming Republicans. The former seems more likely to succeed.