Principles for Governing
November 22, 2016
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow and Policy Board member J. Kenneth Blackwell was published November 22, 2016 by Townhall.com.
Against the odds, and most pundits’ predictions, Donald Trump has been elected president. His opponents prematurely popped champagne corks. He’s now making appointments and setting policies.
He’s not alone. The Republican Party dominates state government as well, holding most of the governorships and legislatures. In half the states the GOP holds a “trifecta,” both houses of the legislature and the executive. It is time for Republicans to govern.
To start, those elected must never forget where their authority comes from: the Constitution and the people. Public officials are chosen to represent the rest of us and must act in accordance with the nation’s fundamental laws. Those who hold office are not free agents, chosen to implement the latest fashionable social theories in academia. Those who don’t like a law should work to change it, not ignore it.
Government’s primary role is to do what we can’t do for ourselves. The willingness of Americans to organize and act has always set this nation apart.
Nearly two centuries ago the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville detailed this phenomenon in his classic Democracy in America. The purpose of government is not to engage in soul molding and social engineering, but to create the framework for a free society in which we work together to solve our problems.
Government should be strong and effective when it must act. It should protect us from foreign threats. It should secure our borders. It should confront enemies within. It should punish criminals. It should set economic rules which reward rather than stifle initiative.
In all these areas the outgoing administration has failed. Indeed, the reason Republicans triumphed is because Americans saw that President Obama and the Democrats preferred to play identity politics, engage in partisan battles, and choose ideology over reality.
What should be the agenda for the incoming Republican majority from local to federal?
1) Develop a foreign policy which protects America in a dangerous world. The new administration needs to focus on the most serious threats, including combatting the Islamic State and other Islamic radicals. Washington should not seek to micro-manage other societies. But the U.S. must deter and, if necessary, defeat anyone who means Americans ill.
2) Bolster our military. Of course, money must be well spent, including by the Pentagon. However, Washington cannot allow America’s defenses to weaken further. It is far better to spend a bit more to be prepared than a lot more when caught unaware.
3) Better protect the borders against foreign terrorists and illegal aliens alike. Americans always have been involved in the world, but that does not mean giving up control over who enters the country. Once ISIS the caliphate is defeated ISIS the terrorist group is likely to emerge. And while immigrants—those who work hard, share our values, and desire to live in a free society—benefit America, Washington’s job is to carefully judge who may enter.
4) Ensure that all Americans benefit from the nation’s extraordinary free market system. We should applaud high tech wizards and internet wonders. However, no one should be left behind. Minorities in the inner cities and white ethnics in working class neighborhoods haven’t always shared in the resulting bounty. We need better education, improved trade agreements, sensible regulation, effective tax reform, and genuinely affordable health care.
5) Protect the environment while remembering that people are part of our world. We should penalize pollution, not economic growth. Ecological zealots should not be able to use environmental concerns to advance a left-wing, redistributionist agenda.
6) Wage war on crime, not the police. Abuses should never be tolerated, but no one more needs good and effective policing than residents of poor neighborhoods. Criminals prey on everyone, especially the most vulnerable. Political correctness should not stop us from doing what is right and necessary.
7) Protect election integrity. Nothing is more basic to a democracy than the right to vote. In the past the federal government has fixated on identity politics, ignored evidence of fraud, and sacrificed electoral fairness. The right to vote is sacred, but that also means preventing those who aren’t eligible from voting.
The American people have vested the incoming Republican majority, from Donald Trump on down, with enormous responsibility. We all must work together to make America great again.
Ronald Reagan famously asked: if not us, who, and if not now, when? We must not let this moment slip by. Our country needs us. All of us.