Round Two: Response
Chris Caldwell writes, wrongly, that the "Reaganite coalition cannot be reassembled ... because the Cold War is over and all politicians of all parties accept the coalition's moderate-to-low tax philosophy."
That is an ironic mistake to have made the same week that the Republican-controlled Senate rejected an $885 billion increase in tobacco taxes -- a tax increase devoutly supported by President Clinton and the majority of congressional Democrats. The tax rebellion is alive and well -- and the Democrats, as the party of high taxes, are still on the wrong side of it.
Few inside the Republican Party debate whether taxes are too high and should be cut. But two other debates inside the party will decide its future success. The first, which I wrote about in Round One of this forum, is whether the party will continue to champion social and cultural traditionalism. If the party walks away from the social issues that motivate southern Christians and midwestern Catholics (and could motivate Hispanics) to vote Republican, it will not be able to sustain a national majority coalition.
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The same is true of the patriotism issue (defending American sovereignty and American jobs). If the "internationalist" elite in
the Republican Party controls the party's agenda on foreign policy, the party
will fail to win the support of the Perot bloc and will lose some of the
midwestern Catholics who might otherwise vote for Republicans. The
internationalists in the Republican Party supported NAFTA, the World Trade
Organization, the IMF bailout of Mexico and appeasement of Communist China. In
fact, their foreign policy is exactly the same as President Clinton's.
In the debate between the nationalists and the internationalists, southern Christians side with the nationalists. They are sickened by U.S. appeasement of a brutal Chinese regime that persecutes Christians and that enforces with coercive abortion a one-child-per-couple population policy. They also reject the incipient steps toward global government that the WTO and the IMF represent.
Northern Catholics also tend to side with the nationalists because they too oppose the appeasement of the Communists in China. They are tired of seeing multinational corporations move jobs out of America by shutting down factories in the American rust belt while opening new ones in Asia -- where they can pay workers 25 cents an hour -- with the assurance of the World Trade Organization that they will not be charged a tariff when they bring their Asian goods back into the U.S. market.
Like the pro-life issue, the patriotism issue is one that expands the reach of the GOP into traditionally Democratic territory and that also pits the conservative grass roots of the party against a segment of the party elite.
If you define the Republican Party as a handful of elitists in Washington, D.C., Caldwell is correct that a tough China policy that inspires "populist distrust of big business" is "Republican blasphemy." But at the grass roots these days it is entirely orthodox for Republicans to "distrust big business." Who is it, after all, who sold missile technology to the Chinese?
In the post-Cold War era a policy of confronting the Soviet Union should be replaced by a policy of defending American sovereignty and American jobs against the predations of foreign governments like China's and international institutions like the World Trade Organization. This policy is right both morally and politically. It will give the party the opportunity to rebuild the Reagan coalition on a slightly different foundation than the one upon which it was built in the 1980s.
A GOP presidential nominee who fights for lower taxes, the right to life, and U.S. sovereignty could not only win the White House in 2000 but could also lay the groundwork for a new era of Republican rule in the first decades of the twenty-first century.
Introduction and opening questions by Jack Beatty
Round One: Opening Remarks -- posted on June 18, 1998
Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor of Human Events and was the presidential-campaign manager for Patrick J. Buchanan in 1996.
Copyright © 1998 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.