For many months now I have been suggesting that it is long overdue for Republicans to update the Newt Gingrich-led Contact With America of 1994 that led to the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. Last November, at the National Conservatism Conference, the Edmund Burke Foundation well noted that the Reagan Revolution is over in terms of the core issues that now threaten the republic. Gone are the Soviet Union and 70% tax rates. What threatens us now even more are the “woke” cultural issues that undermine the very foundational elements of our founding. Russell Kirk called them “the permanent things” and we need a reordering and return to them. And we need to reach much higher than winning key elections at the margins in a 50-50 country.
The Republican Commitment to America is a good start. It addresses four basic priorities for policy if the party wins control of either or both houses of government in November: an economy that’s strong, a nation that’s safe, a future that’s built on freedom, and a government that’s accountable. These, along with the supporting details for implementation, are a good roadmap for a national campaign and the basis for a conservative-led agenda for legislation.
But more is needed. It needs a preamble, a statement of what Republicans are for. As Yuval Levin has recently noted, “the point of such work is not the technocratic management of public affairs but the putting into practice of different facets of a distinct vision of the good”. In case this sounds “wonky”, it is–this is often wonky work, and sometimes deeply philosophical. Earlier this year, President Joe Biden rhetorically asked in a press conference what are Republicans for, beyond opposing Democrats and denying him success. Good question. And maybe, in this turbulent post-Trump era, the party is not yet sufficiently settled on a consensus on this point. There are some good people struggling to find this consensus. They need to find one in a hurry that is grounded not in merely checking the boxes for the next election, but in principled conservatism and our founding ideas for the long haul.