Donald Trump won fair and square and, as Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech, is owed an open mind and a chance to lead. It is, therefore, incumbent upon conservatives (like me) who have been highly critical of Trump to think through how to make a success of the coming years of Republican rule.
It begins by recognizing Trump’s remarkable political instincts. As House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., noted in his morning-after olive-branch news conference, Trump heard “a voice out in this country that no one else heard.” Trump spoke to and for a working class squeezed and ruined by rapid technological and economic transformation.
One of the principal tasks for the now-dominant GOP is to craft a governing agenda that actually alters their lives and prospects. In the end, it was this constituency of those left behind by the new globalized digital economy that delivered the presidency to Trump.
Nonetheless, this election was not just about the social/economic divide. It was also about the ideological divide between left and right. The most overlooked factor in the election is the continuing deep and widespread dissatisfaction with many of President Obama’s policies.
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The now dominant GOP needs to begin with canceling Obama’s executive orders on everything from immigration to climate change. Then overturn his more elaborate legislative adventures into overweening liberalism, starting, of course, with Obamacare.
Beyond the undoing, there’s the prospect of doing. Serious border enforcement, including a wall, for example. That’s not only a good in itself, it would offer leverage in a grand bargain that would include eventual legalization of resident illegal immigrants, an idea supported (according to the exit polls) by more than seven in 10 voters.
Another given is a reshaping of the currently rudderless Supreme Court with the nomination of a conservative justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia.
During the campaign, Trump’s populism often clashed with traditional Reaganism. The key to GOP success is to try to achieve an accommodation, if not a fusion.
Onto the Reaganite core of smaller government and strict constitutionalism must be added a serious concern for the grievances of the constituency that animated the Trump insurgency, the long-suffering, long-neglected working class.
If Reaganite conservatives want to head off wrongheaded solutions – such as massive tariffs, mercantilist economics and trade wars – they must be prepared to accept such measures as federal wage subsidies and targeted restraints on trade.
The key to success for a Trump presidency is for the Reaganite and populist elements in the party to be willing to advance each other’s goals even at the cost of ideological purity. This will require far-reaching negotiations between a Trump White House and a GOP Congress.
The Republicans have gained control of all the political branches. They have the means to deliver. They now have to show that they can.
Charles Krauthammer is a columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.