An Eisenhower Republican’s manifesto
Devon Chenelle | Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Late last night, Reaganism was found dead behind a dumpster in Midtown, Manhattan. Pending release of the official autopsy, based on the body’s location and reports of pharyngeal bruising, it appears that, contrary to virtually all media reports, Donald Trump’s stubby little fingers were in fact just long enough to wrap themselves around Reaganism’s neck and strangle the last gasps of life from its atrophied body. I know that for many this may be hard to process; Reaganism was, after all, Republican Party orthodoxy for three decades. But take one look at Trump’s Cincinnati victory rally, where, looking more “Duce” than Gipper, our next president bemoaned the working class’s stagnant wages and proclaimed that “government can be responsive and we can be proud again of how Washington works,” and you will know the truth. For better or worse, there is no place in the Republican Party today for the doctrine of a man who referred to Russia as “the evil empire,” proposed NAFTA and swore by trickle-down economics and government non-intervention. Indeed, anyone who went on stage before a Trump audience and said those things would be booed off the stage.
But, do not despair! Though Reaganism may be dead and Bushism so discredited it merits only this ephemeral dismissal, that does not mean the GOP’s only path forward is Caesarism-as-Trumpism.
For alternatives, I turn to the conservative’s first recourse: consultation with the past. Sixty years ago, the president declared in his farewell address that the “basic purpose” of America’s government is “to keep the peace, to foster progress in human achievement and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among peoples and among nations.” Eisenhower Republicanism — by melting down the golden calf of free market absolutism that has too long suffocated the GOP and, in turn, the American people, and by abandoning our current myopic and naïve foreign policy — would provide a framework to confront all the problems, present and future, the 21st century will present America. As Ike proudly announced himself a “Progressive Republican,” I declare myself to be an Eisenhower Republican.
What is an Eisenhower Republican?
An Eisenhower Republican realizes the tired old Republican canard about government always being the problem, never the solution, for the boring and worthless truism it is. When an Eisenhower Republican watches Neil Armstrong take mankind’s first steps on the moon, or drives from New York to Los Angeles or browses the web, they realize the prudential and deliberate use of federal power can produce wonders the private sector would be frightened away from. An Eisenhower Republican realizes that through judicious formation of government agencies and projects, such as Eisenhower’s formation of NASA, the Inter-State Highway System and DARPA, we can innovate, construct infrastructure and explore the galaxy. An Eisenhower Republican wants to live in an America that does those things, both for their own sake and because such endeavors boost the economy, bolster the national defense and increase national confidence.
An Eisenhower Republican realizes that not only are the riches of the world’s wealthiest country in some measure the birthright of all Americans, but also that we are a community, a society all in this together, and there is no excuse for a nation so rich to not provide for those unable to provide for themselves. An Eisenhower Republican recognizes that limited government intervention in the economy to preserve the social order, such as trust-busting or combating economic inequality, is a cornerstone of what makes the American dream possible.
An Eisenhower Republican realizes the best defense is a good offense, and allocates military spending accordingly, anticipating the needs of tomorrow rather than reacting to the vicissitudes of today, as Ike did when he shifted military spending towards the Air Force and the nuclear programs. An Eisenhower Republican is mindful of George Washington’s admonition “to steer clear of permanent alliances,” and realizes both sentimentality and vindictiveness are, quite literally, lethal in international politics. An Eisenhower Republican realizes America’s own interests should be our foreign policy’s only lodestone, and indulges no ally nor opposes any enemy contrary to the natural interest, as Ike did when he chastened the British, French and Israelis for acting against American interests and without American knowledge during the Suez Crisis. Eisenhower fought the Marxists wherever they attacked, but never forsook efforts at rapprochement with the Soviet Union.
The way forward is clear: A return to the values, policies and aims of Eisenhower will revitalize American national confidence, accelerate technological innovation, combat rising economic inequality and working class disenfranchisement, create economic growth and begin undoing the disastrous effects of the woefully misguided foreign policy of George W. Bush and Obama that has overseen Russian conquests, European perfidy, South American disorder, Chinese revanchism and a caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.