Larry Hogan, Republican governor here in heavily Democratic Maryland, is no fan of President Donald Trump. Mr. Hogan wrote-in “Ronald Reagan” on his 2020 ballot and has called for a bigger-tent GOP going forward. And the closeness of this election shows a need for a Republican strategy that builds on the party’s strengths and helps overcome the country’s polarization. So how to move ahead?
My decades of experience in public policy and socio-cultural issues in Maryland and beyond suggest our governor should follow a transformational seven-point GOP recipe, seasoned, in part, by our state’s unique insights.
First, be principled. It goes without saying that Mr. Trump didn’t help himself or the country with personal insults and crude rhetoric, alienating many who might otherwise have supported him. A Republican, especially in Democrat-dominated Maryland, should always be civil. But this doesn’t mean splitting the difference with politicians on the other side, pushing guaranteed-to-fail, stale policies that limit liberty and prosperity. Republicans should not shrink from crucial battles ahead, but they must fight on principles, not personalities.
Second, keep the successful Trump/GOP policies. Before the virus, the economy was strong. Unemployment rates for Black and Hispanic Americans were among the lowest on record, and both job creation and the stock market were robust. This was thanks to the administration’s tax cuts and reductions in stifling regulations that served no public good. As the country emerges from the pandemic, policies that encourage entrepreneurship rather than heap tax-spend-regulate burdens on the economy will be essential.
Third, help usher in the exponential technology age. With our I-270 Technology Corridor, we Marylanders understand that infotech, nanotech, biotech, robotics and artificial intelligence promise a future of unimaginable prosperity with longer, healthier lives for all. Indeed, the sequencing of the human genome by Craig Venter, a breakthrough that could one day make living to 200 the new normal, occurred right here in Rockville. Yet many fear robots taking over jobs, or AI and genetically engineered superhumans ruling us and call for government restrictions. The GOP needs to allay these fears and be the party of the techno-future that will be as transformative as the Industrial Revolution.
Fourth, lead an education revolution. Thirteen high schools in Baltimore in 2017 had zero students proficient in math, and results are spotty even in prosperous Montgomery County. The one-size-fits-all, assembly line, century-old schooling model can’t even meet the current needs of enterprises for employees with requisite talents, much less the needs for a techno-future. The answer here and throughout the country is not to throw more taxpayer money at the problem. Rather, the GOP should empower parents to direct their tax dollars and children to whichever schools or program they judge to be best. Allow educational innovators and entrepreneurs in the free market to do what tech innovators in so many sectors have done: transform the sector to new heights of efficiency.
Fifth, break the cycle of decline in the poorest neighborhoods. Over the past half-century, Baltimore has degenerated into a dystopian dump. It mirrors the decline in Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis and many other once-great metropolises. “Virtue signaling” and the same failed policies are no longer an option. The GOP should follow the example of the late Republican leader Jack Kemp. He worked with the residents of poor neighborhoods, for example, to give them ownership of their deteriorating, crime-ridden public housing projects so they could drive out the criminals, fix the plumbing and take control. The GOP should challenge the Democrats' inner-city hegemony.
Sixth, engage with honest Democrats and liberals in open discussions about the country’s longer-term problems. A rational, in-context approach means fighting against the cancel culture, the use of intimidation and censorship to shut down free thought. The GOP should enlist allies, across party and ideological lines, to stop the institutionalized indoctrination into postmodernist dogma and the censorship found in many American universities. Steven Pinker, Glenn Greenwald and other liberals are pushing back against the new totalitarians. Only minds unafraid of intellectual thugs will open the country’s future of human achievement.
Seven, celebrate individual merit and achievement, rejecting identity politics. Make Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of a nation where individuals “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” the party’s credo. Neo-racist identity politics that instead places value in accidents of birth is a moral insult to all individuals of whatever race, ethnicity or sexual orientation who create their own prosperity through their own moral virtues.