Who Will Carry the Classical Liberals?
Considering the abysmal state of the economy and the unpopularity of President Biden, with few exceptions, the Republicans took a serious beating in the recent U.S. midterm election.
Whatever the Republican strategy is and has been, that strategy isn’t working. It isn’t working because former President Donald Trump is polarizing and an increasingly unpopular person. His influence is leading the party toward more electoral defeats. Think about it. The guy barely won in 2016 against a singularly unpopular candidate. Since then, his electoral successes have been nil. He has even actively engineered some GOP defeats, such as the Georgia senate runoff in 2020, with his temper tantrums. And, of course, his favored candidates for the 2022 midterms were terrible. With rare exceptions, they lost their races. Since when are Republicans voters so enamored with losers?
All that said, the GOP has a problem that runs deeper than Trump (though it may have gotten much worse under Trump). It’s this: Republicans today stand for nothing, and on the rare occasions that they do stand for something, that something is woeful. From protectionism to vile anti-immigration rhetoric, from government-engineered paid leave to the extended child tax credit, and from threatening to punish big tech and to impose industrial policy, with a contingent shouting “free-markets are actually bad”, the party is in disarray intellectually – a fact that plausibly contributes to its current disarray politically.
Some serious intellectuals on the right recognize this problem. Here is National Review’s Philip Klein on this.
To be sure, it perhaps started with Trump, who was never committed to free markets, quite the opposite in fact with very light exceptions (he more credit that he truly deserves for his economic policies, but that’s a topic for another day). His election and policy positions effectively freed Republicans and many conservatives to openly embrace the statist policies that they always wanted to adopt because, you know, it’s difficult to fight for sound budgeting, to resist special-interest groups, and to stand up consistently for small government.
However, unless Republicans wake up and realize that this crusade against “market fundamentalism” isn’t working for them—if only because it’s a sloppy, lazy and economically ignorant agenda—they will continue to be ridiculed and lose elections long after Trump has gone bye-bye.
Now, I don’t have a stake in either party. My loyalty has always been to classical liberal principle such as constitutionally limited government and free, entrepreneurial markets. Until a few years ago, some of the economic policy changes I favor were more likely to come from Republicans. I don’t know what I believe anymore as both sides are cheering for more government and more command and control of the economy. But for the record, I will put out there that if the Democrats were ever to decide that they once again want to be the party of opportunity (and some are) and of economic freedom while Republicans continue to somersault leftwards, I will work with them and cheer them along as they do push for more supply-side freedom, and hence economic growth and opportunity for all.
One last thing: obviously I wish that all parties would discover the wonders of a market economy. Here’s a beautiful fact: the same classical-liberal policies that would unleash market-generated prosperity will also promote many of the other worthwhile goals that Americans have, such as crime reduction, and stronger families, civil society, and much more.
But part of the classical-liberal package is also a rejection of hostility to immigration. There are many reasons why we should welcome immigrants to this country, no matter their skills and education levels. Bryan Caplan and many others have made the economic case better than I could.
There are many moral and economic arguments worth having about how much immigration we need and how to go about reforming the system. But recently, arguments coming from the right haven’t been about immigration but about immigrants themselves. Immigrants, especially lower skilled immigrants, are often talked about, as a class, in obnoxious and demeaning ways revealing a fundamental ignorant way about what it means to uproot oneself from a country and move to another.
Immigrating to this country back in 1999 was the hardest thing I ever did. I didn’t do it lightly. It is never an easy decision to leave one’s family, friends, native country, and culture in order to start fresh in a new country. I was lucky and my life wouldn’t have been at risk had I stayed in France. But I am sure that those who leave to escape dictatorships or poverty leave a piece of their heart behind all the same.
It was hard to leave, but the reality is that as hard as I thought it would be, it was much harder. I had friends, but I was so alone. I was relatively poor compared to what I left behind. I missed my family even more than I thought I would. I even missed French culture, even though when I left, I thought I had for it an incurable dislike. Again, I was one of the lucky ones. I had a job and a place to live when I arrived. Also, as big as are the cultural differences between France and America, that gap is smaller than for some immigrants who come to the U.S. from radically different cultural and religious backgrounds.
Enduring this hardship alone and having the courage and gumption to uproot oneself, I believe, deserves respect rather than the demeaning and baseless charges that so many Americans have, over the past seven years, flung at immigrants. We immigrants aren’t angels, and some truly awful. But so are native borns. However, what sets us apart and should please Americans is that we’ve come here and decided to leave our homeland because we see something remarkable about the United States – ironically, something remarkable that is no longer seen by so many native-born Americans. All of us – native born and immigrants – will next week celebrating Thanksgiving with a turkey (which for me is a special commitment since I don’t really didn’t like turkey!).
Immigrants don’t ask or deserve any special treatments; a chance at their American dream is enough. Many of them, I am sure would still come here even if they believed they would never receive welfare benefits (whether that a good idea is a topic for another day too). These are debates worth having but I urge Republicans and conservatives, especially as they consider dumping Trump once and for all, to reconsider their attack on immigrants and engage in the serious conversation of immigration reform.
Veronique de Rugy is a Senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center and syndicated columnist at Creators.