My Plan for American Renewal
The Republican Party must become a multi-ethnic, working-class coalition willing to fight for the country and usher in a new American century.
I was never supposed to be a United States senator. The bipartisan political establishment made that very clear in 2009. Our country has changed a lot since then, but one thing remains constant: the establishment is more interested in hoarding power than making life better for most Americans.
Evidence of this is all around us. For example, Republicans and Democrats alike shield Wall Street from common-sense tax policies. Both parties sided with Warren Buffet over the rail workers last month. And both are content to run scorched-earth political campaigns that enrich consultants while tearing apart the fabric of our communities. Decades of this decadence and incompetence have brought America to the brink. Communities have been hollowed out, institutions torn down, faith marginalized, and the common good ignored.
Every official is eager to call out the villains—and we should—but we cannot chart a new course unless we win elections. And we will not win elections unless we give people a reason to vote for us. A reason to be optimistic about our nation. A reason to donate their time, energy, and resources to the project of American renewal. As I see it, we have three main tasks ahead of us.
First, we need to rebalance our domestic economy by putting Wall Street in its place. At their best, America’s capital markets facilitate growth and innovation by connecting people who have good ideas to those with money to invest in good ideas. At their worst, our markets resemble a Ponzi scheme that extracts short-term profits while leaving our country, communities, and small businesses destitute. Unfortunately, American finance in the 21st century is more like the Ponzi scheme.
Perhaps the most glaring example is Wall Street funneling cash into companies either directly or indirectly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. No nation can survive by giving jobs and money to an adversary. It was naive when it began a few decades ago, and it is dangerously stupid now.
Of course, there is immense opposition to reorienting our economic relationship with China and returning finance to its appropriate and productive place in our economy. Incredible wealth and political influence are tied to the status quo. But that status quo is weakening America. The U.S. government must play an active role in changing the incentive structures that brought us to this point. This means strengthening tools to block and penalize investments that undermine national security, and incentivizing investors to bring capital back to America and put it to work in revitalizing our innovative and productive capacity.
Our second task is to bring critical industries back to America. Some may be tempted to call this an overreaction to Covid-induced supply chain disruptions. But while the pandemic certainly caused people to open their eyes, the need for revitalizing domestic production has been obvious for years—albeit only to those willing to defy Washington’s conventional wisdom. We need an aggressive pro-America industrial policy.
Recent investment in U.S. semiconductor fabrication is an important step, though the Biden administration’s generous carve-outs for chip companies doing business in China suggest it isn’t serious about getting tough with Beijing. There is no point in having export controls if unelected bureaucrats green-light requests to share tech with Chinese companies.
America’s list of vulnerabilities is long. We are reliant on hostile foreign nations like China for everything from the rare earth minerals needed for advanced batteries to the active pharmaceutical ingredients needed for life-saving medicines. And in typical bureaucratic fashion, there is zero coordination among America’s development and government financing organizations. At a minimum, we must make those organizations work together to invest in things that actually matter.
Finally, we have an obligation to rebuild America’s workforce. For one, it is impossible to restore American industry without a strong, dynamic workforce. But work is also about human dignity. Globalization and outsourcing destroyed the only reliable path to a stable and prosperous life available to millions of Americans. Families broke down. Communities crumbled. Death and despair took their place. We need to chart a new course by restoring the dignity of work.
It won’t be easy. Eighty senators voted to impose a labor agreement on rail workers last month—an agreement that denied the workers a single day of paid sick leave. They, along with the rail companies and Wall Street, prioritized maximizing shareholder profits at the expense of the workers, their families, and their communities. We see the same single-minded obsession with efficiency at Amazon. The list goes on.
Change begins in how we as Republicans see the role of traditional organized labor. We can and should partner with unions if they are actually promoting their members’ welfare. We are likely to find common ground on concerns about horrific working conditions, monitoring by computer algorithms, and unfair competition from foreign nations. But if unions want to defend the importation of cheap foreign labor and force the latest woke fads down everyday Americans’ throats, then we need to pursue alternative mechanisms to support workers.
To rebuild our workforce, we will also need to knock down the traditional four-year college model and strengthen non-degree pathways that lead to well-paying jobs without taking on years of student debt.
There is much more to do, of course.
Our schools are a cesspool of Marxist indoctrination. Dangerous academic constructs like critical race theory and radical gender theory are being forced on elementary school children. Republican governors and school board members are on the front lines of these fights, but they need reinforcements. We need to ensure no federal funding is ever used to promote these radical ideas in schools. We should also make certain that every complaint brought forth by a parent or student about school curricula or counseling promoting these divisive concepts is investigated.
The fight for life also remains a priority. Too many in our party, especially during the election, ran away from the abortion debate. Unborn babies don’t become more or less valuable based on proximity to Voting Day. At a minimum, we should align our nation’s laws with those of Western Europe by imposing reasonable regulations on abortions after four months. We must also do more to support mothers and their babies.
Big Tech remains far too powerful, as well. I hope Elon Musk can figure out Twitter, but just because he’s in charge doesn’t mean the app should have a special carve-out in federal law. Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc., should be treated like the publishers they are. Corporations like Amazon shouldn’t get a free pass to exploit workers and small businesses. And no tech company should be allowed to operate here if it’s owned or can be compelled to share data with Beijing.
None of this even gets at the multitude of foreign policy challenges our nation faces.
Our greatest task in that realm may be forcing the outdated foreign policy blob—the entrenched old guard that operates in the bowels of the State Department, intelligence community, and think tanks throughout the Acela corridor—to reprioritize and focus on America’s most pressing threat: the Chinese Communist Party. And that will require tradeoffs and burden-sharing.
Many of our so-called experts came of age after the Cold War. As such, their worldview was shaped by the naive belief that liberal democracy is the inevitable end-state of every nation. To the extent America faced serious threats, it was from terrorists or rogue regimes such as Iran and North Korea, not a near-peer adversary. These ideas are hardwired into their psyche. It helps explain why the polite caretakers of American decline bend over backwards to appease China’s communist regime.
But we live in a different era with different needs. We need to recognize that China led by Xi Jinping is just as great a threat as the Soviet Union ever was, if not an even greater one. In the 21st century, Europe must take the lead in Europe. Germany, France, and the United Kingdom are more than capable of managing their relationship with the nuclear-armed belligerent to their east. But they’ll never take ownership so long as they can rely on America. If this were a welfare policy debate, conservatives would be calling for work requirements. We need something similar for Europe, encouraging our allies to take ownership of their future, security, and prosperity.
Across the Pacific, we need to continue empowering our allies and partners to do more in the region. Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Australia, India, and others serve as a critical bulwark against Communist China. We need to do our part, which includes cutting off U.S. capital flows to Chinese companies, safeguarding intellectual property against Chinese espionage, moving critical supply chains out of the communist nation, and shifting military assets to the Indo-Pacific. But these efforts will be meaningless unless allies and partners in both Asia and Europe join the cause. And they won’t likely join the cause if Biden’s appointees remain at the helm. How can other nations take us seriously when we have men in high heels and lipstick attending high-level diplomatic meetings on America’s behalf?
Get daily emails in your inbox
Clearly, we face a lot of challenges. But despite them all, I am optimistic about America’s future. There is no other nation in the world where I, the son of an immigrant bartender and stay-at-home mom, would be in this position. And I’ll be damned if I am going to stand by while our nation becomes just a footnote in world history. Because the truth is that if America fails, I have nowhere left to go.
The left would be at home in a fallen America that hands out crack pipes to its citizens and a world dominated by an atheistic, communist regime. But without a strong U.S., there will be no place in the world for those who believe that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that those rights should be protected by the government.
We can’t let such a future come to pass. That is why, for the next six years, I will be laser-focused on rebuilding the Republican Party into a multi-ethnic, working-class coalition that is willing to fight for this country and usher in a new American century.