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John Hood: GOP factions can work together

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John Hood

John Hood

From a column by John Hood, chairman of the John Locke Foundation.

Regardless of their personal views about Donald Trump, most conservatives feel optimistic for the first time in many years about the prospects for fundamental reform of federal policies — particularly on taxes, health care, and the regulatory morass. On Capitol Hill, they see Republican majorities composed mostly of members elected by larger margins than Trump won in their states, and led by experienced, committed conservatives with a clearly articulated agenda.

Regarding the incoming administration, they recognize that many key posts will be filled by experienced, committed conservatives — often recruited from the ranks of state governments that Republicans have been effectively governing for years. Trump may be new to the challenges of public administration and the details of public policy. But many of his Cabinet secretaries, deputies, and advisors won’t be.

Perhaps the greatest cause of optimism among the conservatives I know is that they no longer fear that a federal judiciary stacked with left-wing appointments will seek to nullify the policy accomplishments of a conservative Congress and conservative-led states. Assuming Trump follows through on his promises regarding judicial picks and federalism, conservatives believe a new era of grassroots reform is about to commence, based on principles of free enterprise, limited government, and consumer choice.

I share their optimism — but it’s a cautious optimism. I think that caution is warranted by the conduct and conclusion of the presidential campaign. …

According to a post-election poll by High Point University, 54 percent of North Carolina voters are happy the Republicans will control Congress while 44 percent are happy Trump will be president. When it comes to national issues, nearly three-quarters believe that either the Republican Congress (34 percent) or the Congress and Trump working together (40 percent) should take the lead. Only 20 percent say Trump should take the lead.

There are really three Republican parties at the moment (about two and a half more than the number of effective Democratic parties). The strongest one is the grassroots party that controls most state governments. The congressional party has a lot of promising ideas but not as much experience enacting them as the grassroots party does. Finally, there is the new White House party emerging around the president-elect, including both longtime conservatives and insurgent populists.

These three GOP factions can and should cooperate to shape policy. Accepting the electoral context will help. This isn’t the first time conservatives have come to Washington with high hopes. Producing more successes than disappointments will require a prudent division of labor among the three groups — and a clear focus on what they have in common.

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