Free-market capitalism created 20th-century America. Today, combative Republican factions are yanking at their party in a national game of tug-of-war to decide the direction of a post-Trump GOP. After decades of stagnation, his explosive presidency has created an opportunity for different types of Republicans to engage with the electorate and make their voices heard.
Democrats may call 2020 the most important election of our lifetimes, one that will shape everything from the U.S. Supreme Court balance to decades of climate policy—a battle, they like to say, for the soul of the nation. But Republicans are equally concerned with 2024, when Trump’s successor must pick up the pieces of his chaotic mandate and forge them into policy, setting a course for the party in the 21st century. The battle for the soul of the GOP has just begun.
Oren Cass, the executive director of the conservative think tank American Compass, is banking on these men to usher in a new era of American conservatism. He’s written extensively about the need for Republicans to return to traditional, family-first values, and hopes this movement will challenge the GOP establishment—political bigwigs like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and media outlets like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal—which, Cass fears, will lazily backslide into free-market Reaganism if left unchecked.
‘While a genuine conservatism would continue to prize very highly the values of individual and economic freedom, limited government and free enterprise, it would also recognize that there are a lot of things that markets don’t do,’ Cass says. ‘And there are some things that markets do that, frankly, aren’t very good for other important conservative values in terms of family and community health and social stability.’
Cass, of American Compass, compares Trump to an earthquake. An earthquake can show which buildings are structurally flawed, destroy old, weak ones, and even make room for something better. But the earthquake itself does not rebuild. That job belongs to someone else.