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Peter Morici: Republicans need a new standard-bearer

The Republicans desperately need a new generation to step up, challenge Donald Trump for the party nomination, and craft a new party agenda.

The odds are decent that Republicans will capture the House in November and the Senate remains in play. Even if they prevail, however, they won’t gain veto-proof majorities necessary to significantly alter the path of public policy before the next presidential election.

Economic future

With the Senate they could hold up many of President Joe Biden’s more woke judicial and administrative appointments, but he already has much of what he needs to pursue an expansion of the administrative state.

The Federal Reserve will slow the economy to moderate inflation. Likely a soft landing—only two quarters of negative growth without a big surge in unemployment—or a recession—two quarters of negative growth with unemployment reaching about 5%—and then a rebound.

Stagflation—lethargic growth, the paradox of falling real wages with a nonplus overall jobs market and inflation above 4%—is likely.

Labor markets in many activities will remain tight because the skill mix of the labor force does not match well with the postpandemic economy.

Food and energy inflation won’t fully abate without reopening Ukrainian seaborne grain W00, -1.53% exports and reintegrating Russia into Western petroleum CL00, +0.86% markets.

Challenge Putin

Those won’t happen without the United States breaking the Russian embargo of Black Sea ports with naval convoys and some kind of military confrontation that forces Russian President Vladimir Putin to sue for peace.

All of that is in the hands of the president—not the Congress—and Americans have little appetite for risking war with Russia.

European political leaders have acute domestic challenges too. If America aggressively confronted Putin, it’s questionable whether they would follow.

The GOP will bloviate about inflation and the president’s energy policies, but boosting U.S. oil and gas NG00, +4.24% production by perhaps 10% would add 1.5 million barrels a day to global supplies. That’s not enough to compensate for the West losing access to Russian production.

Europe’s drive to end dependence on Russian gas, while shutting down Netherland’s Groningen gas field, will drive up prices everywhere.

Beyond Republican orthodoxy

The answer lies in prudently planning more growth in wind, solar and electric vehicle production. And reassuring oil companies they can invest—without vengeance from Washington—to meet demand from internal combustion engines, which will remain substantial until the end of the 2030s, and the needs of the petrochemical and other industries that use petroleum as raw material.

Articulating such a policy ballet is beyond the capacity of conservatives and congressional Republicans that see tax cuts and deregulation as the answers to virtually all problems the way a four-year-old does a hammer to a nail.

The Supreme Court has made abortion the big social issue of the day. Homelessness and crime in big cities and woke teachers’ unions and school boards altering public-school standards and curriculum are fundamentally local issues. Those won’t be solved without giving doctrinaire progressives the boot in liberal states and cities.

Post-Roe chaos

Abortion policy will sort chaotically and leave the poorest women in rural locations with the fewest choices.

Liberal states will have laws that are too promiscuous—some permitting abortions in the third trimester. Conservative states will prohibit abortion altogether, save incest, rape and threats to the health of the mother, or to none after six weeks.

Local bans will inspire illicit medical abortions with drugs moving across state lines, and pro-abortion groups and businesses financing women to travel from places like Utah to California.

The radical left and mainstream media did a good job of scaring women that repealing Roe would be the end of most of their rights—look outside, it isn’t so.

One thing hasn’t changed over the last five decades—about 50% of registered voters polled by Gallop consistently say abortion should be legal but only under certain circumstances—significantly more than those who would prohibit abortion or permit it unregulated.

The sane compromise would be a federal law setting the limit at about 15 weeks, but that would face tough opposition from the hard left in the Democratic Party and hard right among Republicans. 

Pragmatic middle ground

Republicans need a national leader to step forward to articulate pragmatic solutions and win over public opinion by campaigning for the presidency with specific ideas that occupy the middle ground.

President Trump could manage to get nominated but the revelations of the Jan. 6 Committee make it unlikely he could be elected. He could hardly be expected to provide the diplomacy in Europe necessary to unite NATO and resolve the crisis in Ukraine or solve great social issues.

It’s high time for Govs. Kristi Noem and Ron DeSantis, former Gov Nikki Haley, Sen. Mitt Romney and several other qualified Republicans to challenge Donald Trump—and for the nation to embrace a new age of tolerance and compromise.

Peter Morici is an economist and emeritus business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.


More opinions from Peter Morici

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The Fed’s inflation promises are simply not credible

America needs to take more risks in Ukraine

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