The Republican Party's slow transformation from the Bordeaux-sipping party of Acela Corridor suburbanites into the beer-drinking party of working-class Rust Belt-ers and Sun Belt-ers has been picking up some steam lately. And as the GOP's divorce from the Chamber of Commerce over irreconcilable cultural differences accelerates, a golden opportunity has emerged to recast the GOP not in a 1980s-era image of supply-side tax-cutting, but in a revamped image of the party that focuses on supporting parental rights and protecting vulnerable children from modern society's depredations.
Some recent examples hint that the GOP may be moving beyond mere rhetorical platitude, and into the realm of concrete policy and action.
The No. 1 killer today of Americans aged 18-45 years old is fentanyl trafficked by Mexican drug cartels, as some Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans pointed out this week during a hearing with hapless Attorney General Merrick Garland. A recent Axios-Ipsos poll showed that a 37% plurality of Republicans surveyed consider opioids and fentanyl to be the single greatest threat to U.S. public health, and at least some in the party are coming around to acting accordingly. Besides securing the U.S.-Mexico border once and for all, perhaps the other single most effective action the federal government could take on this front would be to formally designate the cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Last month, a coalition of 21 red-state attorneys general sent a formal letter to President Joe Biden, exhorting him to instruct his State Department to do precisely that.
Aside from fentanyl, which has brought annual drug overdose deaths to a horrifying 106,000 from a 1992 low of just over 5,000, there is currently no greater threat to vulnerable children than the varying tentacles of the woke ideology. The federal government is a destructive peddler of wokeism, as Biden's recent "diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility" executive order demonstrates, but corporate wokeism is an arguably even greater threat. Accordingly, the imperative of the hour, in order to help parents protect vulnerable children from irremediable third-party harm, Republicans must once and for all break free of stale libertarian bromides and act to exorcise the woke demon from corporate America.
The approach of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been instructive on this front, including his championing of Florida's Stop W.O.K.E. Act, which targets workplace wokeism, and, perhaps most illustratively, his much-publicized 2022 fight with The Walt Disney Company over Disney's support for elementary school gender ideology indoctrination. After Monday's formal abolition of Disney's semi-autonomous Reedy Creek Improvement District in Central Florida, DeSantis took to The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday to explain the move's necessity: "The regrettable upshot of the woke ascendancy is that publicly traded corporations have become combatants in battles over American politics and culture, almost invariably siding with leftist causes." Accordingly, "policies that benefit corporate America don't necessarily serve the interests of America's people and economy."
Translation: The somewhat apocryphal (mis)quote often attributed to President Calvin Coolidge that "the business of America is business" is no longer apt (if it ever was). The Fortune 500 should take note.
The fights against transgender surgeries for minors and Big Tech addiction are two other powerful examples of what a more hands-on, culturally pugnacious, parents- and children-first GOP can, and should, prioritize. Whereas the older, corporate-centric GOP was a party of "openness" and eschewed using statecraft to impose limitations, the newer, parents- and children-centric GOP must embrace the more frequent imposition of legal limitations and outright bans in the name of the common good.
Just this week, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves made the Magnolia State the eighth to fully ban "gender-affirming care" procedures for minors. On Thursday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee made the Volunteer State the first state to affirmatively ban drag shows in the presence of minors. (In Florida, DeSantis has at times revoked liquor licenses for venues hosting drag shows with minors.) And at the federal level, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) has pushed for an investigation of The Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital after a whistleblower provided viscerally shocking details to Bari Weiss's The Free Press last month. Hawley's related post-whistleblower Protecting Our Kids from Child Abuse Act would helpfully create a private right of action for individuals who were harmed by "gender-affirming care" when they were minors.
When it comes to Big Tech, a parents- and children-first GOP must treat it as an addictive product requiring the level of scrutiny and regulation that such a toxic product necessarily entails. Indeed, parents across the political spectrum are practically crying out for lawmakers and regulators to help them: A report co-released last month by the Institute for Family Studies and the Ethics and Public Policy Center found that 80% of parents want parental consent required before a minor opens a social media account, and 77% want to ensure they have administrator-level access to what their children see and do online. Hawley has again been leading the way at the federal level, with bills such as the Parental Data Rights Act (which would require Big Tech to give parents control over their children's data) and the MATURE Act (which would enforce a 16-year-old minimum age for all social media users).
TikTok is a unique social media threat, given both its highly addictive nature for minors and its status as de facto Chinese Communist Party spyware. Almost 30 states -- mostly red states -- have now banned or partially banned TikTok on government devices. And an even better bill now exists at the federal level, thanks to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): The ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act, introduced in December, would ban TikTok from operating in the U.S. tout court.
Add in other pressing issues of political economy, such as the disbursement of direct "family policy" payments to working parents and even (a la Hungary and Poland) the structuring of certain tax breaks to reward stable marriages that produce children, and the playbook for the new, parents- and children-first GOP becomes reasonably clear. Whether that playbook is actually adopted by Republican elected officials en masse is a different question entirely.
To find out more about Josh Hammer and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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