Herbert London is president emeritus of Hudson Institute, Senior Fellow of the Manhattan Institute, and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America).
The Future of the Republican Party
Now that the result is in and the Republican Party has engaged in ritual handwringing, it is time to suggest some time-honored views of campaigns. It is facile to conclude that with this dramatic presidential loss Republicans are likely to be a permanent minority force in national politics.
In 1964 the Goldwater defeat left the party with seemingly hopeless options. The New York Times described Republicans as tone-deaf and extremist, conditions that suggested interment. Sixteen years later Ronald Reagan won a decisive victory. He called Barry Goldwater after the electoral victory to say "we won." Resurrection does recur in politics.
As a consequence, the principles that undergird the Republican Party - assuming, as I do, that they are the right principles - should not be discarded. This is the party that believes in the virtues of free enterprise, individual rights, local authority, effective but non-intrusive government, peace through strength, the power of human initiative and the Constitutional principles passed down by our Founding Fathers.
Admittedly the demography in the nation has changed. Blacks and Hispanics represent about a quarter of the voting population, and they are usually reflexive Democratic voters. Young people - those under 30 - are a major voting bloc and a disproportionate number have been influenced by trash culture and left-wing proselytizing in our schools. About a third of the population is on the public dole, reliant on government for food, shelter and survival. Women are more active in politics than ever before with abortion often the forefront of their political choices.
Hence there is a challenge Republicans must face. First, it seems obvious that the party should reach out to minorities employing a Jack Kemp strategy, i.e. demonstrate that the free market, as opposed to government handouts, can have a salutary effect on the fortune of minorities. It is not merely jobs that many want, but the prospect of opportunity and the wealth that may emerge from exercising it.
Second, an organized effort in colleges should be launched to demonstrate the romance of American traditions. The nation's founding and the wars to identify and defend our liberties are at least as compelling as the rancorous labor struggles and the emancipation of blacks from slavery. College Republican clubs have languished for years. Howard Zinn's Peoples History of the American Republic is the most popular textbook on our campuses and it is an explicit condemnation of everything for which this nation stands. It is time for a systematic rebuttal and, in the process, an artful defense of what makes the United States unique. The most powerful instrument for attracting young Republicans voters is an honest portrayal of the national narrative.
Last, it is time for Republicans to indicate that its policies explicitly represent a concern for the poor and indigent. Democrats do not have a monopoly on compassion. It is not enough to simply apply labels like "compassionate conservatism" to the party. Republicans are in the vanguard of social reform, even though this point was overlooked in the campaign. For example, sex trafficking affects thousands of women left stranded on our streets or in the grip of urban predators. Republicans have led the charge on this human rights issue that often transcends politics, but is in the wheelhouse of a party noted for its liberationist sentiments.
For most Republicans this is a moment of despair. Democrats are beating their chests with affirmation. But the twenty-year-old who worked for Obama's reelection is in time likely to be married with a newborn at home. The conditions that prevail now may not make much sense in four years or eight years. Will he be mugged by reality?
So many of my colleagues were once Democrats. They argue that the party left them. Alas, that is true to some extent, but not completely. Many left the party because it was no longer an hospitable environment for their basic beliefs. Coalitions within parties, such as the well-advertised New Deal coalition, dissolved over time. Dixiecrats - a major component of that coalition - became Republicans. It is possible that Hispanics, a growing and influential component of national politics, who have traditional goals consistent with those in the Republican Party could be potential converts. A majority may not be Republican at the moment, but under the appropriate circumstances could join the party in large numbers. It won't be easy since 55 percent of Hispanic children are born out of wedlock and a significant number rely on expansive government services that Democratic administrations have put in place.
However, this is not the time for Republicans to whine; it is the time to plan. Historical evolution is not inevitable. As the past points out, today's majority could easily become tomorrow's minority. It is time for Republicans to get to work.
Hollowing Out the U.S. Navy
From the time Alfred Mahan wrote his classic work on naval power at the beginning of the 20th century to the present, this two-ocean nation relied on sea power to protect its territory at home and its interests abroad. In fact, it was axiomatic to suggest that the hegemonic role the United States played in maintaining global equilibrium was directly related to its ability to project naval power.
Clearly this wasn't always the case. In the World War I period from 1914 to 1918 the United States had a fleet level of 363, a fleet smaller than Germany, the United Kingdom and France. It remained at that level in the 1920s (an average of 376) and during the 1930s till 1938 (an average of 339 ships). Needless to remind anyone about the onset of WWII there was a slight increase in new vessels from 1939 to 1941, during the Lend Lease period, (a total of 394), but by 1942, with the war in full swing, there were 1,782 ships in the Navy and by 1945 at the end of the war, the U.S. had 6,768 vessels.
This force level was not sustainable. With retrenchment very much in the air after the war, naval forces were reduced to 634 in 1950. However Cold War saber rattling as a function of Stalinist diplomacy, led to ship levels in the U.S. increasing to 1,030 by 1955, a high point from 1955 to the present.
In the 1960s naval forces averaged 878 during the decade and in the 1970s averaged a reduced 606. In fact, President Reagan who often discussed the need for a 600-ship navy never reached that goal in his eight years in office, the highest level being 594 in 1987 and an average of 561 during his tenure.
Now the U.S. Navy is a mere shadow of itself. During the recent presidential debate, candidate Mitt Romney noted that naval capability had shrunk to a level lower than World War I. Technically he was correct since naval forces are now at 287. President Obama glibly responded by suggesting this is irrelevant; after all, we don't rely on bayonets or horses either. His implication is that our ships are more sophisticated than their predecessors at sea so the numbers do not carry the same logistical weight they once did.
By any standard this is questionable. Numbers matter. If one third of our ships are in repair and one third are in port for the rest and relaxation of sailors, there are approximately 90 vessels available to patrol the seven seas protecting American interests. This is not only an historical record, it is a number inadequate for the task at hand.
An active and assertive blue water Chinese navy is intent on challenging U.S. naval superiority in the Pacific. In the past, challenges of this kind were met by a show of force, an aircraft carrier force or joint military maneuvers with an allied nation. At the moment, we do not have the fleet strength for a symbolic act or to engage in joint training with say, Japan. The Obama administration has simply hollowed out U.S. capabilities.
The argument for this decision is that we cannot afford to be a supreme military force. It was revealing that administration officials said recently the U.S. would not be a super power by 2030. Based on the possibility of sequestration and further military retrenchment, that date may be an exaggeration. Decline is a choice and it appears as if the Obama team has opted to embrace it based on the goal of additional domestic spending.
Military spending is four and a half percent of GDP, a far cry from World War II levels and a fraction of domestic spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. What the Obama team does not seem to realize is that a hollow military capability puts at risk everything this nation has accomplished. Domestic spending clearly has its place, but defense spending refers to our very existence. If we insist on underwriting so-called entitlements at the expense of our naval assets, we will relinquish the future and put ourselves in the position of arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. When that ship went down and when the ship of state goes down, it doesn't matter who has the best view of the horizon. *