Culture

Hugh Hewitt’s Compelling, Cheery, Slightly Implausible Vision of GOP Government

(Portrait of Hugh Hewitt via Facebook)
In his new book, the conservative talk-radio host examines the possibilities of united Republican government.

The world would be a better place if President-elect Trump, Vice President-elect Pence, House Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell read Hugh Hewitt’s new book, The Fourth Way. In just 281 pages, it manages to offer the incoming Republican government a plausible and attractive plan of action, the effects of which, as envisioned by Hewitt, would undoubtedly please many on the right.

But it’s also a lot more coherent and recognizably conservative than most of Trump’s policy statements, would require a lot of unity among fractious Republican lawmakers along with plenty of compromises, and sometimes veers into the GOP-loyalist version of ecstasy, as when Hewitt envisions the country’s new leaders touching off “an era of goodwill” by “governing in the key of we: inclusively, energetically, and joyously, and celebrating freedom and prosperity.”

Occasionally, Hewitt acknowledges what a colossal risk the Republican party (and, by association, the conservative movement) has taken by hitching its wagon to Trump. He points out that if internal strife paralyzes the GOP, “it will all crash, and in the collision of agendas could come massive political carnage which, if paralleled by any political scandal, could consume President Trump in an impeachment proceeding.” The last chapter of the book discusses this most dire of all possibilities, which Hewitt fears could happen “in the three- to five-year range, after a disastrous first two years led to a wipeout of Republicans at the polls in November 2018 and the corrosive effect of hyper-loyalists in President Trump’s administration began to surface.”

Worst-case scenarios aside, the bulk of The Fourth Way is devoted to Hewitt’s political program. He imagines a stimulus comprising visible, tangible, permanent buildings and locally controlled programs to help the poor, which he describes as a cross between George H. W. Bush’s “thousand points of light” and the Obama stimulus. He contends that the Obama stimulus spent $831 billion but left no physical infrastructure behind. He argues that the WPA and Andrew Carnegie’s library-building program are better models, and proposes boards of nine people in every county across the country distributing $33 billion in grants. This is all wonderful to visualize, but a little too close for comfort to those unkept “shovel-ready jobs” promises from eight years ago.

Perhaps the most skepticism-inducing section of the book comes when Hewitt tackles immigration, proposing that Trump and the GOP Congress enact legislation to build the wall — a serious, double wall, with a road between for Border Patrol vehicles — and then strike a “good deal” on immigration reform. Specifically, he argues that “all law-abiding immigrants” should “be regularized and permitted to stay in the United States with a new ‘purple card’” once the wall is completed. Purple-card holders wouldn’t be allowed to vote, and couldn’t become citizens without returning to their countries of birth and re-immigrating legally. But at least some Republicans would call this amnesty, and plenty of Democrats would charge that ‘purple card’-holders had been relegated to a humiliating subservient status. Hewitt is convinced that his two-pronged proposal would put the contentious issue of immigration to rest. Buena suerte, mi amigo.

Still, if they can live with that big-spending infrastructure plan and the immigration compromise, those on the right will find much to cheer in Hewitt’s Fourth Way agenda: a lower corporate tax rate, a 350–ship Navy, young judges who see themselves as umpires rather than legislators in black robes, and civil-service reform that would give cabinet secretaries the power to fire 5 percent of their employees for any reason.

This is an odd time for Reaganite conservatives, unexpectedly blessed with a GOP president and control of Congress but not quite certain that the coming years will be ones of smaller government, traditional values, or a muscular foreign policy. In The Fourth Way, Hewitt has done his very best to preach the Right’s long-established principles while maintaining an open mind toward the wildly unpredictable and periodically abhorrent president-elect. We’ll know soon enough if the new era of GOP governance unfolds as Hewitt hopes it will. If it does, those of us on the right will mostly cheer. But if it doesn’t, we’ll look back at this book and wince at the reminder of what could have been.

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