The upcoming GOP ational Convention is going to be the most consequential gathering of Republicans since 1976.
As opposed to the Ford-Reagan nail biter, this convention has had its nominee for months. But as with 1976, there’s a question that’s yet to be answered. Will the nominee enjoy the enthusiastic support of the conservative Republican base? In the end, Gerald Ford didn’t, and lost.
This year the stakes are equally high. Donald Trump cannot defeat Hillary Clinton without the backing of a motivated conservative movement. He has some elements in place — enthusiastically so.
He has a minority in the #NeverTrump crowd (Hillary has her own deniers as well, it should be noted.) But then there is the sizable portion of the GOP that wants to support him, if only to stop Clinton, but too many in this camp are unenthusiastic. Too many could choose to stay home, as they did in ’08 and ’12. In parlance he understands, Trump must seal the deal.
This convention gives him that opportunity. What is it conservatives want to see?
1. A conservative running mate. A moderate like General Flynn is unacceptable. A vice presidential pick along the lines of Gov. Mike Pence or Sen. Jodi Ernst will excite the base.
2. The platform untouched. While it’s true that Republicans have betrayed their conservative platform time and again, any changes would constitute a repudiation of core conservative beliefs. This would be unacceptable to conservatives embracing that plank. No longer having an ideological home, they’d leave.
3. The prime time speakers slots dominated by real conservatives on the order of Sen. Ted Cruz. If conservatives once again are forced to endure the cynical pronouncements from the likes of Sen. Mitch McConnell, millions of TV sets will click off.
Ultimately it’s what Trump says that matters most, of course. What do conservatives want to hear?
4. Trump must exhibit a fundamental a commitment to reversing, not reducing the economic damage Obama has inflicted on this country. He has to fully embrace the challenge of reining in spending with a specific, serious and believable plan not just to balance the budget, but reduce an immoral debt. He should be frank about the state of peril facing our entitlement system, committing to reform without raising taxes. He must promise to lower, simplify, and flatten the tax code. He must pledge to put Obama’s endless, and so often secretive regulations on ice. Small businessmen must know government oppression will end.
5. Trump cannot just promise to end ObamaCare. Conservatives have run out of patience with dishonest promises. Whether it’s repealed, defunded, dismantled or replaced, the undoing of this decimation of the American health care system has be a top priority, with a specific plan presented.
6. He should declare unequivocally that a powerful America, respected by friends and feared by enemies, will return. The American military will be rebuilt to face and destroy all threats to our nation. He must state in no uncertain terms that he will crush ISIS, target global Islamic extremism at home and abroad, defend Israel against Palestinian aggression and Iranian threats. He will scrap the Iran deal. He will put China, Russia, Iran and North Korea on notice that the United States will no longer tolerate their anti-American adventurism.
7. Trump will secure our borders. The wall will be built. Our existing immigration policies will be reviewed. Nations harboring terrorists will be denied entry.
8. Trump must be outspoken in supporting the rights and dignity of the unborn, including defunding Planned Parenthood’s abortion factory. There must be a firm commitment to religious liberty, a historic freedom under constant and increasing assault by leftists. This could begin by reversing Obama’s disgusting transgender bathroom directive.
9. The Republican nominee should demonstrate a commitment to nominating and confirming judges that have a clear commitment to the rule of law and a public fidelity to the Constitution. The GOP nominee must show an understanding and respect for the proper role of the executive branch and the separation of powers. There must be an unwavering commitment to defeating the radical left’s assaults on the 1st and 2nd Amendments.
10. Trump should scrap the federal education bureaucracy by ending No Child Left Behind and shelving Common Core while embracing charter schools.
There should be no compromising on core conservative principles, and a sincere commitment to working with all three legs of the movement: Religious conservatives, national defense conservatives and free market libertarians.
If Mr. Trump wants the enthusiastic support of his base, without which he cannot succeed, a renewed and invigorated commitment to conservatism must be the overall theme of the Republican National Convention.
Where he must enter stage right.
Brent Bozell is chairman of ForAmerica, the nation's largest active online conservative network with nearly 8 million supporters.