What The GOP Must Learn From Europe's Conservatives

BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 1: German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech during a joint press conference after his meetin
BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 1: German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech during a joint press conference after his meeting with Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic (not seen) at German Chancellery in Berlin, Germany on March 1, 2016. (Photo by Mehmet Kaman/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is now the face of the Republican Party and it appears that none of the remaining five candidates is looking to reform the party the right way. The necessity to modernise and moderate couldn't be more substantial right now.

To achieve electoral success, the party must learn how to win, by learning from Europe. For reformed European conservatism is electable, and it is to be found in the one-nation conservatism of Prime Minister David Cameron and in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party. It is a conservatism that not only defends markets and low taxation, but also encompasses within that the defense of economic inclusion, social modernization and environmental protection. It means defending and modestly reforming the welfare state, not destroying it. It means siding with the scientific consensus and facing the reality of climate change, not dismissing or flat-out denying it. It also means taking a reformed approach to social issues.

Though it would be desirable to ultimately see both political parties advocate some form of a single-payer health insurance like every other developed Western country, one has to be realistic and say it'll be difficult for Democrats to even get on that bandwagon, let alone Republicans.

But at election time, European conservatives pledge that they will protect the state healthcare provision and perhaps pledge to make modest reforms. Cameron's Conservatives since coming to power in 2010 have protected spending on the National Health Service(NHS) and pledged in their winning 2015 manifesto that they would make an additional £8 billion in NHS investments by 2020.

Because the NHS is so popular, it's conventional wisdom that any party rallying for the dismantling of the NHS is doomed to electoral defeat. This has historically been the case, as Fareed Zakaria in his article 'Center the serious place in politics' rightly notes that even the radical reformer Margaret Thatcher during the ideologically polarising period of the 1980s protected NHS spending while she was prime minister. She didn't completely transform, scrap, destroy or replace the existing healthcare system.

What a far cry from today's Republican candidates.

Every one of the five remaining Republican candidates support the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, including Ben Carson who stated that "Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."

The extremism extends.

Every candidate also supports the repeal of the estate tax, and all but Trump support the elimination of the capital gains tax. Ted Cruz calls for the elimination of five federal departments, the abolition of the IRS and regards Social Security a "Ponzi scheme". Trump and Rubio support $11.2 trillion and $8.4 trillion in tax cuts respectively over the next decade while magically and simultaneously promising to balancing the budget.

The radical consensus is found too on environmental policy, where the profound challenges of climate change are brushed aside. When 97% of climate scientists agree on human-induced climate change, it might be wise to side with the consensus. A commonly repeated phrase by some Republican candidates, notably Marco Rubio, has been that they're not scientists. Rubio is indeed not a scientist, but why not just have the humility to listen to the scientists?

In contrast, European conservatives like Cameron and Merkel are committed in principle to confronting climate change. They don't deny it, they accept it, and state the importance in addressing it. In his recent speech at the Paris Climate Conference, David Cameron stated that, "instead of making excuses tomorrow to our children and grandchildren, we should be taking action against climate change today." Angela Merkel offered similar remarks in Paris, and is celebrated in Germany as the "climate chancellor" in her courage to phase out nuclear energy by 2022.

Centrism is not only more respectable than right-wing radicalism, it's more electable. John Kasich is labelled as the most moderate candidate of the five, and he polls most favourably when up against Hillary Clinton, according to Real Clear Politics. Donald Trump who is arguably the most extreme candidate, polls the least favourably.

Ultimately, the party ought to have, but doesn't, as it's frontrunner someone who not only demands low taxation and limited government, but also advocates modest, not overly-transformative reforms to the existing healthcare system. A candidate that acknowledges the reality of climate change, and offers compelling solutions. A candidate that endorses social and economic inclusiveness.

The success of reformed European conservatism is the blueprint for how the Republican Party ought to reform. Such reform towards centrism is essential, for the Republican Party to again be electable and respectable.