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This week we ran a very thoughtful article from Ryan Streeter on how Republicans have responded to proposals from the left on such issues as minimum wage and tax policies that seek to give more money to families with children. He notes that Tom Cotton and Mitt Romney, as well as Josh Hawley, have proposed alternative minimum wage hikes and that Romney has formulated a plan that would provide taxpayer-financed child allowances to families. Streeter criticizes this “leftward drift” among conservatives and suggests that workforce training and other assistance would be a better use of resources.

That’s a fairly standard conservative argument. But I mention it because earlier this month, our own David French wrote favorably about Romney’s plan, saying it was pro-family and pro-life, which are also some pretty obvious conservative values. We don’t make a habit of running point-counterpoint articles in The Dispatch. They can be gimmicky, and authors tend to fall back on convenient talking points rather than really thinking through an issue. But complex issues have to be studied from different angles, and the best solutions come from rigorous examinations.

The conservative movement is at a crossroads. One of the many criticisms of Donald Trump from Trump-skeptical Republicans was that Trump wasn’t actually conservative—not just in temperament, but also from a policy perspective. He’s out of office now, but the populism he espoused has taken hold, and that has created a wide gulf. 

Building a strong conservative movement will require healthy, robust debate on any number of topics. We need smart people making good-faith arguments and debating differences within the movement just as much as we need them countering liberal proposals that are harmful or ill-advised. What is the best way to deal with illegal immigration? How should we handle relations with such adversaries as Russia, China, and Iran? The pandemic has exposed major flaws with public education. Can we use this opportunity to make fundamental improvements?

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