Following the end of World War II, Republican and Democratic parties embraced two key principles. One was fiscal discipline even as the nation embarked on rebuilding a postwar society. The other was a foreign policy of coexisting with the Soviet Union while also countering its expansionist efforts that included the development of a nuclear arsenal.
As a result, the United States became not just the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, but also its acknowledged leader.
As the Trump administration and its congressional majority struggle to resolve new versions of those postwar issues, some of the GOP's own members worry the party is abandoning the principles that have long defined the party.
United by a common economic purpose, Republican and Democratic budget policies led to the emergence of a prosperous middle class. Today, that class is shrinking every year.
The Soviet Union, a wartime ally, collapsed in 1989, yet nearly 30 years later an expansionist Russia is engaged in spreading its power westward.
After every presidential election, Americans don't just expect the new administration to rely on its guiding principles, we expect it also to govern effectively by putting legislative points on the board.
The GOP's political and personal conflicts, however, have nearly neutered this administration's legislative efforts. Aside from confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice, Congress has not passed a single major piece of legislation since Donald Trump's inauguration.
As Congress struggles to fast-track a tax cut bill before any consideration of the fiscal 2018 budget, the GOP has effectively acknowledged its abandonment of heretofore sacrosanct fiscal prudence, as evidenced by House passage Thursday of its tax cut version.
Government funding runs out on Dec. 8. Although Congress could provide stopgap funding to prevent a fiscal default, lawmakers still face the prospect of giving birth to the legislative equivalent of a 25-pound baby — unless the tax cut effort miscarries. Already, one GOP senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, has announced his opposition to the Senate's version as currently constituted.
Complicating the problem, the Joint Committee on Taxation has said Congress could finance the tax plan by borrowing $1.5 trillion over 10 years, necessitated by tax reductions that benefit the rich and corporations. The tax cut would explode the deficit which is already at a near record.
Budget experts, including the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, say the GOP plan would jeopardize its usual conservative effort to provide tax relief to those who need it most without exponentially increasing the deficit and national debt.
The budget problem is a work in progress. But Trump's naive relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin is alarming on an unprecedented level.
Despite evidence of Russia's interference in our presidential election, Trump is unpersuaded, per his statement last week: "I believe that [Putin] feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election." Of course, nothing says veracity like the response of a former head of the KGB, Russia's CIA.
Former CIA Director John Brennan has suggested that Trump's deference to Putin likely conveyed his fear of what might come out in the Russian investigation.
Perhaps. But Trump's inability or refusal to grasp the danger of Putin's anti-West campaign creates serious fears that he is endangering American security.
Two things seem clear. Either Putin has concluded Trump is so easily manipulated that he is unworthy of the Kremlin's concern. Or he possesses damning information about Trump that, if released, could lead to his impeachment and removal from office.
When he was negotiating a new arms control agreement with the Soviet Union, President Reagan embraced a simple axiom: "Trust but verify." Good advice for Trump in his dealings with Putin. But only if he accepts it.
Michael Loftin is a former opinion editor of The Chattanooga Times.