Political observers and partisan activists debate whether Donald Trump or some other Republican candidate has the best chance of beating a Democratic rival in the 2024 presidential election. But earlier this month, Trump demonstrated that just as he did in 2016, he is raising campaign issues central to America’s future, issues that no other candidate is talking about. The latest flare-ups of what have been nearly eight years of relentless, orchestrated prosecution of Trump are a massive distraction but don’t change this reality.
Candidate Trump in 2016 raised issues Michael Anton adroitly summarized in “The Flight 93 Election” as “open borders, lower wages, outsourcing, de-industrialization, trade giveaways, and endless, pointless, winless war.” Making these neglected issues the themes of his campaign, Trump beat the odds and won the election. These are now among the most public and polarizing issues in America. They may be unresolved, but they are now central instead of peripheral.
This time, Trump’s 2024 campaign website includes under his agenda a list of the issues that have defined him since his political debut. They include deregulation, opportunity zones, fair trade, reshoring of industry, energy dominance, secure borders, reclaiming national sovereignty, war on drug cartels, law and order, military readiness, parents’ rights, ending censorship, election integrity, and more. Anyone questioning the coherence of Trump’s policy agenda is invited to read this list, which is long on specifics. But in a video released on his campaign website on March 4, Trump looked into the future.
The Future According to Trump
Calling it Agenda 47—presumably based on his aspiration to become America’s 47th president—Trump challenges Americans to once again “pursue big dreams and daring projects.” He points to previous national accomplishments, such as the settlement of the frontier, the interstate highway system, and the deployment of communications satellites. In what he characterized as America’s next “quantum leap” in progress, Trump calls for a national contest for urban developers to submit designs for new “Freedom Cities,” with 10 winning designs to be allocated federal land for their construction.
Trump then enumerates several related goals, including calling for American industry to win the race to commercialize airborne mobility, revitalization of economically depressed regions by investing in the manufacturing assets we’re going to need as we disconnect from China, and initiatives to lower the cost of a car and lower the cost of a single-family home. Trump also wants “baby bonuses” to encourage a new baby boom in America. Finally, Trump says he would challenge the state governors to make cities and towns more livable and build monuments to American heroes.
At the conclusion of Trump’s four-minute video, he vows to “dramatically increase living standards and build a future that brings our country together through excitement, opportunity, and success.”
Trump is on to something. Every one of his goals is a driver of productivity and innovation, starting with new cities. Why shouldn’t the federal government allow for the privatization of a mere 0.5 percent of federal land in the United States? That would be roughly 5,000 square miles which, if split evenly and allocated as squares, would be 10 new cities, each 22 miles on a side.
What’s intriguing about this proposal is that at its core it is a libertarian notion—turning public land back over to the private sector. Digging deeper, it invites Americans to create 10 futuristic scenarios for urban development on a blank slate. The mix of public and private funding could be left up to the individual participating states. How these cities planned to manage their transportation, energy, food, water, and waste management challenges could differ greatly, and how successful each of them would be could then become an instructive model for urban revitalization all over America.
Red states might strike a balance between innovation and sticking with more cost-effective conventional building codes and enabling infrastructure, whereas in blue states, one might expect new cities that aspire to become models of sustainability, hopefully in sufficiently practical applications. Plenty of innovations are at our disposal today, including using laminated timber for construction of high-rise and mid-rise structures, innovative ways to reuse water and harvest nutrients from wastewater, indoor agriculture, and radical expansion of transportation conduits, both underground and in the air.
It Might Be “The Jetsons”
Even some of Trump’s media detractors acknowledged that decentralized air mobility is just around the corner. Within a decade or less, we will begin seeing small passenger drones ferrying people from point to point within and between cities. The surprising simplicity of the technology, leveraging what we’re learning from unmanned drones and self-driving cars, may eventually bring the prices down within reach of the average consumer.
And Trump is absolutely right when he urges Americans to pioneer this technology, which will yield valuable technological spin-offs, relieve traffic congestion on the ground, and open up otherwise inaccessible real estate.
Several years ago, discussing his groundbreaking (pun intended) tunneling company, Elon Musk said, “the construction industry is one of the only sectors in our economy that has not improved its productivity in the last 50 years.” While Musk might have overstated his case, new developments in materials science, robotics, electronics, communications, and systems integration promise to revolutionize the construction industry. And again, to paraphrase Trump, that revolution is going to happen in America, or it is going to happen somewhere else.
The fact that we are developing the capacity to use new materials and technologies to build and manufacture at far lower costs brings credibility to Trump’s challenge to reduce the cost of cars, single-family homes, and the cost of living generally. Trump’s commitment to deregulation—clearly demonstrated in his first term—perhaps along with new and bipartisan antitrust legislation, could be the key to a new era of competition as major manufacturers and developers adopt new technologies to create 21st-century versions of the Model T concept: cars and homes that families with a single wage earner can nonetheless afford. This is a goal worthy of a great nation.
From Baby Bust to Baby Boom
Which brings us to one of the most urgent issues in America that nobody’s talking about: the Baby Bust. It’s been a long time coming. In 1988, observing that baby boomers were not having children at replacement levels, demographer Ben Wattenberg wrote The Birth Dearth: What Happens When People in Free Countries Don’t Have Enough Babies?. His book was prophetic. It turns out the entire developed world, including the United States, is experiencing a population crash. In the United States, the severity of the problem is temporarily obscured by the fact that baby boomers (Americans born between 1946 and 1964, years when birth rates were unusually high) are only beginning to reach the end of their natural life spans, and because since 1988 the United States has admitted tens of millions of immigrants.
A population crash in the United States is no joke. Our current replacement rate of 1.6 births per woman means that for every 1 million Americans today, there will only be 440,000 great-grandchildren. Put another way, if the time span of one generation averages 25 years, based on current birth rates, two-thirds of America’s total population will be wiped out within the next century. There are only two ways to stop this: mass replacement of the population through immigration or increased native birth rates.
For Trump to launch a serious national dialogue about what it is going to take to increase birth rates in America is perhaps the most futurist oriented, and the most consequential, of all the new issues he’s raising. Trump is proposing “baby bonuses” in the form of financial incentives for couples to have more children.
But Trump’s other new priorities also should make it easier for young Americans to choose to have more children: creating room for growth in new cities, creating new job opportunities by reshoring manufacturing jobs, stimulating new technologies and boosting productivity with air mobility, and by making homes and cars affordable.
Bringing Americans Together
Trump’s final priority, echoing themes he’s explored before, adds an intangible incentive for people to form families. As he put it, we will “bring our country together through excitement, opportunity, and success.”
There is a shared excitement created by beautifying America’s urban spaces, by making cities and towns more livable, and by building monuments to American heroes. It makes people feel like they’re part of something big and worthwhile. It is a unifying force with a natural attractive power completely missing from the leftist obsession to make “inclusion” a mandate.
Vivek Ramaswamy, who has announced his intention to compete with Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, seems pretty solid on many issues. He has repeatedly stated that one of the biggest challenges facing Americans today is to define “what does it mean to be an American?” Trump, with the new issues he’s bringing before the American people, is answering that question. To be optimistic, successful, and excited by what promises to be a dazzling future.
Trump is not only raising the core issues facing Americans today that no other politician has the vision or courage to raise. This is also the side of Trump that nobody acknowledges outside of his own supporters. Trump has indulged in sometimes overwrought counterattacks in the ongoing and perpetual campaign of character assassination against him. But nonetheless, he quietly and tirelessly worked for solutions during his entire presidency, from funding black colleges and eliminating excessive federal regulations to encouraging medical freedom and implementing criminal justice reform. It’s a long list. Now Trump is identifying new challenges and proposing big solutions.
It is healthy and necessary to debate who may be the best standard bearer for the GOP in November 2024 and who may be the candidate most likely to win. But Donald Trump has again defined the territory over which that contest will be fought, and for that, once again, he has done us all a tremendous service.