The Future of the Republican Party
February 15, 2021
With the inauguration of President Biden and both chambers of congress under Democratic control, the future of the Republican Party has been thrown into question. Which way will the Republicans go? Will they reject Trump and make a return to their pre-Trump self, or embrace Trump as the future of the party?
Trump was the result of a broken political system. As time passed, the Republican Party began to appear more elitist and uninterested in helping the average American. While this point is debatable, Trump still portrayed himself as the savior for these Americans who had been left to fend for themselves. Trump was a quintessential populist and used this support to propel himself to the presidency, and his methods have been arguably successful. The rising number of anti-establishment Republicans has certainly been an indicator of Trump’s continued popularity. Another metric is that, in this past election, Trump did better with Hispanics and Blacks than he did in 2016 . In an increasingly diverse America, it is paramount for Republicans to gain support from these reliably Democratic voting blocs.
Despite all these positives, Trump is still Trump. Trump peddles conspiracy theories, is unabashedly rude, does not care for politeness, and is repugnant to many. Even though he got the second most votes ever, he still lost by over 7 million votes. He is decidedly anti-science and can never admit that he was wrong. Thus, the Republican Party is now in a difficult position: choose Trump, or embrace the neo-liberal views of the old Republican Party.
What was this old party? Marked by free markets and (supposedly) limited government, including low taxes and low spending, this Republican Party sought to ally itself with European nations and expand the influence of the United States. Although Trump has not broken ties with Europe or stopped the wars in the Middle East, he has taken steps in that direction. These views of globalism and interventionism have certainly alienated many segments of the population. The hands-off approach has not and cannot persuade voters. The wars in the Middle East have certainly been unpopular with isolationists who want the government to do more for them. Trump has certainly appealed to this demographic. Another demographic that Republicans have not had, but Trump brought along, were the protectionists: putting American jobs, and American citizens, before any others. Strict immigration policy and protectionist trade deals have brought many supporters, but at the same time have made some Republican voting blocs, such as suburbanites, uncomfortable. As the party embraces Trump, they are less concerned about spending and helping out other countries and more concerned about the growing demographic and cultural shifts within the country.
The Republican Party is now stuck in a fork in the road. Can Trump’s success be replicated without him? Is Trumpism a viable way to build a coalition? Is any short term success marred by decades of declining support? I believe that Trump is not the way forward. In an increasingly progressive period, the Republican Party must swing back to the middle. But even this is dangerous and uncertain. Is the old Republicanism even viable anymore? Or is it too out of touch to ever win again? Either path will require great retrospection within the party. Trumpism is a dangerous political movement; it is a double edged sword that can either help or hurt Republicans’ chances in the future.
The views expressed within this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of Cistercian or The Cistercian Informer.