BUSINESS + POLITICS
Another time for choosing: What’s next for the Republican Party?
28th April 2021
It’s January 20th 2016 and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is holding a campaign rally in Iowa. On-stage with him is Sarah Palin, giving her long anticipated endorsement. Palin, the former Vice-Presidential Republican candidate of the ’08 election, shouts into the microphone at full volume: “[Trump] is from the private sector; not a politician… can I get a hallelujah?!”
“Hallelujah!” the crowd shouts back to her, erupting into mass applause. Trump stands a few feet behind Palin, slightly awkwardly and with a tepid smile. The imagery of both Palin and Trump standing next to each other is iconic, not only because it is a rare instance of the two most influential Tea Party figures meeting together, but because both figures are widely regarded as what became a clean break from the old GOP (Grand Old Party) of George W. Bush and an end to the era of “compassionate conservatism”.
So how did we get here? Who is the next figurehead of the Republican Party? These are the questions most republicans are likely to be asking themselves now. But one thing is clear; the fiscally conservative GOP of the early 2000’s and newer, more radically populist “MAGA heads” (Make America Great Again) do not mix well. In fact, they cannot even co-exist. Not out of stubbornness, but because both sides are too different and inherently at odds with each other. One believes in lowering taxes, the other believes whole–heartedly that Hillary Clinton is a lizard person. One voter is a Wall Street banker, another is a deranged patriot in Viking horns and face paint who believes storming the Capitol will overturn election results. It’s dysfunctional family dynamics at their best.
Uncoincidentally, many members of the declining Bush-wing of the Republican Party have decided to step out of the limelight and retire in the aftermath of the January riots. These include senator of Missouri Roy Blunt, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Richard Burr of North Carolina, among others. Even Jimmy Gurulé, who was Under-Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said that the Republican Party he knew “no longer exists,” and what remains in its place is simply “the cult of Trump.” Other Bush-era members who have apprehensively chosen to stay, generally veer from directly criticising the former president out of fear for drawing his ire; despite the various muzzles placed on his social media accounts.
Most of these elected officials will be replaced by the likes of US representative Matt Gaetz and congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, both political newbies who have gotten their upstarts by riding the Trump wave of promoting conspiracies and falsehoods to gain votes. Whilst Taylor has already been expelled by congress for claiming that various school shootings and 9/11 were both staged, Gaetz remains: albeit, with a major sex trafficking scandal surrounding him. Most crucially, however, the support for these two candidates among their base does not seem to have dissipated. Taylor herself generated over $3.2 million in donations during her first three months in office, which is no small feat.
“In a now famous autopsy of Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama, in hopes of denying the 44th President a second term, analysts for the Republican National Convention argued that the party had to expand its appeal to people of colour if it hoped to be competitive in future national elections.”
It appears since then, however, that the party has gone in the complete opposite direction; Trump’s hostile takeover of the GOP in 2016 and solidification of Nixon’s southern strategy. Today, the Republican electorate is whiter and more male by far than its Democratic counterpart at a whopping 81%.
However, on analysis of US demographics, it appears this may be a damning strategy. America is progressively becoming “less-white”, and whilst Trump may have been able to point the sail in the right direction temporarily in 2016, he is sailing aboard the Titanic. If republicans continue down this uncertain road, campaigning for Q–Anon and conspiracy over trickle-down economics, they may continue to drive themselves into the ugly pit of irrelevancy. The same way the Whigs, the Federalists, the Democratic-Republicans, the American Party, all became redundant in the sign of changing times, this fate now seems more possible than ever for the current GOP.
In the face of becoming the white man’s party, the GOP has resorted to relying on methods such as gerrymandering and voter suppression that will enable it to wield power even from a minority position. These include two state bills in Georgia which would drastically limit early voting both in person and by mail, whilst also continuing their progression on closing polling stations: most of these in predominantly black areas. In a state with rapidly changing demographics, elected republican officials seem okay with the idea that they are an antagonistic party towards the health of democracy.
As of right now, it’s hard to imagine the future of the Republican Party as being anything but bleak. Its hell-bent nature on turning back the clock and “making it great again” may prove futile in the long run. However, for now, we can only hope not to remind ourselves of the fact that there are still many Trumps to go around, and that “Trumpism” is still very much alive with voters. But if the GOP can take one lesson from the democratic playbook, it should come from the words of Kennedy himself: “That those who look only to the past, are certain to miss the future”. Perhaps if republicans on both sides did not spend so much time looking in the rear-view mirror, they would realise that they are about to crash into impending traffic. Full steam ahead, cap’n.