GOP has many decisions to make moving forward

By: 
Khale Lenhart

 

Over the next couple years, the Republican Party will be making major choices that will determine the party’s future. The Republican Party will have to choose what its core values are, what types of dissent and debate it will accept within the party, and how it will deal with those who appeal to the worst of our nature. This week, Republicans in Congress made several high-profile decisions that implicate these debates about the future of our party. Republicans in Congress voted to retain Representative Cheney in her leadership position – even though she had differed from most other Republicans in Congress by voting for President Trump’s impeachment. Congressional Republicans also have not removed Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committees in Congress, despite her prior support for violence against members of the opposing party and her furthering of conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks and school shootings.

These two choices are emblematic of some of the choices the Republican Party will have to make going forward.  The GOP is currently shut out of control of all branches of national elected government.  During this time in the wilderness, the Republican Party must wrestle with why it got here and how it moves forward.  One thing that many people do not understand about American political parties is that they are not based on a single set of beliefs or political philosophies. Rather, they are coalitions of several sets of ideas which often share common ground, but do not uniformly agree on everything.  The Republican Party coalition includes economic conservatives, religious conservatives, libertarians, traditionalists, defense hawks, and more. Many of us can claim membership in at least one, if not multiple, parts of the Republican coalition. However, the coalitions often disagree.  Libertarians, law and order conservatives, and traditionalists all may have different ideas on how to address different issues.  That does not make any of them less Republican than the other. We must set aside the fallacy that there is only one Republican way of thinking and accept that our party is best when we are able to debate one another on policy issues without accusing the other of being less of a Republican.  

If we cannot abide dissenting views within our own party, we are likely setting ourselves on a path to a permanent minority party. The Republican Party without economic conservatives, or middle class suburbanites, or libertarians, or any of a number of other coalition members, is likely a Republican Party that does not win national elections. Currently, the two major parties are fairly evenly matched nationwide, but that is not always the case. Between 1933 and 1981, there were only four years when Democrats did not control both houses of Congress. Republicans should think strongly about what our nation would look like if Democrats held almost uninterrupted control between now and the year 2069.  If we want to avoid that fate, we must be able to function in a party with multiple points of view.

However, just because we must allow for differing views within our party, that does not mean that we should tolerate all views. Parties are coalitions, and coalitions must be based on some common ground.  The Republican Party must not allow there to be common ground with those who deal in lies and baseless conspiracy theories. We especially must not allow there to be common ground with those who would advocate for violence to undermine our political system. Regardless of what ends up happening with Representative Taylor Greene, the Republican Party cannot allow the baseless conspiracy theories and lies to take hold within our party. If we cannot accept truths – even truths we do not like – we will not remain a credible party for long.

The choices made in Congress this week are just some of the first choices our party will have to make moving forward. Through the choices we make, we must find ways to win back voters who left the party and must find ways to bring our message to new potential members.  We must articulate our common ground and acknowledge the room for debate in our party. We must acknowledge the hurts and fears of voters without giving in to those who would prey on those hurts and fears. Above all, we must do all of this in a way that speaks to our optimism about the future of America. Republicans believe in America.  We believe that society is better with low taxes and less regulation. We believe that people are better off when they can provide for themselves than when they must rely on government. We believe in justice and truth. We have not always lived up to our ideals, but we should aspire to do better.  If the Republican Party makes wise choices over the coming days, months, and years, we can remain a voice for those ideals, but we must make wise choices.

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