Modern Republican party needs revamping

As someone who’s dedicated more than a little time to pontificating about how conservatives need to change up their economic and social messages to be competitive in the future, the 2016 Republican wave was a shock for me. It’s forcing me to reconsider a lot of what I thought before the election. Nowadays, the market for reformish ideas on the center-right would appear to be slimmer than it was on Nov. 7th.

With Donald Trump in the White House and Republican majorities in the House, the Senate and the statehouses, many will come to the conclusion that Republicans won this election because of their ideas and innate appeal among the electorate. By that line of thinking, the new Republican majority, led by Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will more likely than not believe they have a mandate to do what they’ve been promising to do — roll back government regulations and transfer programs, cut taxes on the rich and on corporations, repeal and replace Obamacare and more. The conservative agenda post-Obama has been articulated throughout the Obama presidency, and it will now get its day in the sun.

I don’t particularly like this agenda, and of course I have my own 10-point plan for GOP policy reform I’d be pushing if I were in any place to push it. But my own personal preferences are not my only reservation with the current GOP majority’s agenda.

The big thing is, there’s a lot of room for policy overreach on the Ryan-McConnell side, and a lot of room for buffoonery and incompetence on the Trump side. The last time an incompetent Republican President and supply-side Republican Congress tried to slash the safety net, cut back critical sector regulations and lower taxes on the very wealthy was back under President Bush, and the experiment did not go well — most of the plans failed, and the Republicans lost Congress shortly thereafter. There’s no reason to expect, should the GOP push through such an agenda now, that the same won’t happen again.

I fully expect the GOP — the Ryan-McConnell side, at least — to overplay their policy hand, sensing a mandate that isn’t there. If that happens, it’ll get a well-deserved whooping from the Democrats in 2018 and 2020, the big question being what the now-distraught Democratic Party has evolved into by then.

Meanwhile, as The New York Times columnist David Brooks noted, President Trump will more likely than not stumble and tweet his way into an impeachment-worthy scandal of some sort, if his inexperience and incompetence don’t destroy his reputation first. Ironically, Trump’s probably the most “moderate” Republican on economics in power today, opposing entitlement cuts and supporting massive spending increases in infrastructure and the like. We have yet to see whether those initiatives will overpower the Ryan-McConnell ones, but it’s not too far out there to assume Trump might soon eliminate any presidential efficacy he might presently enjoy.

So on both ends, the house of cards that is the Ryan-McConnell-Trump Republican majority in government rests on shaky foundations, and will likely collapse sooner rather than later at the hands of the same angry voters who delivered it. I’ve gotten most of my predictions wrong these past few years, of course, but given the President-elect’s ego and Congress’ ideological disposition to destroy rather than to create, I have a good feeling about this one.

The question is, what comes next?

A lot of the answer to that rests on the question of where the Democrats go from here. If they reform their center and start doing well in the Heartland, we might see a Bill Clinton-like resurgence. If they push further and further left economically and culturally, as many of their activists are suggesting they do, there will be a wide-open space in the political center, between the white nationalism of Trump, the supply-side priesthood of Ryan, and the progressive,  soft socialism of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

That space in the center, historically contested, could be fertile ground for new, reform-oriented conservatives and centrists to make headway. I’m not talking about Reformicons, those East Coast policy wonks who present a warmed-over Reaganism of funding gimmicks and tax contraptions. Their ideas are OK, but it seems that whoever exploits the gap will have to take the basics of the Trump equation — anti-elitism, economic nationalism, government reformism — soften them, expand their appeal to nonwhite population, and build on the ashes of Trump and Ryan from there. Governor-Elect Eric Greitens of Missouri, a Democrat-turned-Republican who ran on a reformist message, might be one candidate to lead this sort of charge.

The contours of such a new center/center-right are at best hazy and speculative right now, and won’t materialize unless the current GOP majority fails miserably. Assuming that that will happen, here’s to hoping some reform-minded anti-Trump Republicans get together in the coming months and plot next steps to build a shadow conservatism for these dark days. When the house of cards comes tumbling down, their time will come.

Luke Phillips is a senior majoring in international relations. His column,“Tory Men,” ran every other Wednesday.

3 replies
  1. garyfouse
    garyfouse says:

    And what about the Democratic party, which lost everything so badly with a candidate who was corrupt to her very core? Look at the man they are about to anoint DNC chair, a radical, anti-Semite named Keith Ellison.

    Trump has his share of flaws, but you totally ignore the flaws of Mrs Clinton.

  2. Benjamin Roberts
    Benjamin Roberts says:

    There are good and bad theories posited in this article. We don’t yet know if a Trump administration ultimately will be positive or negative, but the overwhelming reality is that the Democrats did not loose because their “message” wasn’t heard loudly or broadly enough… They lost because their message was soundly rejected. Much of America… indeed, roughly half, is sick and tired of the leftist rhetoric that has reached all-time madness. Americans are sick of illegal immigration, particularly Democrats’ love affair with illegals, and their outright support of them (…drivers licenses, health benefits, sanctuary cities etc). Americans are sick of hearing elected officials like Governor Brown and Mayor Garcetti proudly saying the illegals “can now come out of the shadows” and “drive to their jobs”. Americans are sick of the double standard applied: One set of standards for illegals who wish to drive, or attend college… and another for citizens or legal immigrants.

    Beyond all of that, Americans are sick and tired of the celebration of so-called “transgenders”, people who clearly have a sad but very real mental disorder – because not identifying with your gender is indeed a disorder. Americans are sick of Democrats’ wholesale abandonment of science in their suggestion that gender is “fluid” or a “state of mind”. Americans are sick of the willful confusion between sexuality and gender, whereby sexuality occurs across a spectrum, but gender is indeed binary. Americans are sick of being told that their colleagues can use whatever bathroom they “identify” with, and that the rest of us must just deal with it.

    In short, Americans are sick of being told they are xenophobic if they want immigration enforced.. or ignorant and sexist if they’re not buying into the transgender lie … or homophobic if they believe marriage is something straight people do by definition. Americans are sick of being marginalized by these labels. They are sick of the Democrats have shifted from a message of “tolerance and acceptance” to one of “promotion and celebration”.

    This election represents a pendulum shift. Democrats have moved us too far to the left over the last several years, and for better or worse, Trump was the mouthpiece that represented a shift back to the right. And let’s be clear, there is nothing “alt right” about the above. These positions are easily held by fair minded, loving and intelligent Americans who are ready for a return to thoughtful and reasoned thinking.

  3. Thekatman
    Thekatman says:

    My, my, kids are so naive. If anytning, conservative Republicans think Trump will be too moderate. Name calling is an attack the Left n uses when they don’t have any basis for commentary. Give this Admin a chance. The last time the GOP dominated like this was during the Reagan years and the economy was comp,e tell energized, UT it took 2 yrs to do it, considering the economy under Carter was in little to no growth mode, like the Obama yrs, 2 high from a GDP perspective are the worse 8 yrs since 1929.

    Trump won because most Americans want smaller governemnt, lower taxes, a thriving economy, better healthcare than the garbage of the ACA. The overwhelming and dominant win by the GOP over the federal, state and local elections is due to the fact that liberal economics and governemnt policies do not work, are destructive to everyday American citizens, and we’re very concerned about where the Democratic Party and leadership wanted to take us; the future of our country down a road that we do not want to travel on.

    The Dem Party has become the New American Socialist Party with POTUS who is aligned with the alt-left and the terrorist organization known as the Muslim Brotherhood. Just look at what is happening in Europe, and 3ven in Dearborn MI. This isn’t a passive refuge problem. It is a designed plan of invasion by the Islamic jihad to take over any lqnd, country, governemnt, locality and make it theire. There is no merging of cultures or assimilation into the host country’s society. It is like a virus and a very nasty virus.

    These are reasons why the Dems lost.

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