The current election cycle has been a disgrace for the Republican party. The candidates, led by Donald Trump, rely on racially-charged speeches and violent rhetoric to generate support at their rallies. The debates often lack any real substance and remind viewers of a locker room environment as the candidates exchange insults rather than debate ideas. The new direction of the Republican party is the culmination of years of decline. The moderate conservatism of Reagan has disappeared and been replaced by radicalism and animosity. Regardless of the outcome of the 2016 election, it is time for the GOP to look in the mirror and redefine itself.
The remaining favorites for the nomination, Trump and Cruz, embody this ugly new face of the Republican party. These candidates appeal to increasingly radical far-right voters, and are alienating those who identify as either moderate conservatives or Independents. The traditional Republican ideals of small government, low taxes and free enterprise are now overshadowed by the issues of race, immigration, and American exceptionalism.
In this election, Trump has consistently made headlines for his extreme ideas including—but by no means limited to—building a wall to isolate potential Mexican refugees fleeing from inhumane and desperate living conditions and creating a database that tracks all Muslims in America. His aggressive ideas have made him the frontrunner for the GOP and have encouraged his followers to partake in violence at his rallies. Frankly, the violence experienced at his events exposes the belligerent nature of his followers and the hatred endorsed by this new Republican ideology.
The popularity of this extremism, and fundamentally this recent development of the Republican party can be traced to the lack of community in America. At first sight, the country is more connected than any other point in its history: the internet and cellphones provide constant updates on global affairs and allow people to constantly communicate with each other. But, communities as a whole are dwindling; the modern suburbs often lack the intimacy and fellowship of neighborhoods in the past.
These communities do not expose its residents to a diverse group of people. Instead, they isolate people of similar societal classes from everybody else and make them unable to relate to people of different backgrounds. As a result of their inability to connect with different people from their societies, many Republican voters fall for the discriminatory ideas promoted by the current Republican candidates.
These developments have allowed both Trump and Cruz to get away with preying on voters’ mistrust and fear to get votes. The absence of a sense of community led to the success of the candidates through the primary elections, but will destroy them in the general election. If the radicalism of this year’s election persists and continues to define the GOP, they are doomed. As long as the Republican party is characterized by hate-speech, there is no chance of electing a Republican president.
In order to appeal to the general public and have a shot at winning a general election, Republicans must appeal to a more diversified voter base across the nation. They cannot only appeal to those isolated in suburbs or the traditional Republican base. If the Republican party truly wants a President among its ranks, it must find a way to distance itself from its current extremism. In order to become powerful in the current political atmosphere, the Republicans must do more than return to their former moderate position, they must adopt more open-minded policies toward social issues.
The current social platform of the GOP is its greatest weakness. Even before the racism of Trump, Republicans lost voters due to irrational views on social issues such as abortion rights, immigration reform, and health care reform. Mitt Romney, perhaps the most electable of the recent Republican candidates, represented the future of what the Republican party could be: a fiscally conservative party primarily interested with the growth of the middle-class. Nonetheless, he lost numerous votes in the general election due to his views on important social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
The GOP needs a serious overhaul after the disaster that was the 2016 election. Many of the changes necessary—like adopting more progressive positions on social issues—will not sit well with many Republicans, but it is essential for the revival of the party.
Spencer Swensrud PO '19 is originally from Bethesda, MD. He plans on majoring in economics and politics and plays defense back for the Pomona-Pitzer football team and fullback for the Claremont Colleges Rugby team.