Tuesday night was anything but a celebration for conservatives. For those of us who believe in free trade, immigration, close contact with our allies and the just treatment of women and minority groups, Donald Trump’s sweep in Indiana marked a period of mourning and reflection. How and why did the party of Lincoln reach such a state that Donald Trump — a man who has supported gun control, free trade restrictions, affirmative action, single-payer health care and tax increases — ended up as our nominee? The answer is simple: the Republican Party lost its way.
The Bush years were the beginning of the Republican exile to the land of insanity. Under the Clinton Administration, Republicans worked with the president to cut taxes, balance the budget and reform welfare. Yet when President George W. Bush ascended to the presidency, Republicans seemed to lose their sense of independence. Waves of conservative lawmakers blindly followed President Bush to pass legislation that increased federal influence in education (No Child Left Behind), expanded the size and scope of the Executive Branch (the Iraq Resolution) and grew the social services state (Medicare Part D). At the same time, Congressional Republicans allowed Bush to spend the nation into oblivion, as the president’s expensive policies and poorly handled wars eliminated the surplus and doubled the national debt.
Then the nation got Obama. While the president’s spending and and federal expansion far exceed that of Bush Administration, at least Obama didn’t pretend to be a conservative. In the wake of the Obama presidency, Republicans on Capitol Hill came up with an ingenious idea: to block every piece of legislation that the president put forward. It didn’t matter whether the legislation helped the country or not, Congressional Republicans just needed to make sure that Obama failed at every possible endeavor. They did not seek to follow Newt Gingrich’s model of working with a Democratic president to actually find some area of common ground. Instead, the Republican leadership seemed to think that the complete and abysmal failure of Obama would somehow resurrect the party.
Just as the party developed this brilliant plan, they decided to embrace the Tea Party. Of course, the Tea Party (understandably) hated every part of the established Republican Party. They believed that a new generation of leaders should emerge to help “shake up” Washington. The only problem: the movement gave the party candidates that couldn’t win. The Tea Party gave us Christine “I’m not a witch” O’Donnell, Todd “Legitimate rape” Akin, and Sharron “Let’s take down the government with guns” Angle. And when these horrifying candidates emerged, common sense Republicans did nothing to stop them —we did not stand up and condemn them, we did not vote against them and we did not publicly denounce them. No, the party poured hundreds of millions of dollars into hopeless (and quite frankly immoral) campaigns. The party wasted unimaginable amounts of money, and lost the country in the process.
Then, of course, once Republicans assumed a position of leadership when they took the House in 2010, they got nothing done. They opposed Obamacare but provided no plausible alternative, pushed back on tax increases but provided no concrete plans on how to balance the budget, and voted down every jobs plan but failed to outline a way to rebuild the economy. In short, the party was anything but ambitious, anything but proactive, anything but conservative.
And now, it is only fitting that my party now has to face Donald Trump as its nominee. We deserve it. For the past 16 years we have done nothing but spend, whine and complain and then spend some more. No wonder why people are angry.
But I do have hope for my party. It wasn’t the Democrats who freed the slaves, pushed for women’s suffrage, won the Cold War or ended the misery of the Carter years. Yes, the Republicans do indeed have a past that is just as noble and proud as our liberal counterparts. Yet if the Republican Party is to succeed, it must change its ways.
First, the party must be willing to embrace men who truly espouse conservative ideals and actually want to accomplish something. John Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spearheaded the idea of endless conflict with the Obama Administration — so it is only fitting that they should be removed from positions of power (thankfully we’ve already removed Boehner). In their place, younger men and women, such as Sen. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), should emerge as the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill (thankfully we’ve already got Ryan as Speaker). Furthermore, the party should embrace the governors. Though Congressional Republicans have accomplished nothing, governors such as Gov. Susana Martinez (R-N.M.), Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio), Gov. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.), and Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-Nev.) have made significant impacts on the nation’s economic and social health.
Finally, and most importantly, the party needs to embrace a new platform. The platform must provide a way to lift up the nation’s poor, deal with growing race tensions, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, improve education and create job growth. While Republicans debate issues like a wall on the Mexican border, the Democrats are fighting over issues that actually affect the daily lives of average Americans. We must provide a plausible, concrete alternative. And though I think the Republicans will get a shellacking in November, it is my hope that such a defeat will help to reboot the party.
Michael Glanzel is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cornell Shrugged appears alternate Thursdays this semester.