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The Republican party: reaching a crossroads

| Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The 2016 presidential campaign season and the subsequent first couple months of Donald Trump’s presidency have highlighted the ever-growing reality of a fragmenting Republican party. While the GOP is attempting to put on a facade of unity, many of Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric seem to be dividing the party. Populist and isolationist rhetoric have become accepted by some within the Republican party. Others see such policies and rhetoric as antithetical to the principles of conservatism, the ideological foundation of the Republican party. Ultimately, the future of the Republican party will inevitably involve reconciling these divisions.

Personally, I hope the Republican party maintains its traditionally conservative underpinning. I believe the philosophical foundations of conservatism are what make the Republican party distinguishable from the Democratic party. The Republican party ought to strengthen its role as the party of liberty. This means embracing free markets and consequently endorsing free trade. It also means upholding the freedom of the press and cherishing the sanctity of the entire Constitution. Unfortunately, there are many people within the current Republican party, including the president himself, who have contradicted such conservative principles.

This article is not meant to be an opposition piece to Donald Trump. While I certainly have been rather disappointed with Donald Trump’s rhetoric and, at times, his policy proposals, I believe it is entirely too early to dismiss the possibility of him being very successful as president. Rather, this article is meant to demonstrate my frustration with a growing segment of the Republican party — a segment which Donald Trump seems to have spearheaded, whether intentionally or otherwise.

Some have coined this segment of people the “alt-right.” Others have simply called them “populists.” Its members range from White House chief strategist Steve Bannon to the flamboyant British provocateur Milo Yiannopolous. The most dangerous feature of this group is undoubtedly its claim to be Republican in nature despite reprimanding many of the core principles of the Republican party and conservatism as a whole. Many within the group oppose free trade, perpetuate identity politics and seemingly place white nationalism over individual liberty.

Just recently, Tomi Lahren, a commentator for “The Blaze” and a person seen by many as a representative of millennial “Trumpism,” voiced support for the pro-choice cause on “The View.” Lahren claimed her pro-choice perspective came from her background as a constitutional conservative. When I watched this, I was outraged. To claim that constitutional conservatism justifies the practice of abortion is dangerously false and disgustingly perverse. True conservatism is concerned chiefly with liberty, and more specifically the liberty for all. This means that all people should be protected under the law, even the unborn. The Constitution guarantees this right to life for all. Ultimately, “The Blaze” seemed to recognize this, as Lahren has been suspended for her remarks.

Due to her frighteningly passionate desire for a border wall and unfounded backing of protectionist economic policies, Lahren has been a staunch supporter of Donald Trump for a long time. She dedicates time at the end of each of her shows to give her “Final Thoughts.” Most often, these segments include her angrily commenting on race relations or spouting her disgust with illegal immigrants. Rarely, however, does she actually say anything of conservative substance. Nevertheless, she claims to pride herself in championing conservatism.

This is the problem. There is a growing faction of people who are claiming to be conservatives who simply do not fall in line with conservatism. These people resort to white nationalism and identity politics instead of defending morally sound principles. As a member of the Republican party and, more importantly, a conservative, I hope the GOP prevents this strand of unprincipled populism from pervading the entire party moving forward. The future of the Republican party should not involve spouting vitriolic, populist rhetoric. It should involve standing for conservative principles, amongst which primarily include individual liberty and limited government.

The Republican party has reached a crossroads. It must choose between the vision of the party presented by the “alt-right” and the traditionally conservative vision of the party. For the good of the party, and truly the good of the nation, I pray that the latter vision is the one pursued.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Eddie Damstra

Eddie is a senior from Orland Park, Illinois. He is majoring in Economics and Political Science with a minor in Constitutional Studies and plans on pursuing law school after his time as an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame.

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