Trump and the future of the GOP
Eddie Damstra | Thursday, March 22, 2018
In addition to a conservative advantage on the Supreme Court, the presidency, both houses of Congress, a majority of governorships and a majority of state legislatures are controlled by the Republican Party. Given the sheer number of Republican office-holders across the country, one would expect Republicans to feel confident in the security of their power and influence, at least for the foreseeable future. However, I believe that such a feeling of confidence in future success amongst Republicans would likely be rather erroneous. Republicans should hesitate to feel confident in holding significant power in the future due the political baggage from President Donald Trump that they will likely carry and likely are already carrying.
While many Republicans in Congress do not particularly like Trump or even agree with him on certain issues, most have refrained from explicitly distancing themselves from him. This is neither surprising nor pragmatically unwise. To distance yourself from the sitting president and from your party is essentially political suicide. However, this refusal of congressional Republicans and Republicans at large to make strong attempts at disassociating from Trump could, in my view, end up severely harming the future for Republican electoral success.
With each additional incendiary tweet or revealed detail about past scandalous behavior, Trump lessens not only his own reputation, but also the reputation of the Republican Party. Whether justified or not, people are associating much of the ethical ugliness of Trump with the Republican Party.
Young voters flocked to former-President Ronald Reagan partly due to his personal charisma and charm. His enchanting demeanor often left people feeling assured about the future. The success Reagan had as president obviously helped his popularity; however, even when running for the first time, he was able to garner a significant coalition of passionate voters, many of whom were young. Reagan’s charisma and success led to many young people gravitating to the conservative movement and the Republican Party. Ultimately, Reagan was able to blaze the trail for the future success of the Republican Party.
As a Republican, I fear Trump could have the opposite effect as Reagan. I worry that Trump’s offensive rhetoric and unethical behavior is turning off younger generations to the Republican party entirely. Instead of perceiving the Republican Party as a political coalition dedicated to notions of limited government and principles of individual liberty, many people, especially those of a younger age, may view the Republican party as a populist political group void of moral integrity.
It is true that the millennial generation is fairly liberal. However, there are plenty within this younger generation who believe in at least some of the tenants of conservatism.
There are many reasonable and respectable Republicans, such as Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, that are increasingly being maligned by the public due to their perceived association, or perhaps lack of disassociation, from Trump. This perceived association with Trump will likely mitigate the probability of such Republicans and the Republican Party at large from gaining the support of such younger members whom would otherwise have found the party and its candidates more preferable than the Democratic Party and its candidates.
Right now, on the surface, Republicans appear strong and securely in control of the majority of government. However, despite its perhaps unfairness, the weight of Trump’s offensiveness and immorality could potentially significantly weigh down Republicans in the future. The younger citizenry will likely be less inclined to be dedicated to the Republican Party if doing so suggests an association with or condoning of Trump’s behavior.
Unfortunately, I do not know if there is much the Republican Party can reasonably do about this problem. Disassociating from Trump right now would destroy any sense of unity or organization within the party and would eliminate the chance of electoral success in the immediate future. This column is not meant to offer suggestions for course of action on the behalf of Republicans, because, quite frankly, I have not a clue what they should do.
If the economy keeps doing well and Trump has a decently successful presidency, it is possible that all his baggage could be forgotten and the Republican Party could experience a thriving foreseeable future. For the sake of the future of the Republican Party, I truly hope such will be the case. Only time will tell.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.