Op-Ed: It’s Time for Republicans to Leave Trump Behind

Op-Ed%3A+It%27s+Time+for+Republicans+to+Leave+Trump+Behind

Donald Hall, Senior Editor

Donald J. Trump is no longer the President of the United States. The results of the 2020 general election suggest that this will be a relief to roughly half of the country and a disappointment to the other half. However, the reactions of American voters should not be the most important takeaway from the most recent presidential election. Instead, it should be the realization that what the Republican Party has become under the leadership of President Trump is not sustainable if they have any realistic hopes of winning major elections from here on out. In fact, his baseless claims of a fraudulent presidential election may have already prevented Republicans from keeping control of the Senate. By giving credence to these claims, he likely caused his Georgia supporters to question the integrity of their election system ahead of the January Senate runoff. This realization must be had before any more damage, like what occurred in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, can be inflicted upon the conservative movement and the country as a whole.  

As all politicians do, then-candidate Trump outlined dozens of policies across 2015 and 2016 that he would work to implement if he were elected president. However, much like the vast majority of politicians across human history, he turned his back on a great many of them. On the campaign trail, Trump said that he would reduce the Department of Education’s budget and eradicate Common Core from America’s school systems. Neither of those things happened. He claimed that as president, he would be a proponent of the Second Amendment, but under his administration, measures such as nation-wide bump-stock bans and repeated attempted bans on pistol braces have been taken, and he has shown no resistance to so-called red-flag laws, which deprive legal firearm owners of their constitutional right to due process. Finally, Trump told supporters and press alike that he would not only tow the typical conservative talking point of cutting spending, but that he would work to completely eliminate the national debt held by the American government. Not only did he fail to deliver on these claims, but he oversaw a massive increase in deficit spending that has seen the national debt rise from $19 trillion at the beginning of his presidency, to well over $27 trillion as of today. 

However, Trump’s lack of follow through on these issues is only a small part of the blow he has delivered to American conservatism. Many supporters of the former president believe that his co-opting of the Republican Party as his own was an energizing force that thrust it towards serious contention in 2016. Unfortunately, this newly energized movement was centered around a man rather than preserving the freedom and liberty of all Americans. In sacrificing beliefs and morals for a short-term victory, Republicans have little to nothing to fall back on now that the figurehead they fought so viciously in support of for more than four years has been defeated. 

In the weeks following Trump’s continuous claims of a fraudulent election and the debacle of his supporters storming the Capitol, a rift among Republicans, especially between the party’s lawmakers in Washington, is becoming ever more clear: there are those that will continue to defend the president, carrying on his semi-conservative populist agenda for the near future, and there are those that want to move on. Because the results of the 2020 election make it clear that continuing on with the Trumpian agenda is not a winning strategy, and the status quo support of the Republican Party prior to his emergence was largely unenthusiastic, the road ahead looks quite dismal. 

With this being said, there is a massive opportunity for a redefinition of Republican beliefs that fills the current void and brings the party back into relevance, making it a force for good along the way. Included in these changes needs to be a recognition of both the shifting demographics of the nation and the generational evolution of American voters, which means that a modified slate of supporting policies will need to be implemented. The typical Republican base of older white individuals is trending to become a smaller portion of the American population with each passing year. Younger Americans and Americans of non-European descent largely do not vote for the Republican Party in its current form and they are some of the fastest-growing voting blocs in the country. Though there are a great many reasons for this that go deeper than the mere adoption of one policy over the other,  the fact remains that going forward without any changes at all will do nothing to win their support. 

One of the few things that the previous administration did right to work towards change was supporting criminal justice reform by pushing through the First Step Act, though lack of action on the subject after this bill’s passage showed that it was always an afterthought rather than the priority that it really should be. Republicans also need to adopt a unified stance on a number of issues on which they have been indecisive over the last few years, including the federal decriminalization of marijuana, which many Americans of all backgrounds favor. Lastly, running candidates on platforms that alienate large blocks of people, such as Trump’s did with immigrants and other minority groups, is neither right nor something that will draw the long-term support needed to maintain a successful party. 

One of the most scathing criticisms of Republicans lawmakers is simply pointing out their failed commitments to lowering federal spending and reducing the impact of government on the lives of everyday citizens. Many of these politicians were first elected to their offices in the early 2010s on the back of a Tea Party movement which was centered around these two goals. When they finally gained full control over the federal legislative process they didn’t limit spending or shrink the size of government as they had promised, they only continued to expand both. A renewed and meaningful commitment to these goals would go a long way in showing voters that the new Republican Party is one that stays true to its beliefs, but that may be too much to ask from those current lawmakers who have already failed in that mission. 

The points outlined above are only a few ways in which the Republican Party can change for the better and that will have a positive effect on its support in the future. Though this is far from a complete list of items whose adoption on a large scale within the party would help it stay relevant, it is abundantly clear that if no action is taken and no changes are made, that the Republican Party will fade away, leaving the voice of American conservatism to become disjointed and unheard.