I have always unabashedly been a Republican, and more recently a registered one. Without hesitation, I was willing to associate myself in a public fashion with the party that espouses the virtues of self-reliance, judicial restraint, minimal government, and defense of natural rights here and abroad. Yet, reflecting on both the first year of President Trump’s administration and the future of the GOP, I have never found myself more disillusioned with our vision, or less proud to be a Republican. In this critical juncture of post factum politics, media circuses, populism, and the return of markedly hateful racial tension, Republicans like myself and the Review’s readers must ask ourselves: “What does it mean to be a modern Republican?”
To be unequivocally clear, I am not indicting our party permanently; however, the basic tenets of being a Republican in this country and our ideals are no longer being strived towards. One might argue that it has never been a better time to be a Republican: our party has not had control of the White House and both houses of Congress (with perhaps a clear incoming Supreme Court majority to boot) since the 1920s. Yet, I would argue it has never been a worse time to be a Republican. Our executive is not truly conservative and I question the values of any person of our party who associates themselves with Mr. Trump or supports him fully at this point. With few exceptions (the recent abortion bill, Justice Gorsuch’s nomination, the effective missile strike in Syria), this administration has failed to pass any meaningful policy or make any impact on the ongoing culture wars in our country. Now, clearly Mr. Trump is not completely at fault for this—Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell have no clear vision for legislation or any semblance of bipartisanship for our party. Yet, the divisions that he has created through despicable, idiotic, and morally untenable soundbites, tweets, and criticisms of everyone from Colin Kaepernick to Puerto Rican statesmen, ‘Rocket Man’ to a lukewarm criticism of Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville shows me extremely clearly our President favors subverting the public’s attention from important issues to absurd and useless sideshows, distracting from the lack of progress this administration has made on every issue from infrastructure to health care. By no means, am I saying that we should give up completely on our President—no, that would be blatant disrespect to the office of the presidency—but instead, we need to break ranks with a party that increasingly falls in line with the agenda of the few instead of the many. We need to put the GOP in a direction that has a vision for the future, that unites Americans rather than dividing them.
Never will I say that Mr. Trump is not my President, never will I violently protest any of his policies, and never will I attempt to shut down debate about the merits of his policies and our party’s policies. But, what I will say, is that this is the party of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Eisenhower, William F. Buckley, George H.W. Bush, and Colin Powell. As conservatives, we must ask ourselves, does it resemble this party any longer?
If our distinctly American values are to survive in a time of flux, polarization, and tension with the left, we cannot ignore these issues, rather we must embrace them. Sweeping the constant protests of Mr. Trump under the table and deeming them ‘illegitimate’ or ‘whiney’ gets us nowhere. Instead, we must go back to our party’s roots in enlightenment philosophers and engage, engage, engage. The GOP reached a critical mass in the last election’s primaries, we as voters could have chosen candidates who embrace our society’s rapid change but aim to preserve our country’s values (namely Gov. Kasich and his emphasis on bipartisanship, Sen. Rubio and his very strong condemnations of powers abroad, and yes even Jeb Bush and his recognition that this election was an opportunity to bring instinctually socially conservative Latinx voters into the fold), but instead we doubled down against the unstoppable forces of globalization and an increasing diversifying America with the counter-cultural President Trump. We made this decision as voters, and now we must feel the repercussions of that decision.
Never will I say that Mr. Trump is not my President, never will I violently protest any of his policies, and never will I attempt to shut down debate about the merits of his policies and our party’s policies. But, what I will say, is that this is the party of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Eisenhower, William F. Buckley, George H.W. Bush, and Colin Powell. As conservatives, we must ask ourselves, does it resemble this party any longer? Would they be proud of what we have become? I would argue quite clearly no, and we need to go back to what made us who we are—respect for all Americans regardless of their creed or identity, and looking towards progress in legislation, bipartisanship, and meaningful dialogue with those who even diametrically oppose us.