The Future of the Republican Party

JAVON PRICE: With the 2020 election season well underway, much of the focus for Republicans is whether President Donald Trump can win a second term. But even now, we must start to consider who will be the future leaders of the Republican Party, not just in 2020, but into the future. President Donald Trump has been a champion of conservative values and principles — albeit sporadically — but Trump he not be the commander-in-chief forever. We need to start considering what comes next. Why should we begin our quest so early? How do we go about it? Who offers the best path forward?

First off, conservatives should begin building a party infrastructure for the future because, as history illuminates, there is a substantial chance President Trump will not win re-election. Since 1952, beginning with President Harry Truman, an incumbent president who faces and defeats a primary challenger usually goes on to lose the general election. The only exception was in 1972, when President Richard Nixon defeated then-Congressman Pete McCloskey and then went on to crush Sen. George McGovern in the general. However, other than 1972, the trend remains strong: Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush all lost re-election under these circumstances. In 2020, President Trump faces one already-announced primary challenger in Bill Weld, the former Republican Massachusetts governor and 2016 Libertarian Vice-Presidential candidate. More challengers may be on the horizon: Keep an eye out for former Ohio governor John Kasich, Rep. Justin Amash, and the popular Maryland governor Larry Hogan. This is not to say that the president will lose the primary — there is no reason to believe the base will abandon him then — but the derailment of his general election campaign is very plausible.

The next question is how we, as conservatives, should go forward with or without the president. In 2012, after the defeat of Mitt Romney, the Republican National Committee issued a blistering but honest critique of his campaign, called the Growth and Opportunity Project, and better know as the 2012 election “autopsy.” In this lengthy report, the RNC wrote candidly that the GOP had failed to recognize and address demographic changes in the country and called for policies that will reflect the changing political landscape. It also recognized that even though the GOP remained successful reformers on the state level, that we had consistently lost on the federal level. In the past seven presidential elections, the GOP has lost the popular vote six times. Additionally, we have consistently underperformed since 1992 with women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and young voters. This is not a winning path forward as America becomes more diverse and more politically active.

Some of the most insightful excerpts from the autopsy include: 

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“If we believe our policies are the best ones to improve the lives of the American people, all the American people, our candidates and office holders need to do a better job talking in normal, people-oriented terms and we need to go to communities where Republicans do not normally go to listen and make our case. We need to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too. We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities.”

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“If Hispanic Americans perceive that a GOP nominee or candidate does not want them in the United States … they will not pay attention to our next sentence”

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“When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming. If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues.”

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Considering those insights, there are plenty of congressmen and women in our party who embody and advocate for these proposed reforms. Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI), a Georgetown alumnus and Iraq War veteran, is a young star in the party who some have said has “earned the right to his own opinion.” Dan Crenshaw, the newly elected Texas representative, has accrued a prodigious national profile. He too has an independent streak, which allows him to connect with his constituents, stay true to conservative principles and maintain his loyalty to the party. Furthermore, there is the rising tactician and candid Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who has already begun her own path forward to recruit more women into the party. Unfortunately, in the past midterm — with the election of nine new senators and 89 new members of the House — the party elected no new people of color and only three women. This is ridiculous, unstainable, and just bad politics.

If we are to adapt to the political environment of 2020 and beyond, we cannot afford to be negligent and ignorant of the realities in this country. We must have a party that is reflective of this country or we shall face irrelevance and the minority in government for years to come.

Jeff Cirillo