When the Republican party swept the 2016 election, winning the presidency and maintaining control of Congress, many involved in politics assumed that the country would enter a new era based on conservative values.
Republicans have had their recent victories, especially in the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. However, despite the expectations, they have been unable to pass much significant legislation, most notably their long-heralded healthcare plan meant to replace Obamacare.
So what is the cause of the Republican party’s disjointedness? And how can they fix it?
In regard to the cause, we simply need to look at the failure to pass the GOP healthcare reform in the Senate.
This healthcare disagreement is a microcosm of the disagreements the Senate Republicans have, where bills often have more moderate aspects written into them to gain the necessary votes to be passed, while attempting to keep the aspects which bring in more conservative senators.
Many times in 2017, these edits have not been enough to sway 50 Republican senators into a “Yes” vote, as in the case of the healthcare bill, and have left a dilemma for Republican senators as to which side — moderate or conservative — they should focus on appealing.
Giving in to the radical conservative requests of Senator Rand Paul would gain his vote, likely without losing votes from others. However, without the support of moderate Republicans John McCain, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, healthcare reform cannot pass, or even reach a tie to be decided by Mike Pence.
Yet, giving in to the requests of the moderate Republicans would almost certainly pit more conservative senators against the bill. Without the dominating numbers in the Senate that Democrats had in 2010, the Republicans are not currently able to pass their own version of healthcare or push their political agenda to the extent they would hope.
With this in mind, the question becomes how the Republican Party can gain support going into the 2018 election in order to win seats in the Senate and assure that their bills will pass through Congress.
As a moderate liberal, I personally believe that the Republican Party should look to add more liberal aspects to their agenda. However, this has proven to be an ineffective way to drum up Republican support: in the 2016 election, moderate Republican presidential candidates Jeb Bush and John Kasich fared unsuccessfully in primaries, winning far fewer voters than more radical conservative candidates like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.
In order to find their way again, I believe the Republican Party needs to do what I would consider to be good for the party, but bad for the country, and find a leader who can drum up excitement and unity within the party by pushing it to the ideological extreme.
Trump has showcased the outspokenness and ability to create a cult following necessary for this role. He attracted voters by having a background in business, rather than in mainstream politics. However, his lack of a hard-set conservative ideology has cost him the support of many radical right-wing voters, evidenced in the likes of Ben Shapiro and Ann Coulter who, despite holding strict conservative values, have been critical of him.
Trump also has no interest in uniting his party, as his attacks of other prominent Republicans prove. These attacks indicate that he is not the man to lead the Republican Party.
Ted Cruz had a relatively successful presidential campaign based on hardline radical conservative values. However, his lack of brashness, as well as his “typical politician” persona, was his eventual downfall.
Republicans need the perfect mix of these two candidates, someone with Cruz’s policies and self-control, as well as Trump’s “atypical politician” character and outspokenness, to unite their party. Perhaps in the Senate or perhaps as a presidential candidate in 2024, a far-right political figure will be able to gain a large Republican following, and influence decisions made by a Republican-led Congress.
Looking at how the Republican Party handled Trump, I think that Republicans will eventually allow this hypothetical figure to hold a major leadership role in the party.
Originally, many in the party attacked Trump, but once he won the nomination, many began to support his campaign and accept his policies. If someone in the mold described enters the political scene, I believe that Republicans would act similarly, handing this figure the reins of the party.
Finally, this candidate may rally voters to vote out moderates like McCain, Collins and Murkowski, replacing them with more hardline conservatives, and thus, allow Republicans to truly control Congress and mold a conservative America.