To say that the Republican Party has been in trouble recently would be a massive understatement. Since the last election, it has become more and more clear that the American public is becoming increasingly supportive of progressive ideas. The GOP has been losing ground on nearly every single issue. To break it down point by point, let’s take a look at the some recent polling numbers from the Pew Research Center.
On the deficit, 76 percent of Americans support increased taxes as well as spending cuts opposed to the conservative proposal of extending tax cuts and slashing the budget. On another money issue, 71 percent of the nation supports increasing minimum wage to $9.00 per hour, including 50 percent of those that identify as Republicans.
In the wake of the gun debates, 67 percent of the country wants to see major gun legislation passed in the future and an overwhelming 85 percent hopes to enact stricter background checks for gun purchases.
On environmental issues, 54 percent of Americans believe that we should invest in alternative energy over attempting to get a few more years out of fossil fuels. Despite recent GOP pushes to win on immigration, only 34 percent of the nation trusts congressional Republicans to create a better plan for our borders. And as of this week, 58 percent of people support gay marriage versus the 37 percent in favor of it 10 years ago. Two thirds of the country supports a national decision on gay marriage with the Supreme Court set to hear the case in upcoming weeks.
The right can no longer continue to claim that they are the voice of true Americans, unless you believe that loud, white, conservative Christians are the only true Americans. As history has shown, progressive ideas eventually catch on with the public and inevitably become the law of the land; thus we, as a country, progress. But the problems facing the GOP are more pressing than the inevitability of time. Internally, the Republican Party is fracturing over how to become relevant once again.
The big conservative news of the week is the convening of the CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, where the “Next Generation of Conservatives” was supposedly going to be revealed. However, with speakers such as Palin, Santorum, McConnell, LaPierre, and Trump, as well as Mitt Romney’s return to the spotlight, it is hard to see the changes that are supposedly happening.
Conspicuously missing from the conference was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who enjoyed a huge popularity boost after his response to Hurricane Sandy and his lashing of House Republicans. He took a new tone for his party and put his constituents first, worked with the President, and actually got results.
While both Democratic and Republican voters were impressed with these actions, his party leadership was not amused. Despite polls showing Christie to be the second most viable candidate for a GOP victory in 2016, his cooperation with Democrats has earned him backlash from the obstructionist bloc of hardline conservatives that seem to have a stranglehold on the RNC platform.
In another recent public display of party disunity, Senator Rand Paul stirred things up with his filibuster of John Brennan’s confirmation as CIA Director over the issue of drone warfare against United States citizens domestically. While he initially stood alone and drew the ire of some of his fellow Republicans, as word spread about the filibuster and support from social networks emerged, more and more senators began to stand behind him including Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader in the Senate.
However, other senior GOP senators did not embrace Paul’s efforts so wholeheartedly. Former presidential hopeful John McCain called the filibuster a “stunt that fire[s] up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms.” Senator Lindsey Graham said that he doesn’t believe Paul’s question about domestic drone strikes even deserves an answer and decided to change from opposing Brennan’s appointment to voting for it as a means to support the drone program.
The clear fact of the matter is that the Republican Party is splintering. They have strong principles that are fiercely supported by the vocal minority of the party, but it has become overwhelmingly obvious that their strongest supporters cannot win elections.
The current approach that the GOP is pursuing relies on seeming more in touch with minority voters without actually changing any policies. They don’t seem to understand that minorities are voting Democrat because of issues, not simply because Republicans are overwhelmingly white and lack understanding of minorities (though they are and they do). The Latinos are a particularly sought-after group because the right believes that since Latinos are largely Roman Catholic, they should support Republicans against issues such as marriage equality and abortion, despite the issues having 59 percent and 74 percent support respectively among Latinos.
Instead of this, Republicans should take advantage of the awful situation that our two-party system presents. They could safely become more moderate and give way on clearly unpopular elements of their platform without the risk of losing their most conservative members, but only if they take such a course at a national level.
Otherwise, progressive conservatives will continue to be exiled for breaking the solidarity set by the most stalwart members of the party and nothing will change. After all, if the GOP decided to shut its mouth on abortion, gay marriage and climate change, what Tea Party member would suddenly decide to vote Democrat in the next election?
Evan Wilson is a junior studying Cognitive Science and Biology. For him, politics is akin to watching a car crash… you know something awful is about to happen, but you can’t really do much now, so you might as well enjoy the show.