Republicans: even when they win, they lose. Despite successes in Presidential and Congressional elections, and even in the Supreme Court, Republicans have continually lost institutional and cultural power. Then Trump arrived, with a winning message of placing “America First.” The conservative base rallied to him and to his message of strict immigration laws, harsh policies against China, and reinvigorating American manufacturing. It’s time for the GOP to catch up or risk losing their voters for good.
Short-term gains in the House and seats on the Supreme Court distract from the deep, long-term losses conservatives have suffered with regard to America’s culture and spirit: over the past several decades, America has steadily become more socially liberal. Our birth rate has dropped dramatically below the replacement rate. The average American family had about four kids in 1960; in 2017, the average family had fewer than two children. Church membership has declined from 70% to 50% over the last two decades. Among elite liberal arts universities, the ratio of Republican to Democratic professors has fallen by over 50% since 1999. Each of these figures represents a serious cultural loss for conservativism.
Despite strong rhetoric against liberal policies, many Republican officials still play by the liberal-set rules, from never criticizing the media to accepting every gender identity. On the contrary, Trump does not. He asks the uncomfortable questions everyone else ignores, and it won him the presidency. He has no fear of the media or of either political party, even when they bombard him with invented scandals like Russiagate or impeachment.
Then the president began a legal fight for the election. Countless numbers of his supporters have rallied around him, with 70% of Republicans suspecting fraud. But many who claimed to support the President were more than happy to roll over and hand the presidency to Biden without a fight. Since election night, many prominent Republicans have hesitated to support the president. Senator Mitt Romney and former President George W. Bush have even called on Trump to concede the election. Many more, in their silence, have failed to give the President their support in his hour of greatest need.
Consider the difference: when elected Democrats cried “impeachment” in 2019, the entire party rallied around the narrative despite the lack of evidence. The power of this unanimity forced impeachment hearings. Without acquittal in the Senate, Trump risked becoming the first president in US history to be removed from office, despite never having committed a crime. The GOP refused to give the same show of force with the election at stake. They would rather condemn their own party than stand with it.
It’s time for the GOP to learn what Democrats know by instinct: politics is power. Republicans prefer to stand on their principles and ignore that they have no real institutional power with which to implement their principles. Even when Republicans gain political power they further cripple themselves in their failure to take decisive action.
The 73 million people who voted for Trump deserved a fight. Trump breathed new life into a demoralized and dispirited base of Republican voters. For decades prior to Trump, the Republican Party failed to produce a strong leader the American people could rally behind: a leader who prioritized the American people over forever wars and cheap overseas labor, and one with a clear, strong, and hopeful vision for the future. If the Republican Party had any sense of self-preservation, it would have rallied behind Trump in the fight for reelection and it will rally behind his platform even if he fails.
Yet the GOP’s backpedaling has already begun with President Trump’s recent withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, a keystone of his America First platform. Both Trump-supporters like Mitch McConnell and Dan Crenshaw, and Never-Trump Mitt Romney, have criticized the president for his actions despite common sentiment against costly and aimless war in the Middle East.
That alone should dispose of the belief that any GOP politician wants Trumpism to survive without Trump. Despite the president’s popularity among the Republican base and his impressive gains with minority voters, few, if any, GOP leaders will carry on his platform without compromise. Even GOP leaders that do share President Trump’s vision lack the determination to press forward with policies that elicit such vehement attacks from the media and the Democratic party.
Republicans have, however, found success in judicial confirmations. But even here, with the best recent example of Republican triumph, the party could not hold the line for a unanimous vote.
The highest loyalty an elected Republican has is to his own unique understanding of conservatism, which in turn isolates him from meaningfully organizing with fellow Republicans. For instance, Republicans are far more likely to vote against conservative nominees and for liberal ones than Democrats are to vote against liberal nominees and for conservative ones. The last time a Democrat voted against a Democrat-appointed Supreme Court Justice was in 1967.
Republicans, to their credit, did resist Democrat and media attacks during the confirmation hearings of Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. When the time came to nominate and confirm a new Supreme Court justice after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Republicans stopped at nothing to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, despite fervent Democratic opposition. For once, Republicans understood the importance of battle. Republicans rightfully point to these confirmations as significant victories during the Trump Administration. They should learn from these successes and replicate them in other political fights.
Unfortunately, for some Republican politicians, divided government (without Trump) is their ideal scenario. Under a Biden presidency, they can return to the comfort of limited Congressional responsibilities without having to fight for their own agenda or defend Trump. The GOP has no real desire to govern and no vision for the country beyond small wishlist items like appointing conservative judges and scoring tax breaks for corporate donors. At best, the GOP can thwart the Democratic Party’s most progressive proposals, like the Green New Deal, but at worst it champions offshoring and forever wars.
Too many Republicans would rather take their losses sitting down and save energy for the next fight. In the weeks since November 3, many Republican officials have done just that, putting them at odds with the base, who demand more of them. If elected Republicans think that they can push off the fight again and again, and that Republican voters will vote for them again and again, they are mistaken. It is always time to fight, as President Trump has demonstrated these past four years. It’s up to us to hold the GOP to account. A party that won’t fight for its president, its voters, or their interests, is no party at all. Get up or get out of the way.