With a combination of a Donald Trump presidency and Republican commentators, the GOP has increasingly deviated from its conservative roots. It’s time for a renewal of the Republican Party.
The Republican Party has been tainted. And no, Donald Trump is not solely to blame; this contagion has been covertly accumulating for years. It’s alive and well in our current president, the GOP’s changing values, and the people who appear to represent the party. When I took an interest in politics five years ago, the atmosphere was, without a doubt, different. Conversations, although still tense, were less heated, and you could exchange a considerable amount of ideas before you were — usually improperly — labeled a fascist or socialist. Today, that span of time has decreased significantly. If you wear a “Make America Great Again” hat or place a Democratic bumper sticker on the back of your SUV, you are instantly labeled. Never mind your argument or ideas, you have been sorted into one of many files, triggered by the sound of a certain buzzword.
Since ideas do not reign in today’s political kingdom, what does? Political commentators and talk show hosts sit high atop the throne. My fellow Republicans no longer have their own belief in free-market capitalism or limited government — they are instilled with concepts heard from their kitchen radio or blasted from their laptop speakers. The sad truth is many of these “conservative” commentators are deficient in conservative ideas to begin with. If Republicans want to beat Democrats, we must stop defending our ambassadors with our lives. We are held back by our association with radical thinkers (whether that be Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter, or Sean Hannity) and the GOP needs to cut this connection now or continue to face the repercussions.
The past few months have been harmful for the GOP. Not only has the presidency of Donald Trump opened an influx of attention to the alt-right — the extreme and insidious members of the Republican Party that promote white nationalism — but Republican spokespeople (including the president himself) have been involved in numerous controversies. In April, Fox News fired their most famous host Bill O’Reilly after several sexual assault allegations arose. In May, President Trump shared classified information with Russia regarding the ongoing conflict with ISIS. And only one week ago, Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte assaulted a Guardian reporter. If that’s not enough, Fox News host Sean Hannity was on the brink of being fired after pushing a conspiracy theory on a national scale.
Watching this unfold hurts. It’s like rooting for a team you love but has aged terribly and no longer plays their best. The worst part is: the team still has fans. Even after Gianforte admitted that he assaulted the reporter, Republicans defended his actions. Does the GOP have no line their candidates cannot cross? Gianforte won the congressional seat in Montana, even after his assault allegations.
Nowhere is the major shift in the GOP more present than in our current president. It seems as though Republican voters threw conservative ideas out the window, since President Trump is filled with liberal ones (his aggressive stance against the North American Free Trade Agreement to name one). God-forbid you should criticize the president, lest you be named a RINO (Republican-In-Name-Only). Conservative “Never Trump”ers have been ostracized by other conservatives, and that leaves me wondering where I belong.
Conservatives must continue their fight against progressives, liberals, and Democrats. But we must also bring about a change to the Republican Party. If the party does not align with your beliefs, change the people in the party. Who listens to conservative talk shows? According to media scholar and Tufts professor Jeffrey Berry, “Their demographic is aging. It’s the 70-year-old, white, Protestant farmer in a small town Nebraska who’s listening to these guys because he’s driving in his car. Or it’s the listener driving a lot in the suburbs. And it’s a shrinking demographic.” That’s important, because if Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter have no one that listens to them, there would be a greater shift in the Republican Party than the ascension of Donald Trump. Trump won the presidency because Americans are angry and dissatisfied. Who better encompasses that anger than the bombastic radio personalities? Take them away and ideas will begin to replace acrimony.
A new generation of Republicans are blooming, and the best way to bring back conservatism is to bolster and support actual conservatives. Whether that be Ben Shapiro, the writers at National Review, or the writers at The Weekly Standard; these are the people we need to support — not someone who gets paid to scream soundbites into a microphone. It’s time to reform the Republican Party and that all begins with the new wave of conservative thinkers — maybe even you.