What the GOP Really Needs
How a Power Couple Could Help the GOP Win The 2018 Midterms
As the 2018 midterm elections approach, there’s a lot of talk about what conservative candidates “need” to secure victory in various local, Congressional and gubernatorial races. Various pundits will tell you that candidates “need” to either embrace or distance themselves from Trump, depending on their location and, of course, that particular pundit’s personal preferences. Others will tell you that the Republican party “needs” to get back to its roots, limited government, fiscal responsibility, and family values. Or that it “needs” new leadership — leadership that stems from subscribing to these values, as opposed to the cult of personality.
If Republicans truly want to remake themselves in a vision of political sustainability against the backdrop of an increasingly polarizing political climate, I propose something differently entirely.
What the Republican party needs is the emergence of a conservative power couple to guide it through the current period of tumultuous and turbulent times. Not only is the strength of a power couple greater than the sum of its parts, but it is also a unique combination of both modern and traditional methods that can inject life into the Republican party: a traditional institution (marriage) promoting a modernized version (political parity) of traditional ideas (republican values) through a modern medium (life in 2018).
Power couples — both real and fictional — have played a prominent role throughout political history and have likewise always fascinated their audiences. From Cleopatra’s seduction of Julius Caesar (and later Marc Antony), Abigail Adams reminding her husband John during his presidency to “remember the ladies,” Shakespeare’s Macbeth, or the more modern indoctrination of Frank and Claire Underwood on the hit Netflix series “House of Cards,” power couples maintain an enticing allure.
As illustrated by the examples enumerated above, although historical power couples are often unlikable, they nonetheless have a way of holding our attention in a way that a singular charismatic individual does not. A conservative power couple could differentiate themselves by not only wielding such attention, but also by using it to show that a power couple need not be defined by manipulation and deceit.
And, as much as any of us may identify with conservative policies, the current Republican party, with its fractured leadership and reputation for being dominated by old white men, is far from alluring.
Of course, part of the power couples’ allure has always been a blurring of the lines between sex and power. For example, regardless of how one feels about the Clinton’s, they’ve undeniably been a force that’s shaped American politics over the past several decades as their relationship, and their politics, blurred the lines between sex and power. As a result, many people love to hate them and others hate to love them.
There is no Republican equivalent of the Clintons. Of course, part of this is for very good reason: the Clintons aren’t exactly role models for marriage or even just ethics. Plus, traditionally, many political power couples have been like the Clintons in the sense of using the institution of marriage to advance their careers, rather than to further the intimacy between two people and lead a country.
This is, in part, why a conservative power couple could be a game changer. First, it would provide an opportunity to redefine what a political power couple looks like, particularly for the feminine half of the power couple. There is no reason the female half needs to be constrained by pantsuits and short hair as demonstrated by their liberal counterparts — nor does it have to involve a demure and decorative icon of femininity, as demonstrated by many past conservative couples.
Some on the left may jump up to argue that the reason there has not yet been a conservative power couple is conservatism itself, that traditional values are the antithesis of a power couple.
However, contrary to what stereotypes on both sides want you to believe, there is a middle ground. Women with high powered careers can be feminine and women who choose to focus on family instead of a career can nonetheless have educated and informed opinions. And, more importantly, their politics can fall on either side of the aisle.
The closest example of a current conservative power couple is probably either that of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao or first daughter Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner. However, the Trump/Kushner’s lack true conservative credentials and the McConnell/Chao’s lack one of the most fundamental elements of power couple status: charisma.
Although charisma is something that the current Republican President isn’t lacking, he is lacking in both tact and modesty, particularly when it comes to his relationships with women, which is in part why, despite his popularity in some circles, he’ll never be part of a power couple. And, similarly, although President Reagan was both charismatic and tactful, his wife, Nancy, often preferred to stay out of the political spotlight.
Seeing is believing.
If Republicans want to truly revamp their image as the party of elderly white men, a power couple would help. Not only would conservatives benefit from a partnership stronger than an individual candidate, but they would also be able to demonstrate that there is a modern equivalent for traditional values in such a power relationship.
In the meantime, conservative women should not shy away from roles that merge their politics and values with their careers and their families, particularly when their spouse is doing the same. As stated by one of literature’s most famous power couples, the Shakspearian Macbeth’s, Lady Macbeth tells her husband to “look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent underneath it.” Wise words for all power couples to live by.