Ashwin Prabaharan ‘26
Opinions Staff Writer
The last decade represented one of the most dramatic shifts in the identity of the Republican Party. The same once neoconservative-dominated party who revered the Bush family and rallied for interventionism has now adopted a protectionist platform steering it towards uniform cultural “conservatism.” Former President Donald Trump, since emerging as the de facto leader of the GOP, has brought a politically rightward shift that has decimated the moderate faction of the party. His reign since emerging as the Republican presidential nominee in 2016 has precipitated a strict sense of uniformity within the party faithful, bound to follow his dogma to which every Republican candidate must adhere lest they wish to find themselves as political nobodies.
Trump’s inability to relent on his false and dangerous election claims now serves as a litmus test for candidates who seek the party’s nomination for office. Republicans are now seen as the party of election deniers and unquestioning loyalty to Trump and all his positions. His rhetoric railing against rebellious Republicans who vote against his stated position has given rise to RINOs (Republican In Name Only), and Trump loyalists now use their financial and political resources against them to ensure uniformity, both in campaigning and legislation. Republican voters see anti-Trump legislators not only as phony Republicans but as threats to their way of life and thinking. Liz Cheney, a prominent critic of the former President, lost her primary for reelection as the US. Representative for Wyoming in a stunning landslide after Trump directed his animosity and political prowess towards her defeat. The same fate fell on seven other House Republicans who voted for his impeachment following the January 6th insurrection. A string of electoral losses for anti-Trump Republicans has signified the end of political independence within the party. Now, here stands the unimpeachable leader of a populist, idealistic, and radically conservative movement that threatens to tear apart the legacy and service of the Republican Party.
We need to begin embracing leaders within the party who are willing to hear debate on policy and social issues. These leaders should be seeking middle ground with their opposition and should open the party platform to a national debate. They should be motivated to create a “big tent” atmosphere within the party, where varying positions and perspectives are welcome and addressed. This does not require relenting on personal conviction or principle but it exposes Republican politics to a much-needed dose of mediation and civility. President Trump’s leadership of the party turned brothers against one another on the basis of their morality and values, and it divided not on policy but on the foundations of one’s character. The media has exacerbated this influence to a great extent, portraying Trump loyalists as enemies of the state who pose a threat to democracy that continues to feed into the President’s rhetorical strategy.
The greatest hero of this party, Abraham Lincoln, fought to coalesce brothers and sisters who were deeply divided on slavery, industry, and their vision for the United States. He, along with hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers, sacrificed a great deal to protect the Union. President Trump has shredded national unity and assailed against independent thought in Republicans for the sake of political prowess. For Republicans to remain competitive in electoral politics and to restore civility in our politics, they need to let go of the former president and move on with leaders who exhibit compassion, integrity, and civility.
Image courtesy of the Foreign Policy Research Institute