In the coming years, the Republican Party, and conservatives in general, face a very real turning point. In the 2012 elections, the nation spoke clearly by expressing discontent with both Republican policies and behavior.
The GOP lost by double digit margins among minorities, women and young voters. Continuing along this path will lead to the destruction of the political right, and it pains me as a young conservative to see Republican politicians sticking to the same tired talking points. In my estimation, the Republican Party must either adapt, or succumb to political realities and become obsolete. And while I don’t have all the answers, I do think there are a few steps that conservatives must take to remain relevant on the national stage.
1. To begin with, the Republican Party needs to collectively get off of the holier-than-thou bandwagon. Mitt Romney’s infamous comment about the 47% of Americans who rely on the government for a living typifies this elitist attitude. While I’m no fan of massive welfare spending, the last thing the Party should be doing is needlessly alienating voters. Instead of talking down to the American people, GOP politicians should attempt to create an inclusive atmosphere within the Party. Most Americans don’t want to rely on the government for a living, and Republicans must strive to adopt policies that help those on welfare break the cycle of poverty instead of engaging in rhetoric that leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. The GOP is already perceived as a party of angry white men, and both a rebranding and a reevaluation of priorities are necessary on this front.
2. Next, conservatives must adopt a sensible, sustainable immigration policy that will make it possible for Hispanic voters to become a major part of the Party. Hispanic voters are a rapidly growing segment of the American population and classic Republican policies that encourage illegal aliens to “self deport” are no longer tenable. Making life so miserable for immigrants that they want to leave is a poor excuse for an immigration solution and the Party needs to squarely address this issue on the national stage.
Whether or not we like it, 11 million aliens are living in this country and are a second class population of citizens that politicians don’t like to talk about. Any reasonable plan to solve the problem of illegal immigration must include a path to citizenship for these people, who by and large want to be American and embrace the ideals of freedom and democracy. Hispanics in this country are a hard-working group of people whose interests have a lot in common with many Republican positions. The political right would only be doing itself a favor by implementing policies that will help both Hispanics and the country as a whole.
3. Finally, young people must feel that there is a place for them within the Republican Party. I know firsthand that young, informed conservatives are a rare breed, due in large part to the lack of attention Republicans have historically paid to young people. Especially because they are not currently the Party in power, the GOP can ill-afford to be harping on social policy that most likely won’t change anytime soon and also causes young people to scorn the political right.
The Party must embrace a younger image, but also reconsider some ideologies. While I’m not calling for a 180 degree shift in the Party platform, I do think there is room to reconsider many tenets that cause the Party to be unnecessarily exclusive.
While I don’t think John Boehner or other leading figures will be perusing my writings anytime soon, I do think that many of the topics I’ve mentioned will, in time, chart the course of the evolution of the Republican Party. And if they don’t, I predict I’ll be looking for a new political home in 2016.