Republican Party rebirth
Think of the word “Republican.” What comes to mind? Perhaps you think of red-blooded rural Americans toting their guns in their pickup trucks. Perhaps a fat cat businessman in his tailored suit with a $200 haircut à la Jack Donaghy comes to mind. Or maybe it’s the evangelical right with their opposition to legalizing gay marriage and penchant for creationism in the classroom. No matter which way you slice it, it’s clear that GOP stereotypes have a pretty firm grip on pop culture.
This isn’t to say that Democrats aren’t stereotyped just as often. The flower child of the free love generation, the dirty hipster of today’s coffee shops, and the ivory tower elitist professor are all tropes that one can readily reach for as the traditional left wing cliché. But something unique is happening to the Republican Party at this point in history that warrants attention and analysis.
If we think back to last year’s victory for President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in the national election, the percentage of votes were approximately 51 percent to 47 percent. Like many presidential elections, voting tended to be cast along party lines instead of with enthusiastic selection for a particular candidate.
However, I personally recall my friends and acquaintances that are members of the Republican Party expressing great distaste for what Romney represented (only slightly less than President Obama himself). What he brought to the table was nothing but a platform of out-of-date, rehashed Republican values.
On paper, President Obama and Romney’s economic recovery, foreign policy and health care plans for the United States were virtually indistinguishable, so people essentially either had to vote on party lines or based on whatever platforms differed between the two candidates—which were primarily their stances on tax cuts, immigration, abortion, the Iraq War and gay marriage. Romney was polarizing to young voters who felt strongly about social issues even if they preferred conservative fiscal policy. For some Democrats, another four years of President Obama’s increased military and social program spending wasn’t appealing, but voting against Romney was all that counted.
I have said before in this column that I think many people are libertarian and just don’t realize it yet. While social causes like women’s health rights, gay rights and immigration are traditionally championed by the left and smart fiscal policy is a trademark of the right, we are a indeed divided nation indeed (especially in a swing state like Nevada). If one of the two primary political parties were able to harness the elusive social/fiscal dichotomy that libertarianism is all about, there would undoubtedly be a positive reaction and satisfied customers across the board.
Sen. Rand Paul, following the example of his presidential hopeful father Sen. Ron Paul, seems to be trying to bridge the gap for the Republican Party to become more likeable to the social freedom-oriented young voters. Two months ago, following his news-making filibuster against the use of drone strikes, he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference about the changing face of the Republican Party.
“The GOP of old has grown stale and moss-covered,” Sen. Paul said, as reported by The Washington Times. “The new GOP, the GOP that will win again, will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and personal sphere. If we are going to have a Republican Party that can win, liberty needs to be the backbone of the GOP.”
I haven’t seen a similarly libertarian flavor coming to the Democratic Party, but that doesn’t mean things won’t change between now and the next presidential election. In the meantime, I think we can expect a big image shift for the Republican Party as fresh voices and ideas are brought to the table.