What happened to the party of individualism and freedom? Freedom of expression is no longer acceptable if it does not fall precisely into said parameters. Is former President Donald Trump now this untouchable figure who, if you dare go against, you will be subject to condemnation? Do people with differing points of view need to be relegated to some derogatory status? Is worshiping at the altar of Trump now the future of conservatism? Is he the new Ronald Reagan? If I had to guess the answer to all those questions, the evidence points to overwhelmingly yes.
Ronald Reagan has long been a role model to not only conservatives but Republicans in general. The vast majority of the party respected him, and the country did to some degree. Of course, like any politician, Reagan had his detractors. But consider this. Reagan in 1984 won 49 of 50 states. With an electoral college count of 525-13. The likelihood is we will never see that kind of landslide victory again. Nevertheless, Reagan certainly earned the respect of a large portion of the country and earned his high regard among Republicans today.
Compare that to Donald Trump. If you were neutral on or uncertain about Trump before his 2016 presidential election victory, odds are you detested him after his first term. He did nothing to convince or at least earn some degree of respect from his detractors. Trump’s insecurities, erratic behaviors, and dumbfounding statements underscore why he became a one-term president and has an ever-growing number of Republican detractors. President Biden did not win on the policy details of his platform. Trump committed political suicide.
Conservatives need to accept that a Trump-like figure, or any conservative for that matter, will not win in states like Maryland and Massachusetts. Both presently have Republican governors because they are moderates. Republican moderates who refuse to fall in line are, in a derogative sense, cast as liberals. Unfortunately, moderate has become a dirty word for both Democrats and Republicans. Purity tests are not a winning strategy in a diverse country with different beliefs and ideals. A conservative Republican will not win in deep-blue Maryland. Just like a progressive Democrat will not succeed in deep-red West Virginia.
In Wyoming, challenging Rep. Liz Cheney in a Republican primary is feasible. Wyoming is a very red state where Trump performed exceptionally well in 2020. So the likelihood of a Trump-endorsed candidate winning a Republican primary against Cheney is in the likely realm of possibilities. Wyoming is not America, though. One size never fits all. It is no coincidence that Democrats attempt to paint all Republicans as Trump acolytes because it has successfully become a negative connotation. In Virginia’s governor race, Glenn Youngkin is trying to walk a fine line of not alienating Trump’s loyal supporters, Trump has endorsed Youngkin, and at the same time not alienating Republicans and independents who do not care for Trump.
Republicans need to shed this identity of being solely the party of Trump. If it is a faction within the party, for better or worse, so be it. People have the right to support who they wish, but one man this divisive cannot have such a firm grasp on the direction of the Republican Party and expect to win elections. It does not only apply to elected officials who pander but voters. The key to politics is winning elections. Electoral victories require flexibility in terms of appealing to a specific voter base.
Ultimately, I do not believe Trump’s approach will lead to much electoral success outside of conservative-safe districts and certainly not the presidency. Complicating the matter is a refusal by too many Republicans to acknowledge Trump’s defeat in 2020. Not only is it detrimental but inexcusable. Trump may as well be the ringmaster at a three-ring circus with suggestions of seeking his third term.
The events of January 6th only exacerbated an already difficult situation. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, both Republicans, were appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi to a new select committee on the violent January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. Another burden weighing down on Trump’s ability to effectively lead Republicans. Even if it was nothing more than his rhetoric roiling up a passionate crowd. Trump cannot withhold accepting some degree of responsibility.
Trump has strong support among his base but divides other Republicans and alienates independents to an unacceptable extent. There are Republicans who voted Democrat in the 2020 presidential election because they were so disgusted with Trump. John Kasich admitted in advance that he would vote for Joe Biden. One Republican wrote in a dead former president. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan voted for Ronald Reagan. Former President George W. Bush wrote in Condoleezza Rice.
I cannot for the life of me understand why Republicans would hold the legacy of Trump’s presidency on a pedestal.