For much of the last century, the Republican Party has been considered the “conservative” party. However, with the emergence of an “alt-right” faction within the party, that label no longer fits.
The Rise Of The Alt-Right
The 2016 presidential election marked the first time in decades that the Republican Party experienced a major shift in direction. In that election, many voters supported Donald Trump, a businessman who had never held political office, over Hillary Clinton, a flawed but experienced political insider whose policies many viewed as too liberal.
While Trump won the election in part because of widespread disenchantment with the status quo, he has continued to polarize the country since then, with his administration now embroiled in numerous controversies.
These controversies have manifested in political unrest. In 2017, there were more than 200 protests in 70 countries, including the United States. According to the Global Protest Index, a study published in 2017 by the University of Maryland and the Institute for Global Government, these protests were on the rise around the world, with the most significant protests taking place in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran.
The protests were spurred in part by Trump’s decision, in May 2017, to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal. The move was considered by many, including former President Barack Obama, to be a reckless betrayal of an important geopolitical ally. Since then, the president has faced widespread condemnation for his handling of the crisis, and the American economy, especially its energy sector, has suffered as a result.
From Reagan To Trump, The GOP Has Been The Home Of Conservatism
Since Reagan, the Republican Party has been the natural home of conservatives, especially fiscal conservatives. However, when it comes to social issues, the party has shifted to the right, with many prominent Republicans embracing the “family values” position that they themselves previously claimed to detest.
Although Trump’s positions on social issues vary from those of mainstream Republicans, he has generally been a reliable ally for the party on this front. After all, without the crucial Catholic vote, many of Trump’s initiatives, such as the aforementioned tax cut, would not have been possible. Similarly, with so much of the country gravitating to the right, Trump’s more moderate positions, such as supporting abortion rights, have had little electoral impact and may even have helped to cost him some votes.
What Will The Future Of The Republican Party Look Like?
Given its history, the future of the Republican Party will be shaped by demographic change and technological innovation. To fully understand this future, it is first necessary to examine the party’s ideological makeup.
On the most basic level, the Republican Party is anti-abortion and supports gun rights. However, over the past few years, the party platform has taken an increasingly conservative turn, with many prominent Republicans, such as Senator Ted Cruz, embracing a more radical agenda. In 2018, for example, Cruz introduced the American Health Care Act, Trump’s former signature policy proposal, which would have repealed nearly all of Obamacare. Similarly, when it comes to immigration, the party has shifted to the right, with many members of Congress, such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, supporting Trump’s plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
These positions have helped to draw a sharp contrast with those of the Democratic Party, which has remained more consistent in its positions over the years. In the 2018 elections, this contrast was on full display as voters chose to send a powerful message by punishing the Republican Party at the ballot box. In the House of Representatives, the Democrats picked up enough seats to give them a 235-to-193 majority (with the exception of three Republican-held “safe” seats). In the Senate, where there are no majority-party equivalents, the Republicans were reduced to a small minority, with only 33 seats out of 100.
The rise of the populist right in both countries has put enormous pressure on traditional ruling parties. In the United States, the GOP now finds itself at the epicenter of a political hurricane that could prove devastating to congressional majorities.