The Republican Party has a rendezvous with destiny—well, at least with a majority in the House and Senate. Democrats are quickly realizing that Nancy Pelosi‘s gavel is slipping through her fingers. With Joe Biden‘s approval ratings collapsing and advanced age only becoming more apparent to voters, the GOP may once again be in control of Washington soon. Republicans are counting on a realignment of working-class white and Latino voters, as well as a resurgence among white college-educated voters, to bring them back into leadership.
Democrats know the writing is on the wall. Budget Committee chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) announced his retirement last week, a clear sign that powerful leaders within the party believe they will not hold the House majority after the next election. Political scientist and Obama 2012 campaign alumnus David Shor predicts that Democrats could see massive losses in the Senate in the midterm and the 2024 election, even if the party wins a majority of the popular vote because of the realignment. Despite Biden’s surge of college-educated liberal voters, working-class whites are still among the president’s biggest blocs of support.
Could a new, more multiracial working-class coalition usher in change within the GOP? So far, Republicans in Congress and most of those campaigning for elected office this year are offering a lot of the same policies they touted when Mitt Romney was running for president. The GOP still lacks any vision for how it can deliver for a new coalition.
Too many Republicans are mired in the delusion that they’re fighting for Ronald Reagan’s America, that the three-legged stool is capable of holding together the party’s factions and that they can maintain the new coalition of voters from Trump’s two elections but continue the policies of Reagan, Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan.
Despite labeling themselves the party of the working class for half a decade, most Republicans elected to Congress and even state office still do not share the same values, concerns and solutions their voters do. The conservative base is nearly as far away from elected Republicans as they are from Democrats on issues like trade, immigration, crime, health care, war and Big Tech. The only thing keeping millions of Republican voters casting ballots for the GOP is abortion, guns and Democrats’ promotion of wokeism.
Elusive promises of freedom, liberty and laissez-faire economics may be enough to keep the average boomer who spends his days listening to talk radio, but it’s not enough to keep the Trump coalition together, or build on it.
If Republicans are serious about wanting to transform themselves into a party large enough to have a governing majority, they’re going to need to move to the right on culture, to the left on economics and to an altogether different view on how they can use the power of government to deliver victories to their constituents.
Conservatives are starved for vision, and the Republican Party has had little to offer aside from slogans. If the GOP managed to gain a governing majority, would America look any different from the way it is today? How would the Republican base see that difference? If the first answer that crossed your mind was a bumper sticker slogans about “freedom,” “liberty,” “the free market” or “tax cuts,” that’s not a winning message for future of the GOP.
Lacking an aspirational vision intended to improve the lives of Republican voters in a tangible way has become an endemic problem for the party. Most voters can envision what Bernie Sanders or AOC would turn the country into within a decade, but can’t give the same answer about nearly any Republican seeking higher office.
The GOP looks like it will have yet another chance at governing in the next few years. Voters will need much more than slogans this time around.
Ryan Girdusky is the author of They’re Not Listening: How the Elites Created the Nationalist Populist Revolution.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.