All of the infighting going on within the Republican Party is a sign that it is struggling to find its identity. Before those on the left get too excited, this is actually a good thing. For many years now, Republicans have basically been preaching to the choir, taking their message of conservative social values and limited government to the same voter base each and every election year. The traditional Republican voter base is not going anywhere, so why does the party continue to only spend time evangelizing its own, instead of working on ways to reach out to younger generations and minorities? This is a question that “new Republicans” like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are set on answering.
After Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012, many in the Republican Party began to examine their platform and look for the weak spots that have kept them from reaching the demographics they need to reach most if they ever want to see the inside of the White House again. The problem, of course, is the hard stance the party has taken on social issues, such as gay marriage and abortion. There seem to be two different approaches in the Republican Party for adequately addressing this cultural gap. One solution is to completely abandon socially conservative values and essentially become a generic brand version of the Democratic Party, big government spending and all. The other solution is to stick to socially conservative values, but to go about handling the issues in a more subtle way that still allows room for those who disagree with the Republican Party platform to connect on issues that matter to them.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, seems to understand this second option and has been utilizing it effectively to connect to young people who traditionally identify themselves as liberal. Paul is not focusing his entire platform on issues like same-sex marriage. He is focusing on the areas that matter most to the widest majority of the American people. This does not mean that he is abandoning his social values, in fact, it is quite the opposite. Paul is opposed to gay marriage, but does not believe marriage should be defined at the federal level, rather that it is an issues for states to decide. the Kentucky senator has also stated that he favors a federal ban on abortion, but until such a thing can be done, it should be left up to the states. As one can see, Paul is still quite socially conservative, yet is finding a way to connect to those once thought unreachable.
The secret to Rand Paul’s success is that he is focusing on NSA spying and ending the drug war. While these particular policy stances tend to lean a bit heavy on the libertarian side, a large portion of the Republican Party, though struggling to find an identity, is beginning to see the merit in this line of thinking. No one wants to have their private information collected, sifted through, and stored by the federal government. The prohibition on alcohol did little to nothing to stop people from drinking, and instead, created a black market full of violence and criminal activity. It should be common sense to uphold the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and stop the government from spying on its citizens. The war on drugs has done nothing but waste taxpayer money, while the number of drug-related non-violent criminals being locked away for extensive periods of time continues to rise. If these individuals are not guilty of hurting someone, why keep them locked up for decades for making bad choices? If that line of logic is to be followed, prisons would be overflowing with members of Congress.
Sen. Ted Cruz has also been looking at issues that connect with a wider audience, rather than making every social issue the central focus of his platform. Again, these values have not been abandoned, and Cruz along with Paul, will no doubt vote in favor or sign into law, any legislation that supports those beliefs, whether they sit in the White House or the Senate. Cruz has been looking at the economic side of things, looking for ways the Republican Party could go about connecting to single moms and minorities who have been hit the hardest in the current recession.
Sen. Cruz and Sen. Paul are the two leading contenders doing big things to change the face of the Republican Party, and a lot of the establishment neoconservatives are not too happy about it. They consider these guys a threat to their comfortable and easy careers. The American people are tired of the same old Republican Party, the one that can barely be recognized as different from their Democratic counterparts. Enough is enough. Conservatives do not want Progressives of any political stripe in the White House, but they also do not want someone who abandons their basic principles either. Paul and Cruz are finding ways to present the message to a larger audience, without losing the core base. As the infighting and struggling continues, it seems likely that politicians such as Paul and Cruz are going to be the ones who shape the Republican Party’s new identity.
Opinion by Michael Cantrell