Republicans: Where to from here?

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On Nov. 8, voters will select the nation’s next president. Although many candidates are running for America’s highest office, the winner will most likely be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

The presidential race typically diverts attention from other contests, and while races at the state and local level deserve a greater share of the populace’s contemplation than they currently receive, the competition for the top of the ticket is a strong indicator of a party’s overall standing.

Although Republicans eventually endorsed their primary winner, Donald Trump, protesters from the Never Trump movement tried to keep him from earning the nomination at the Republican National Convention, and over the past few months, Republican leaders have distanced themselves from his comments and, at times, withdrawn their endorsements.

Almost every major poll predicts Clinton winning the election, but even if Trump wins, the past year has revealed large rifts in the Republican Party and a number of issues party leaders must solve in order to compete for a changing electorate. The increasing share of minorities and young voters in the electorate, both of whom lean to the left, will force politicians to adapt or lose their seats.

After the 2012 loss to Barack Obama, the Republican Party attempted to expand its message to Latino voters, who largely voted Democrat and sent Obama to the White House. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who have stronger appeal to Latinos than other Republican politicians, gained some traction during the Republican Primary but were overwhelmed by Trump and his anti-establishment rhetoric. Trump’s campaign — the Republican campaign — is once again dependent on white voters. Tis was not a smart strategy in 2012 and is not a smart strategy in 2016.

Over the past two decades, Republicans and Democrats have become more and more polarized. Te Tea Party movement emerged during Obama’s first term in office and embodied the movement among conservatives toward the right. In contrast, many Democrats supported the progressive campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Te problem with the Republican Party is that millennial voters tend to support liberal policies. A 2014 Pew Research study of over 10,000 Americans found that just over 40 percent of millennials surveyed identified as mostly or consistently liberal compared with 15 percent that identified as mostly or consistently conservative. If the Republican Party wants to accommodate this generation, they must somehow incorporate millennial interests into the party platform.

One of the problems with creating any platform is accounting for every voter’s interests. Te Republican Party has a a number of distinct groups who vote on different issues. Te Republican Party, like the Democratic Party, is a coalition. According to the historian George H. Nash, the Reagan coalition originally consisted of the libertarians, the traditionalists, the anti-communists, the neoconservatives and the religious right. Among the issues the Republican Party stands for are fiscal conservatism, support for strong U.S. defense and maintenance of Christian values.

Today, those who vote for Trump support him for many reasons. Fiscal conservatives want lower taxes and a strong economy. They believe Trump will fix this issue using his business acumen. A large group of voters who fear that immigration will put Americans at risk choose Trump because they think he will stop terrorists from entering the U.S. Pro-life groups and those opposed to same-sex marriage vote Republican because Democrats hold opposite views.

The problem with coalitions is their risk of breaking. Republicans are held together by certain commonalities, but a prominent figure like Donald Trump could cause the party to split. Because party leaders wish to distance themselves from Trump and some of his policies, there could be a separation of voters into two camps: the Trump Republicans and the Republicans before Trump. When groups belonging to the coalition find themselves in alignment with two representatives that wish to remain separate, the binding forces of party loyalty may not be enough to prevent a fracture.

The Republicans need someone to lead them out of these hostile times. They need a leader to prevent such a breakage and a new direction to follow. The top of the ticket defines the party and in 2020 the Republican Party will need a leader to guide them. What will the party produce? Cruz and Rubio will likely vie for the nomination once again, but is either candidate capable of securing it? Will Trump return and receive the nomination once more? These questions we will know only in time.

But in the coming months, who will lead? Paul Ryan stands as the leader in the House. Will he guide the party? Under Trump, the party is represented by hatred and fear. Those who fully identify with Trump are only a share of the Republican coalition and a small portion of the electorate as a whole. Trump was a call for help, but not a call made by the majority.

The Republican Party needs a new leader. Decades ago, Reagan led the party as a political outsider. Perhaps Trump will become the new face of the Republican Party. Instead of dismissing his victory as a hiccup, we must consider that Trump and his rhetoric might be the new norm for the Republicans.