Historically, the Republican Party stood for a smaller federal government, for lower taxes, for less federal spending, probably as well having problems solved at the state and local level, or just in the private sector. Internationally, the party favors a strong national defense, an America acting in its own self-interest. For the Republican Party, President Ronald Reagan, who held office from 1981 to 1989, became an iconic figure like FDR. Another Reagan legacy for the Republicans is the prominent inclusion of social conservatives such as fundamentalist Christians and anti-abortion activists.
Trump remade the Republican Party in his populist image, in defiance of the neoconservative orthodoxy on trade, immigration, foreign policy and the size and scope of government. In every state important to the 2020 race, Trump's lieutenants were in firm control of the Republican electoral machinery. The local Republican Parties were effectively regional arms of the president’s re-election effort. His demand for loyalty has created a cult of personality in the party. The party is in near-unanimous lock step in support of him. There were fewer self-identified Republicans in 2020 than when Trump won the 2016 nomination. But among Republicans, Trump had support in the mid-80s.The October 2019 Morning Consult’s State of the Parties poll found that most Reagan Republicans (56 percent) believed the 45th president’s changes to the GOP are temporary, while 52 percent of Trump Republicans said they were permanent. Plus, 4 in 5 Trump Republicans said Trump’s changes to the GOP were “definitely for the better,” more than double the share of Reagan Republicans (35 percent) who said the same.
Trump believed in the politics of polarization. But the crude theater of his presidential antics did not play well with mainstream Republican voters. Trump’s hold on the party surprised and dismayed Republican elected officials who identify with the party’s traditional, business-oriented wing. An August 2019 USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found tha almost four in 10 Republican leaners would like to see evangelical Christian leaders have less influence. Only a quarter of core Republicans felt that way. Reagan Republicans are wealthier than Trump Republicans, more highly educated and are more likely to identify as Christian. While a majority of Reagan Republicans live in the suburbs, Trump Republicans are almost evenly divided between suburbs and rural areas, with 1 in 5 living in a city.
Michael Starr Hopkins noted 14 November 2019, "Republicans need to bring in minorities to avoid becoming a regional party, but these voters are completely turned off by the racist language emanating from the White House. What works on cable news does not translate to those who do not regularly consume conservative media. Polls also show millennial support for the president is low, which is not sustainable for the party. While Reagan may have ushered in a new generation of Republicans, Trump is bringing out a new generation of Democrats that may turn states like Texas blue for decades.... The party of small government has now been overcome by nationalism and devoid of any guiding principles. "
“I see the restraints coming off all over the place. It’s been a less cautious approach as Trump has realized he doesn’t have to pay attention to traditional Republican advisers,” said Ed Dolan, an economist at the Niskanen Center, a libertarian-leaning think tank. “There don’t seem to be any conservative voices around him anymore that disagree with him.”
In the 1960s Republican analysts saw that the Democratic New Deal coalition was cracking, the traditionally conservative south and west began to control more seats in the House of Representatives, and Americans were becoming more affluent and, thus, more interested in taxes and inflation. Richard M. Nixon, the United States President in 1968, gave birth to the "Southern Strategy" that was designed to gain the votes of individuals who oppose school desegregation.
In the ashes of the Goldwater defeat, Richard Nixon and others saw hopes for a Republican renewal, based on peeling off white voters from their Democratic allegiance. By 1968 the political alchemists of the Republican Party had refined a heady mixture of codeworded backlash appeals and surface adherence to racial egalitarianism. Nixon's 1968 and 1972 "Southern Strategy" campaigns were designed to bring in the backlash votes without alarming the rest of the electorate.
Efforts were made to bring social conservatives, especially pro-lifers, into the Republican party with scare tactics used in the wording of direct mailings. In the late 1970s, fundamentalist Christians became outraged by Supreme Court decisions banning school prayer and legalizing abortion and by Jimmy Carter's decision to withdraw tax-exempt status from segregated church schools. This group was mobilized by radio and television preachers, especially televangelist Jerry Falwell who also used scare tactics to promote his Moral Majority.
The new right also tried to reach the nation's 50 million Roman Catholics through the right-to-life movement. The Catholic bishops worked closely with the new right at first, but most Catholic lay people did not share their church's opposition to abortion in all cases. When Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980, the new right was quick to claim the victory, even though polls showed that most Reagan voters opposed banning abortion.
Then in the mid-1980s, the forces of the new right began to wobble. Fundamentalist and Catholic Church leaders were rocked with sexual scandals, the pro-lifers began to fight among themselves, and the Moral Majority stopped raking in funds. When the Supreme Court's Webster decision gave states the right to restrict abortion, a pro-choice backlash swept the nation. Congress followed suit. Pro-lifers have resisted political marginalization, and maintains its firm hold on the Republican party, although pro-choice Republicans are urging the party to distance itself from the anti-abortion forces.
The Republican Party is deeply divided. The dominant factions within the party are conservative. Missing from the debate and the dialogue, by and large, is what used to be a very significant force in the Republican Party -- moderate Republicans, centrist Republicans. There are none of them in the House of Representatives anymore, and one or two in the Senate. By and large, they are not a force at all.
The splits and strains within the party were showing in the new 2016 Republican-led Congress, particularly between so called ‘mainstream’ or ‘Chamber of Commerce’ type Republicans who focus on economic issues and Tea Party factions that are consumed with cutting the size of the federal government. Add to that mix evangelical Christian voters who are most concerned with social issues such as abortion and gay marriage and foreign policy hawks who want to reassert U.S. power around the world. There is often overlap among these factions within the Republican Party.
In the aftermath of the November 2012 election, Republicans were divided as to why they had lost. Some accepted the conventional wisdom that the party had strayed too far to the right and that Mitt Romney appeared to be held hostage by the conservative and Tea Party wing of the party. But many conservatives slammed the Romney campaign for abandoning core conservative positions, like deporting illegal immigrants, and have vowed to never again nominate “an establishment Republican” to lead the party.
The Republican Party famously released an “autopsy” report after the mid-term electoral losses of 2012, calling for a more inclusive appeal to younger, diverse voters that included advancing immigration reform. In a report called the Growth and Opportunity Project, Republican leaders studied what went wrong last year and offer up some general ideas about improving the party’s electoral prospects in the future. The report includes focus group feedback that described the Republican brand in terms that included “scary,” “narrow-minded,” “out of touch” — a party of “stuffy old men.”
But the heart of the Republican problem could be, well, heart. Too often Republican candidates are seen as negative and driven purely by economic concerns, especially cutting government spending. Those behind the report believe the party has to do more to counter the perception that Republicans simply don’t care about people.
The report also described Republicans as being in an “ideological cul-de-sac” and said the party must find a way to appeal to groups beyond older white males. The recommendations include reaching out to minority voters — African-American, Hispanic and Asian-Americans—and called on Republicans to back comprehensive immigration reform.
outspoken conservatives and Republican activists known as the Tea Party immediately lashed out at the Republican self-analysis. The Tea Party Patriots released a statement that said voters don’t need an “autopsy” from the Republican National Committee to know that the party failed to promote Tea Party principles and lost because of it. Talk show host Rush Limbaugh said the party was “totally bamboozled” and he was part of a chorus of conservative firebrands who saw the party document as a retreat from core principles. Many conservatives slammed the Romney campaign for abandoning core conservative positions, like deporting illegal immigrants, and have vowed to never again nominate “an establishment Republican” to lead the party.
Trump found success as a candidate in 2016 by directly contradicting the "Autopsy" view, using inflammatory language against Latinos to call for a border wall between Mexico and the United States. According to a Pew Research Center poll, Trump supporters significantly differed from Republican voters on foreign policy and immigration issues. Eighty-four percent of Trump voters favor building the wall with Mexico, while 56% of other candidates' supporters favor that policy.
Donald Trump clearly reached out to some folks who are not traditional Republicans, working-class Democrats in particular, some independents as well because he has touched on their frustration and their concerns about their future.
US Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton says half of the supporters of her Republican rival Donald Trump belong in a "basket of deplorables." Speaking September 10, 2016 at an LGBT fundraiser in New York, Clinton described those supporters as racist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic - you name it." Clinton said, "Unfortunately, there are people like that and he has lifted them up." The former secretary of state said some of those people were irredeemable and did not represent America.
The Republican Party was in a strained and unique place, seeking a balance between the social conservative wing that approaches public policy with a religious perspective and another part of the party that sort of turns its nose up at social issues and just focuses exclusively on economics and wants smaller government, lower taxes, better opportunities for business investment. The party also attracts libertarians and millennial voters who seek a middle way.
There is an anti-elitism and intellectualism among some in the Republican Party. A majority of older Republicans and Republican-leaning voters say American colleges and universities have a negative effect on the United States. In 2017 the Pew Research Center found that the share of Republicans and Republican leaners who viewed the impact of colleges and universities positively had declined 18 percentage points, from 54 percent to 36 percent. The Pew Research Center survey found Republicans have an even worse opinion of the news media than they do of American colleges. Pew found that 85 percent of Republicans and people who lean Republican say the news media has a negative effect on the United States.
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