Redefining the Republican Party Nationally and Locally

Reinvention for Republicans
Illustration by peter noonan

The very identity of the Republican Party is being redefined nationally and locally, and 2015 could be the year when Republicans begin to figure out what direction the party could take in the next generation.

A lot of this national Republican re-branding will take place in New Hampshire as the presidential primary comes to town.

Following two losing presidential elections and poll numbers even lower than President Barack Obama’s, the Republican Party is looking to reinvent itself. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul put a fine point on it recently, saying the GOP’s brand just “sucks.”

Besides Paul, another potential Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, cautioned that while the 2014 midterm elections looked good for Republicans nationwide, it wasn’t as though voters were actually reaffirming Republican Party values. Exit polls of voters proved Perry right — that most were just voting against Obama more than for Republicans.

For many Republicans it is not just a marketing problem, but a whole searching for meaning and a path forward.

For a generation, many defined the Republican Party as a three-legged stool. Holding up that stool were three important legs: the fiscal conservative leg, the social conservative leg and the strong national security leg.

Currently each of these legs is being either undermined by forces inside of the Republican Party or being defined altogether.

"For most Republicans, it is not just a marketing problem."

The fiscal conservative leg has been under assault for a few years. This is a fight between Wall Street advocates and Main Street Republican populists. We can see this play out with Wall Street candidates like Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie taking on Main Street candidates like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee or former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in the presidential race.

The social conservative front is something that New Hampshire Republicans, in particular, have been sorting out lately. While many likely Republican presidential candidates will remain socially conservative because they will need to toe the line in other early primary states like Iowa and South Carolina, the pushback to all that will be here in the Granite State. Here in the Live Free or Die state, there is more of a libertarian wing of the Republican Party, who believes that government should stay out of people’s wallets and out of people’s bedrooms.

Lastly, there is also a significant debate among Republicans on national security.

 This debate has largely focused on how involved the United States should be in foreign conflicts. Much of this debate has been forced by candidates like Senator Paul, who believe that the United States should scale back on efforts in the Middle East and Ukraine. However, other candidates believe that Paul’s position on national security is the very reason why he will not win the Republican presidential nomination.

To those who are sick of relentless negative ads full of sound bites and crave a political conversation full of deeper meaning, I welcome you to 2015.

Categories: Politics