An Evolving GOP
Recently, Representative John Boehner—the eighth-most tenured Republican Speaker of the House in congressional history—once again secured his place as the 53rd Speaker of the House of Representatives. However, growing unrest within the GOP sparked some congressional Republicans to nearly unseat their own party’s sitting Speaker for the first time in history. The attempted coup signifies an unprecedented change among the Republican base: less desire for the career (and out-of-touch) Republican leaders and more desire for those who will fight for values, freedom, and, above all else, their constituents.
Leading up to the recent selection of the Speaker for the coming term, Representative John Boehner ranked the least popular among congressional leadership, with Democrats no longer serving as his only critics: CNN reports that a mere 28% of the American public views the Congressman favorably, and Breitbart reports that 60% of Republican voters nationwide want Boehner replaced as Speaker of the House.
Prior to the vote, a plethora of congressional offices received calls from their constituents requesting that Boehner be unseated. Those calls ultimately inspired 35-40 Republican Congressmen to pledge their vote against Boehner going into the selection process, which would have been enough to unseat him. However, when push came to shove, fifteen of those representatives repealed their decision in order to avoid potential punishment from the establishment leaders.
Following the vote, the fears of those fifteen came to fruition as Boehner immediately removed both Reps. Webster and Nugent—who campaigned against him for the Speakership—from their respective positions on the House Rules Committee. Both politicians hail from Florida—with Webster being the former Speaker of the Florida House and Nugent being a former Florida Sheriff and current Tea Party Congressman—and were easy targets for Boehner as both served on a House Leadership Committee.
Another question to ask is why do a large group of Republicans dislike Boehner in the first place? Boehner’s career record in Congress, as seen through spectrum rankings, offers some insight into the reason for his unpopularity: Speaker Boehner maintains a Liberal Action Score of 0%, meaning that he doesn’t ever vote along DNC party lines. Oddly enough, though, Boehner also maintains the worst Conservative Action Score—11%—among House Republicans. The numbers therefore suggest Speaker Boehner doesn’t really take a stance on any big-issue topics. Boehner’s only introduced legislation since becoming Speaker has been a lawsuit filed against the President in regards to the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality. These facts could potentially explain why both Republicans and Democrats are frustrated with Boehner’s leadership: statistically, he appears to lack any real causes or values for which he adamantly fights.
This style of politicking does little to help the image of the modern GOP as a dysfunctional, and inhibiting body of legislators. However, I believe that voters are frustrated with old-image Republicans and want a new brand of GOP politicians who are willing to represent their changing views and individual liberties. The attempted coup within the congressional GOP taught us two valuable lessons. First, we learned that the American people aren’t getting what they want from their supposedly representative leaders: of 40 Representatives asked by their constituents to vote against Speaker Boehner, only 25 of those Congressmen acted in accordance with the wishes of those they were elected to represent. Second, we learned that there are 25 honest and worthy Representatives in Washington who we must try to reproduce. This is not necessarily to say that we should elect men and women with their specific political stances. We must simply elect those who are willing to represent their constituents first and foremost—which is what makes democracy a truly worthwhile system of government.
Whether or not this occurrence will affect future elections is uncertain, but one thing is for sure: the GOP’s establishment members are facing growing unrest within their own party. In 2014, we saw the sitting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lose the primary to fellow Republican Dave Brat. We also saw Libertarian-leaning Republicans like Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul begin prepping for potential 2016 Presidential campaigns. In addition, Americans elected the first ever African-American Republican Congresswoman (Rep. Mia Love) and the first ever African-American Senator in the South since Reconstruction (Sen. Tim Scott).
Even though these few instances may appear inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, the trend of change in the GOP is indeed gaining traction. Libertarian-learning Senators had never before served as front-line Republican politicians, an African-American Republican woman had never before been elected to Congress, and an African-American Senator from the South had never before been elected to the Senate. Though isolated instances hardly prove a monumental reorientation of the party, they do show that the GOP, for the first time in recent memory, is adapting its stances in order to include more voices in the Republican conversation. This more inclusive and diverse GOP is gaining support with young voters who want a more representative and freedom-oriented GOP. A recent Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey found that 53% of voters age 18-29 would “support a candidate who described him or herself as socially liberal and economically conservative.” Pew Research also notes that among Republicans of the same age bracket, 61% support same-sex marriage. While abortion is still a heated topic on many college campuses, the GOP’s stance on the issue continues to model the position of Americans, who favor Pro-Life policies by up to 11% over Pro-Choice policies. Although it does vary issue by issue, the Republican Party is indeed adapting an overwhelming portion of its social-issue positions.
In light of the recent “Republican Revolt,” it is becoming more and more clear that the GOP is beginning to reshape itself. The changing Republican base is constantly encouraging the election of new-age politicians and the modernization of party platforms. If young conservatives continue the fight to elect true representatives of the people and politicians who will stand up for what they believe in, I foresee great future success for the Republican Party.
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