BHARADWAJ: The Republican Party must focus on liberty

An outdated platform focused on social issues cannot win future elections

op-gillespie-AWalsh

The Republican Party must shift its message to economic freedom to keep voters engaged.

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

After spending dozens of hours knocking on doors and making calls this summer with the John Adams campaign, I was a bit disheartened to see every single one of the Republican candidates lose in the election last week. However, it wasn’t the loss itself that saddened me the most — I had expected narrow losses for the entire ticket — but rather the fact that the Republican candidates lost in such spectacular fashion, with former Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie faring worse than even President Donald Trump last year. By pretty much all measures, Gillespie was a superior candidate in my mind — whether examining his subjectively great debate performances, or his detailed set of fiscal plans for our state. He couldn’t have possibly run a better campaign and seemed to have the unequivocal support of the Republican base — unlike Trump — so why did he and the rest of the ticket get absolutely annihilated? 

Many Democrats would contend that increasing minority populations are the cause for Republican struggles in Virginia in recent years, and such claims are not baseless. It is easy to come to such a conclusion when you consider the fact that minorities overwhelmingly voted for Ralph Northam in the election, and that the white population has dropped significantly in proportion over the past few decades. However, I think this is a case of correlation, not causation, for I don’t believe skin color alone inherently affects one’s political values. The real reason that Republicans are doing increasingly worse in states like Virginia and North Carolina, which were once solidly red, is because of the decline of Christianity in America, which coincides with this demographic shift. 

According to a Pew Research study, the rate of Christians in America has dropped by nearly eight percent in the past seven years alone, and is still steadily declining. As a result, Christian-centric social issues that have been the bread and butter of the Republican Party for years are no longer getting the same levels of support, and probably never will. Whether it be gay rights in the past, or abortion and marijuana usage in the present, it is clear that newer generations are becoming less and less accepting of traditional Christian depictions of morality. This is evidenced by the nationwide rise of Libertarianism in this country, even amongst Republicans like myself. As a result, I think that if the Republican Party is to have a future in Virginia and other purple states, we must abandon outdated Christian values and embrace “Constitutional Conservatism,” upon which the Republican Party was founded. 

The primary right-wing argument against a restructuring of the Republican platform is that to do so would be to compromise conservatism itself, which I believe to be false. In my opinion, the three pillars of conservatism are as follows — a strict interpretation of the constitution, an understanding of the efficacy and morality of free market capitalism and a belief that the power of the federal government must be limited in order to protect the liberty of the people. None of these ideas have anything to do with the social issues I listed, which instead find their roots in the Bible, not the Constitution. 

Moreover, with regards to abortion in particular, it is not just polarizing but also blatantly dishonest to run a platform based on repeal. Because of “stare decisis” — the judicial law that courts shall always side with precedent, unless given a very compelling reason not to — it is clear that repealing Roe v. Wade is nothing but a fantasy used to trick gullible voters, and the same can be said for numerous other social issues. That being said, though I may personally disagree, this doesn’t make pro-life advocates immoral, or even necessarily wrong on this issue — the fact of the matter is that Republicans simply cannot win on this premise. The courts have decided that it is constitutional, so the party that prides itself on its constitutionality should accept this judgment.

The Republican message has not changed much over time, despite the fact that the world we’re living in has changed immensely. This will be the Republican Party’s undoing if something is not done. With an increasingly non-religious populace, it makes no strategic sense to push so hard for Christian issues which younger generations oppose or simply don’t care about. I personally take a libertarian stance on most social issues, and regardless of your beliefs, the Republican Party will only continue to lose power in our state if it doesn’t change holistically. We must focus on a message of economic and personal freedom, security, limited government and fiscal responsibility for that is what it means to be a conservative. 

Milan Bharadwaj is an Opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com

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