The Future of Conservatism

The United States democratic system is one unlike any other in the history of the world. With a population well over 300 million people, there certainly is no shortage of diversity in our country. This diversity is not only limited to color and culture, but it also applies to our political views. However, despite the multitude of political views that are held in our country, there are only two major parties with the platform to effectively advocate for and advance those views. What’s more, is the fact that both of these major parties seem to be drifting further to the left and right, and this is becoming an issue that grows in consequence with every election cycle. However, in order to fully discuss and understand this dynamic, it is important to take a look at a few recent events that have lead us to this point.

Even though I was only 13 years old in the run up to the 2008 presidential election, I can still remember the intensity of the political battle as the two sides of our country’s democracy ferociously fought over the White House. This protracted battle ended on November 4th, when Barack Obama was duly elected as President of The United States of America. While Democrats were rejoicing, Republicans were seething. As is the case with every presidential election, the losing side generally tends to make the worst out of the candidate that was just elected. This held true in 2016, and was certainly true in 2008 as well. When any party loses an election, they will take a few months to diagnose what went wrong, and contemplate how they can shift their platform in order to appeal to more voters in four (or two) years time. In 2009, when Barack Obama was sworn in, many conservatives saw it as their duty to oppose what they felt was an overly progressive, or even socialist agenda. This lead to the rise of the Tea Party, who pledged to fight tooth and nail for conservative values during what they hoped would be a four year presidency. In the years since that election, this brand of the conservatism has grown in influence as well as size, and now makes up a sizeable portion of the Republican party. This dynamic has had the effect of pulling the Republican party to the right, and now in 2017, Democrats have almost perfectly mirrored that same reaction, by staunchly opposing a conservative president they hope to replace in 2020.

Can you begin to see some parallels here? Rather than coming towards the middle after losing an election, both parties have elected to drift further and further away from it. I believe that this dynamic, if it continues to develop, runs the risk of disenfranchising countless voters (like myself) who want so badly for a party to come to the middle. However, this is as big of an opportunity as it is an issue. Despite the dystopian worldview pushed forward by major news stations, I truly believe that millennial voters have less daylight between them than the generations of voters who have come before us.

I’m going to go on a limb here and say that a vast majority of people my age agree on topics such as women’s choice, a fair tax system LGBTQ rights and yes, climate change. Remember, I’m referring to millennial voters, not Republicans at large. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to explain what I see as a few reasonable compromises Republicans of our generation can make on taxation and climate change and some other issues that will grow the party and benefit the country. Let’s begin with climate change:  I think the proper position to take on climate change is that although we don’t have a 100% consensus on how quickly it will become a real issue, we can probably make the conjecture that pouring pollutants into our atmosphere for another 200 years will certainly have a negative effect on our environment. As such, we have the moral and ethical obligation to act now, although we may or may not see the consequences in our lifetime if we don’t. This point doesn’t even take into the account that the next industrial revolution will be centered around clean energy. By clinging to coal and fossil fuels, Republicans are missing out on the opportunity to lead the country, and the world in one of the largest economic booms in its history and in all honesty, that bothers me more than the fact that it may one day irreparably damage our environment (terrible, I know).

Well what about taxation? Should Republicans continue with their agenda to slash taxes,especially on businesses, across the board? Yes and no. Most everybody can get behind a tax cut, but my issue with the Republican plan is a 10% tax cut for somebody who makes $3,000,000 is a lot more than a 10% tax cut for somebody who makes $40,000. I would like you to take a look at the statistics below and think about what catches your eye (Hint: check out the numbers for individuals making $50,000 and under).

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Did you see that people making $50,000 or less account for 62% of the taxable population? Did you see that they only account for 7% of income tax revenues? Somebody please correct me if this idea is misguided, but don’t you think it’s entirely realistic that the federal government could literally eliminate (or drastically cut) income taxes for that 62% and only lose a small portion of their revenues?

Can you imagine if Republicans, the party whose main pillars are low taxes and small government, eliminated income taxes for 62% of the country while not raising taxes on anybody else? Do you think that would go a long way in expanding the base of the Republican party? I certainly do. And for those who say that something, or somebody must then pay for those tax cuts, you are correct. However, Republicans have long prided themselves on their ability to cut down on government waste. I suppose that cutting government expenditures by 7% or so in order to pay for this cut, even if it isn’t a complete elimination of income tax for earners making under $50,000, would be the perfect opportunity for Republicans to prove their worth. This is where Republicans and Democrats will continue to differ. While the Democrats believe that shifting the tax burden (raising taxes on the wealthy and their businesses) is the best way to pay for these income tax cuts, I believe it that Republicans have it right when they say the best way to pay for tax cuts is to cut government expenditures. How can they do this? A great deal of money stands to be saved by the government if they gave tasks such as health care and primary education back to the states, setting a standard and allowing each state to meet the Federal Government’s criteria in a unique way. Students in Arkansas are different from students in Florida, and they should be treated as such. Allowing states to craft their own primary and secondary educational plans serves two purposes really:

1) It largely reduces the amount of money needed to fund the Department of Education, allowing for more efficient educational systems at a state level.

2) It creates 50 educational laboratories, in which each state is trying out different methods and ideas. In the beginning, some states will falter, and some will flourish. However, in time the faltering states will adopt the practices of the states that have flourished and our educational system will be better for it.

Additionally, Republicans could continue their agenda of rolling back some of the unnecessary financial regulations currently burdening our system. These are all ideas that Republicans should be championing. In order for the Republican party to present themselves as a viable alternatives to Democrats, the party will have to explore ideas like the one laid out above, in addition to things like Universal Basic Income and free college tuition for in-state students attending public universities.

Are these traditional Republican proposals? Far from it. In fact, some of you may think this is pretty much an article calling for Republicans to just turn into Democrats. I understand that many of these proposals may seem “progressive”, but Democrats do not have a monopoly on these types of solutions, despite what the media tells you. This is actually probably the biggest object standing in the way of real change in the Republican party- the fear that Democrats will portray it as a “we were right all along” moment. However, it is critical for Republicans to realize that the desires and needs of their voters are changing at an unprecedented pace as baby boomers advance in age and millennials begin to take their place in society. In my estimation, the first party to bridge the gap between Gen X/ Baby Boomer politicians and the ever growing bloc of millennial voters will be the party that enjoys the most success during our lifetime. The bottom line is that big companies in the United States are doing just fine, and our economy continues to add jobs and see unemployment drop. I don’t think that anybody can say that keeping tax rates the same for big businesses and the wealthiest of individuals poses a grave threat to our economy- and that is because it doesn’t. Instead of focusing their tax cutting efforts on that exceedingly small part of the population, Republicans should shift their focus to substantially cutting taxes for the teacher in Iowa or the social worker in Nevada.

Republicans currently face a choice that will decide the future of our party. The easy thing to do is allow the impetus of traditional conservatism to carry on indefinitely. The more difficult thing to do, and the right thing to do, is to shift this party to the middle and hear the calls of millions of people crying out for fiscal conservatism and social acceptance. Cut back on government spending, create sustainable social programs, and vigorously defend the constitution. If Republicans can pull this off, our party will once again achieve the level of dominance enjoyed in the 1980s. However, Republicans cannot think that holding onto 1980s policy is the way to go about doing it. If Republicans fail to come to center, there is a legitimate chance that Donald Trump (who won this election because of his personality and brand, not his platform) is one of the last Republicans to hold office. I wrote this piece because I’ve grown incredibly weary of hearing both sides chastise and speak with contempt to one another as if we share nothing in common. All of us want to lift the poor from poverty, all of us want increased access to education, all of us want financial security, and all of us want to see our country succeed. Instead of continuing this game of ‘divide and conquer’, I believe it’s time for Republicans to unite and prosper.

One comment

  1. Nice! Same as I say, there needs to be a version of conservatism that isn’t backward on civil rights and understands that income inequality is a simple math problem with dire consequences for the entire economy.

    Liked by 1 person

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