In the last few months we’ve seen countless obituaries for the Grand Old Party. In January, the founder and CEO of the influential website Axios wrote, “Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally, and structurally.” He continued, “The losses are stark and substantial,” and “the GOP brand is radioactive for a huge chunk of America.” 

Republicans did suffer losses, there’s no denying it. While working for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, I was one of many Republican staffers who put a lot of effort into the Georgia runoffs, and the results were heartbreaking. But to quote “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “We’re not dead yet.” 

The battle cry for a post-Trump GOP

In one of the most politically volatile environments in decades, in which top political handicappers projected Republicans would lose between seven and 12 Senate seats, Republicans held the line at 50. Leaders like Susan Collins, Joni Ernst and Thom Tillis defied projections and held on.

Illustration by Craig Frazier

In the House, Republicans were projected to have a catastrophic election cycle, with Cook Political Report predicting that Democrats would expand their majority by 10 to 15 seats. Instead, Republicans made critical gains, making the Republican House minority so narrow it could very well become a majority in 2022. Republicans currently control a majority of governors’ mansions (27 to 23) and state legislative chambers (61 to 37.) And, in the last four years, the GOP made major gains confirming Republican-appointed judges to circuit and district courts around the country, including, most importantly, a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court. 

Those who predicted that former President Donald Trump and his brand would be the death of the Republican Party were proven wrong, and the diverse class of new Republican elected officials — many of whom were elected alongside him on the ballot — are one key proof point.  

The reality is that Trump received over 74 million votes in November — more than any past president in history, and more than any other Republican has ever received. Some were voting for conservative policy, some were voting against Democrats, and many showed up specifically because they supported Trump. 

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Some in the party have suggested Republicans can simply forge ahead without Trump’s voters or supporters. From a purely mathematical and political perspective, that makes little sense. The president has left a strong blueprint for a winning coalition. If a leader were able to garner the base support Trump commanded, particularly with rural and working class voters, while adopting a more measured approach to governing and a consistent leadership posture to win back the support of suburban voters, they could be a dominant political force in the modern Republican Party.

One factor political analysts have consistently underestimated in discussing the Republican Party’s demise is the uniting power of Democrat overreach. 

In 2008, former President Barack Obama swept into office with overwhelming majorities — at one point a 20 seat majority in the Senate and a 60 seat majority in the House. The unified Democratic government claimed a mandate to pass major stimulus and the Affordable Care Act on Democratic party lines. As a result, in 2010 Republicans took back the House, and Democrats suffered the highest losses by a party in a House midterm since 1938. Republicans also gained six seats in the Senate, well on their way to retaking the majority four years later. 

In 2020, President Joe Biden arrived in office with the narrowest majorities in decades in both the House and Senate, but is attempting to claim a mandate even larger than Obama. While he ran on a platform of unity, he very quickly ceded leadership and governing responsibilities to the most liberal voices in his administration and in Congress to fundamentally transform our democracy in one-sided, partisan ways that will benefit donors and supporters, but leave so many Americans in the cold. 

One of Biden’s first moves in office was canceling the Keystone XL Pipeline. With one swipe of the pen he ended thousands of jobs and hurt the nation’s struggling economy. And consider the Biden “infrastructure” bill.

While he has pitched it as a plan to fix roads and bridges, a consistently popular enterprise, only $115 billion of the $2.3 trillion package actually goes to fixing roads and bridges. It’s been called a “Trojan horse” because most of the legislative package will simply serve as a vehicle for tax hikes on working families, $620 billion in green energy handouts, payoffs to Democratic donors at labor unions and energy regulations modeled after the Green New Deal (which became a political punchline for attacking air travel and methane from cows.) The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote, “Mr. Biden is redefining infrastructure as social-justice policy and income redistribution.” 

Another critical issue that unites Republicans and divides Democrats is the corrosive influence of the left’s cancel culture. CNN’s Harry Enten wrote, “While Democrats may mock them, the fear of cancel culture and political correctness isn’t something that just animates the GOP’s base. It’s the rare issue that does so without alienating voters in the middle.” Morning Consult polling before the 2020 election showed that a 46% plurality of Americans believe cancel culture “has gone too far,” and 49% said it “had a somewhat negative or very negative impact.” 

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Few things bring Republicans together like overreach from the other side. With so many nakedly partisan moves from an administration that promised unity, and a race to the left that prioritizes liberal ideological benchmarks, there’s a Republican resurgence forming. Combine that energy with the winning issues Republicans have run on around the country in recent years, which have shown a demonstrated success at expanding our base, and you have a roadmap to success and an even stronger party.

Our country may very well depend on it. 

Matt Whitlock was the deputy chief of staff for former Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

This story appears in the May issue of Deseret MagazineLearn more about how to subscribe.

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