Earlier this month, Republicans successfully picked up several seats in Congress, giving them a majority in both the House and Senate, as well several governorships across the country. January will mark the first time since 2007 that the Republicans have controlled both houses of Congress. In light of this, I ask, is the GOP back?
I have been deeply intrigued by American politics since I was in elementary school, when the presidential election of 2000 came down to Florida and was so hotly contested it took a Supreme Court ruling (Bush v. Gore) to decide it. That was when I first learned about Democrats and Republicans.
Those two abstract terms were mysterious and fascinating to me – my eight year-old self first thought they both just had really awesome house parties (my twenty-two year-old self still believes that). But really, all I knew was that my parents voted Republican and my grandmother voted Democrat. I sided with my parents.
However, in 2008, Senator John McCain picked Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska to be his presidential running mate on the Republican ticket. That was when I decided to become a Democrat. To me, this was the signal that the GOP had gone over the deep end, and had become the party of unintelligent, fundamentalist bigots – and I wanted no part of it.
I consider myself to be pretty politically moderate, not wanting the true-believers of the left or the right to gain too much power. I like a good balance – like all good theatre, politics should represent several voices and not just one.
As President Obama’s first term went on, I witnessed the rise of the notoriously reactionary Tea Party, a coalition of big money-fueled redneck anarchists who seemed to define themselves solely in opposition to the White House. Though their ideology was at best ignorant belligerence and at worst racist belligerence, the Tea Party invigorated the Republican Party into winning control over the House of Representatives in 2010 and 2012. However, the Democrats maintained control over the Senate and, of course, the White House.
That, of course, has changed.[pullquote] The Republicans will soon be in charge on Capitol Hill, and are already gearing up for 2016.[/pullquote]
But if the party in charge has changed, has the type of person in that party also changed? In other words, is the Republican Party becoming more moderate?
Professor Bruce Anderson of the Political Science Department thinks so. “Mainstream Republicans were able to constrain the type of candidate this time to more reasonable people,” he says. “[Republicans] didn’t take the Senate last election because of [candidates] like that one in Indiana” (Dr. Anderson is referring here to Richard Mourdock, who once said that “life was something that God intended,” in opposition to abortion in the case of rape).
Junior Kassandra Galvez, who is the vice-chairman of the FSC College Republicans, also weighs in. “I believe it is better to have a more moderate/centrist Republican Party, because they will be open-minded and understand both sides of every argument,” she says. Furthermore, she says she believes that “there is a divide in the thinking between the younger and older generations of Republicans, especially on social issues […].”
Indeed, social issues were a huge point of contention in the 2012 elections, with Democrats declaring themselves leaders of the future by supporting gay marriage and women’s reproductive rights, while the Republicans were accused of waging a so-called war on women. Obviously, the Democrats were successful in convincing enough Americans that the Republicans would make us live in a repressive, 1950’s-esque society. After that election, it seemed as though the Republican Party would fizzle out and die – especially if one were watching MSNBC.
I, however, thought the Republicans needed an image repair if they wanted to stay relevant. It seems I’m being proved right as moderate Republicans have won various races across the country, in contrast to the Tea Party dog-and-pony shows of 2010 and 2012. I now think that yes, indeed, the GOP is back (but I’m probably going to stay a Democrat).