Rightward shift doesn’t make the GOP right

Bailey Ethier

Today’s Republican party isn’t Ronald Reagan’s Republican Party. If Reagan, the same man who has been repeatedly invoked by the GOP candidates, was still alive today, he wouldn’t be conservative enough to win the Republican Party’s nomination.

Reagan supported an assault weapons ban and the Brady Bill. Reagan granted amnesty for nearly 3 million illegal immigrants. And while Reagan signed the largest tax cut in American history, he also raised taxes on several occasions.

Today, Ben Carson supports the Second Amendment, because it supposedly enables citizens to protect against foreign invasion. Donald Trump wants to deport 11 million illegal immigrants and make Mexico pay for a wall across the border. And Ted Cruz wants a flat tax and to abolish the IRS.

The rise of the Tea Party has shifted the Republican Party so far to the right that the party is marred by an unwillingness to compromise.

Sammy Minkowitz, government and economics sophomore and social director for College Republicans, said the Tea Party has formed factions in the GOP.

“The result of this fragmentation causes the average views of the party to shift to the right, even though not all conservatives share those far-right views,” Minkowitz said. “Not all Republicans are extremists. From my experience, most are more moderate, but moderates don’t get that same media attention.”

The biggest difference, though, between Reagan’s GOP and the GOP that’s being held hostage by the Tea Party isn’t a position, it’s that opposition to compromise.
Reagan worked with both sides of the aisle.  Cruz nearly shut down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood.

The Republican party has changed more in tactics than in ideology, according to government professor David Prindle.

“Basically [modern-day Republicans] want the same economic policy as Reagan, but they’re willing to shut down the government and destroy the economy in order to do it,” Prindle said. “Democracy basically runs on compromise, and the alternative to compromise is basically people shooting at each other. So if you don’t want to be shooting at each other, then you have to compromise. That’s often unpleasant, but it’s not as unpleasant as being shot at.”

As many right-wingers note, Republicans aren’t always the only ones refusing to compromise. Democrats’ refusals to compromise played a role in the 2013 government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act, according to Minkowitz. Democrats proposed the budget, putting the GOP in a “position to propose changes.”

What’s ultimately troubling is that right-winged extremists in both ideology and tactics — such as Cruz — are legitimate presidential candidates.

If GOP candidates are going to continue to compare themselves to Reagan, they need to start acting like him. The further right the Tea Party shifts the GOP, the more wrong the party becomes. The Republican party is in danger of losing the 2016 election, and shifting a tad to the left would actually make the party more “right.”

Ethier is a journalism freshman from Westport, Connecticut. Follow Ethier on Twitter @baileyethier