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OPINION: The death of conservatism

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The Republican party is becoming less of an institution and more of an amalgamation of social opinions, opinion writer Cade Plotts says.

The 2016 election shook the very foundation of our two-party system like an earthquake, and the effects could be felt everywhere from the conservative Tea Party to the far left Bernie Sanders supporters. No one felt this quake more than Hillary Clinton, who lost the election as a result. This shift is not so much economically driven as it is socially.

“Mainstream Republicans have been shifting more libertarian, especially since the last election,” Hunter McAfee, member of the Ohio University College Republicans, said. It is a redefining change, especially visible on campus at Ohio U, because it has the new perspective of the youth that will grow into the next generation of Republicans.

While Hillary may have felt the most dramatic effects, the fissure left in the ground has revealed some far-reaching, old problems within the the parties themselves. They have each lost touch with their voter base. While the will of the people changed and evolved as national, regional and local issues were faced and resolved, the parties that supposedly represented them have changed very little since the ‘80s and the election of President Ronald Reagan.

The Republican Party has been, since then, a loose coalition between conservatives, libertarians and moderates. This is simplifying it a great deal, lumping together supply-sides, social conservatives, internationalists and many more subgroups. This coalition of sorts has been held together by what melts down to be ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’.

As this latest iteration of the Republican Party advanced through Reagan’s presidency, it became held together by a distaste of democratic elitism and for the big government it represented. This ranged from the business owners who wanted tax cuts so they could grow to the factory worker who wanted tax cuts so that he could provide more for his family.

This original message, and the unity it brought, has since been lost on the GOP, whose message became ‘smaller government for the sake of small government’ instead of ‘smaller government to help the American people.’ The GOP has been given the power to enact great change that it has been promising its voting base for years but instead decides to twiddle its thumbs and make excuses.

The election of Donald Trump and the GOP’s inability to work with our president to fulfill one of its largest promises, repealing the Affordable Care Act, identifies the disunity of the party. Conservatives like Ted Cruz must realize that while they are in line with the way the people thought 30 years ago, the divide between them and the younger, socially liberal voting base calls for a party realignment.

It is already clear the voters under both parties are switching and shuffling themselves around. There are Cubans, Rust Belt union workers and business owners voting together for change under Donald Trump for the first time in recent memory.

These changes can also be seen on campus through OUCRs. The group is a melting pot of right-wing ideologies, from conservatives to a constantly growing number of libertarians. Each weekly meeting shows this. Some members also belong to the Sons of Liberty, Ohio U’s Libertarian club. The only ideological connection between all of them is some right-wing economic views, but even that ranges from moderates to hardcore conservatives.

The election of Trump perfectly represents this shift, from the unwavering protectionist stance on foreign policy to the promise to cut both taxes and regulations. This is a reflection of the ever-growing shift socially from the denial of social deviation to acceptance, with the asterisk that it is not the government’s place to make laws on social issues.

The Democratic Party has even acknowledged this move in its own way when it announced a shift from focusing on social issues to economics, and then announced a new slogan, “A Better Deal.” This supports the idea that there’s less disagreement on social issues compared to economics or foreign policy. This is not to say there aren’t ways in which they differ on implementation, but it ultimately does indicate that there are bigger fish to catch.

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