The GOP needs a liberty-centered, populist revolution. Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Rep. Thomas Massie have become some of the most prominent voices of the party during the embrace of this mindset. If Republicans center their populist momentum on liberty, they will see victories as they have never seen before.
In 2008 and 2012, the Republican Party was upturned when a controversial congressman named Ron Paul took center stage as one of the top candidates for its presidential nomination. A former Libertarian Party nominee, Paul began to share opinions that leaned far away from the establishment Right. The Texas congressman had anti-interventionist positions in foreign policy, critiqued his Gov. Rick Perry for high tax rates in Texas, and said that the country had failed in terms of fighting the eternal drug war the GOP had championed for decades.
He may not have won the nomination in either of the years he ran, but it seems as if the lasting impression he made on the party carried over into the party’s primary in 2016 when a man named Donald Trump shared sentiments that were popular with voters but very unpopular with his primary counterparts. The similarities between Paul and Trump may not seem significant, but the debates revealed how they equally affected the shift in their party’s mindset.
Both were anti-war, criticized former President George W. Bush despite the critique being unpopular, and did not say they would vote for the GOP nominee if they failed to win the primary. While Paul appealed to the Tea Party movement of the late 2000s to early 2010s, Trump embraced the populist ideology of 2016. Trump won the GOP primary while Paul helped set a candidate such as Trump up to be the dominant ideologue.
Both men’s contributions to the party get attributed to how they positioned their ideologies to appeal to the masses. Trump made the elite the media, the “swamp” in Washington, D.C., and even other Republicans he shared the stage with. Years ago, Paul said similarly, “The moral and constitutional obligations of our representatives in Washington are to protect our liberty, not coddle the world, precipitating no-win wars, while bringing bankruptcy and economic turmoil to our people.”null
The GOP is now combining both of these men’s approaches to conservatism. The path forward to win elections and decrease federal government authoritarianism is one of populism based on liberty. Most no longer want to be in endless wars, such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, voters realized the amount of power both the federal and state governments have over their people is far too intrusive. Social issues are beginning to mean far less to conservatives in terms of governmental legislation. However, they still practice social conservatism themselves and fight for policies that support family values. While the Republicans may care less and less about marijuana, they have begun to care more about abortion and tax policy issues. The Republican Party is changing and for the better.
However, conservatives have now got to be careful about countering the dangers of other mindsets that center on populism. Over the last couple of years, some conservatives have embraced economic populism concentrated on higher taxes for the elite class, a higher federal minimum wage, and even universal healthcare. Positions on these issues from the economic populist Right are far more similar to a socialist such as Sen. Bernie Sanders than even a populist conservative such as Trump. Taking all of the financial criticisms that the far Left already deals with and growing the federal government’s power is not the way forward for the GOP. Republicans can take how Trump and others appealed to the masses in their campaigns without being economically socialist.
Kenny Cody is the chairman of the Cocke County Republican Party in Tennessee, as well as a columnist for Newsmax.com .
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