Though politics is often characterized by change, American politics has been defined by two political parties that have remained constant through much of modern history. This serves as a testament to the fact that both the Republican and Democratic parties have been highly successful in redefining their priorities with the times, undergoing serious makeovers for new generations of voters.
The upcoming election cycle indicates the need for such a makeover in the Republican party. Young Americans are more willing to vote, showing an increased interest from their predecessors in the election process. New issues have also emerged, with both parties having the remarkable opportunity to reinvent themselves through their stances. So far, these trends have benefited the Democrats. If the Republican party wants to enter the next decade with an advantage, it will have to compromise on the environment and diversity while becoming more vocal in emphasizing the power of business.
Conservatives should rest assured that they are not the only ones who have been required to concede on some issues. In the 1980s, both the Democratic and Republican parties drifted to the right and embraced tax cuts and lowered spending. In the 1990s, Democratic President Bill Clinton campaigned on ending welfare “as we know it,” advocating a position that would have been highly unorthodox for the party two decades earlier. Similarly, if the Republican party refuses to adapt itself to a new generation and its needs, it may find itself unable to compete.
In order to conduct such change, the Republican party must welcome environmentalists and discontinue its ignorance on global warming. The phenomenon of global warming is almost universally accepted among young voters, and Republican refusal to acknowledge the subject is beyond frustrating. This does not mean Republicans need to hug trees and throw red paint onto expensive furs, and we can still debate the cause of global warming. But we also need to send a message that the party is not pro-carbon emissions. This is crucial to attract moderate voters.
Secondly, the party should approach diversity differently. One pervasive belief among young voters is that Republicans are the party of Caucasians, while the Democrats are the party of minorities. Republican politicians have often had trouble in the past in discussing and celebrating diversity, turning off potential minority voters who agree with Republican principles but feel that the party does not want them. Republicans should underscore minority members such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and further highlight the campaigns of aspiring black or Hispanic Republicans. But in a century that will see a rise in minority participation in politics, Republicans cannot afford to continue making diversity the silent elephant in the room.
That being said, there is one issue on which Republicans should become particularly vocal: the power of business. Most young Americans expect business to provide much more for their lives than government. Business makes cutting-edge technology and tools that make life easier and more efficient, while innovatively lowering consumer prices. This idea has long been a position at the heart of the Republican party, and as business becomes more advanced, it will only grow stronger in America. Many young people who once aspired to serve in government to change the world now seek MBAs to bring about such change. Republicans can only benefit from becoming even more critical of liberal big-government social engineering, promoting the credentials of business instead.
Internal reform of party orthodoxy is often opposed. But we must not forget that we are not the first generation of Republicans that has been asked to redefine itself, nor will we be the last. Future generations of Republicans will no doubt be thankful that we chose to do so when the Republican party continues to ratchet up electoral victories.
The writer is a freshman majoring in political science.