Papastefan: The Republican revival


Grant Papastefan, Columnist

There’s been a sense of impending doom surrounding the Republican Party for the past few years, with Democrats and their media counterparts perpetuating a narrative that the Republican Party has been radicalized to the point of no return by the Tea Party and other far-right groups. Although such radical sects have hindered the advancement of conservative policies and caused a number of Americans to judge the Republican Party with a critical eye, the Republican Party is actually in a much stronger position than its Democratic opponents, and things are only going to get better.

To evaluate the current state of the Republican Party, we can first look at the race for Speaker of the House. Though the race initially pointed to even more disarray among conservatives, with the far-right House Freedom Caucus effectively ousting former frontrunner Kevin McCarthy by endorsing another candidate, a different feeling has since emerged from the race. With Paul Ryan recently agreeing to enter the race, the Party has finally found a leader who can stand up for conservative values and unite conservatives but also work with Democrats and perhaps repair the disarray that has plagued Congress for the past few years. Paul Ryan was considered a top candidate for the position since current speaker John Boehner announced his retirement in late September, and the way in which Ryan agreed to run speaks to the legitimacy of his candidacy. In a recent statement, Ryan said he would run for the speakership only if all sects of the Republican Party agree to unite behind him. While Ryan was expected to receive support from the vast majority of Republicans, the group in question was the aforementioned Freedom Caucus. In a vote this past Wednesday, a supermajority of the group voted to support Ryan for Speaker, with Rep. Raul R. Labrador (R-Idaho), co-founder of the caucus, saying there was a “consensus…to move forward because it’s time for the conference to unite”. It now finally seems as if the Republican Party is ready to reunite and move forward, which is especially inspiring when looking at the young generation of Republican lawmakers.

The assertion that the Republican Party is the party of old, white men is more misguided now than ever before. Currently, there are more than twice as many Republican U.S. Representatives under the age of 50 than Democrats. On the flip side, there are 36 representatives from the Democratic Party age 70 or older, versus 15 Republicans. This is significant considering the future of American politics, as the Republican Party will have a much deeper pool of candidates in elections moving forward. The age discrepancy between the two parties is especially apparent in the current presidential election. Five of the 15 candidates running for the Republican nomination are under the age of 55, two of which are polling in the top half of the pack (Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz). Additionally, of these five candidates, two are Hispanic, and one is Indian.

As for the Democratic nomination, just one of the three candidates still in the race, Martin O’Malley, is under the age of 67, and he is polling at just 0.6 percent, about 25 points behind the next candidate. These numbers point to a problem in the Democratic Party that is not being adequately addressed. Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the nomination, would be 69 on Inauguration day, and Bernie Sanders, her only viable challenger, would be 75. This is especially ironic considering Sanders is the progressive option. However, while the Republican Party has been forced to adapt due to the constant barrage of attacks from the media, Democrats have grown complacent, with no motivation to progress as a party. Soon enough, Democrats are going to be forced to address the future of their party, a process that should have begun a long time ago.

The Republican Party is stronger now than ever before. Thanks to the impending election of Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House, Republican lawmakers finally have a strong, young voice to unite behind. This rediscovered unity, combined with the multitude of young options in the presidential election and the dozens of young politicians waiting in the wings, paints a very bright picture for the future of Republican politics. Democrats, on the other hand, may be able to make it out of this election cycle alive, or even victorious, but the future of the party is much less promising. If you’re a Republican, you should be optimistic for the future of American politics, and if you’re a Democrat, welcome to the old white party.

Grant Papastefan is a Bienen freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.