By Will Fuller | November 28, 2016
For sports fans, 2016 was full of drama, unpredictability, and more than a few larger-than-life personalities. Who could have predicted that not one, but two teams would come back down three-games-to-one in their respective championships. That said, nothing was quite as shocking as the upset of the century: Donald J. Trump winning the presidency.
While sports triumphs can have a lasting effect on people – who can forget David Ortiz’s “Boston Strong” moment or the “Miracle on Ice” in the 1980 Winter Olympics – political transitions and subsequent policies directly affect the lives of millions. For many, Mr. Trump’s election brings significant anxiety and concern. As for myself, one of the few Republicans among my esteemed colleagues at GPS, my reaction to these events is mixed.
After all, Mr. Trump is hardly a stereotypical Republican. He has changed parties five times since the 1980s and has been a regular donor to Democratic candidates. His positions, both before and during the campaign, often misalign with standard Republican platforms. Even more troubling was his rhetoric during his run for office. He insulted John McCain and other POWs saying, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” He belittled the parents of a fallen U.S. solider. He called for the unconstitutional registry and ban on entry of Muslims because of their religion. He disparaged millions of hard working immigrants by insinuating they were drug dealers, criminals, and rapists. He mocked a handicapped person. He called for the torture of women and children. As for what he was caught saying on tape about women, well… let’s just say, my Mother raised me better than that.
His planned policies are additionally troublesome. The appointment of Steve Bannon should be alarming to those who desire productive discourse. His affinity for dictators like Vladimir Putin goes against the core values of our country. He seems to jump from position to position without any ideological basis. His meetings with foreign dignitaries seem to align more with the interests of his business empire than the interests of the American people.
Following Governor Mitt Romney’s 2012 electoral loss, the Republican National Committee’s Growth and Opportunity Project launched an effort to understand why the GOP lost, and how the Party can reform itself. Among the proposals were ideas such as embracing immigration reform, ceasing its hostility towards gay rights, and engaging young voters to show how conservative policies can benefit them. The election of Mr. Trump largely seemed to repudiate many of these prescriptions. That is, however, until you realize that the Republican candidate lost by over two million votes. Voter turnout was low, and demographics continue to shift away from the traditional GOP base. Many of those who voted for Mr. Trump aren’t Republicans, and they seem angry at all of Washington, the Republican Party included. Republican victory was more a byproduct of Mr. Trump’s victory than a reason for it. What’s more, millions of Americans feel a visceral fear of what’s to come, hardly an indicator of future successes.
Fortunately for all Americans -- progressive, moderate, and conservative -- American political institutions are strong. We have a robust federal system which leaves states like California free to pursue policies they want without federal interference. We also have a Bill of Rights which grants protections to the people, and an independent judiciary which defends those rights against unjust laws. We live in a market economy, by which free thinking individuals can seek happiness and prosperity. Those who disagree with the party in power have many avenues by which they can fulfill their goals. These institutions will survive, no matter who resides in the White House, and Americans of all backgrounds should work to ensure these institutions work for everyone.
For Republicans, especially those holding positions in Congress, this provides us the opportunity to uphold our values. Most importantly, Republicans in Congress should use their power to ensure the rights of all Americans are protected. Republicans in general should follow the recommendations of the 2013 RNC Autopsy Report and become more inclusive, not less. Not only will this help their future political fortunes, but it’s their constitutional duty. The United States is a country of laws, not of men. The loyalty of our elected officials is to the U.S. Constitution. Our office-holders must remember that implementing policies through undemocratic means, regardless of expediency, cannot be sustained.
These uncertain times also allow us to show to the rest of the world the robustness of our republic. It’s long been the policy of the United States to spread democracy abroad, but now is an opportunity to show the resiliency of our democracy at home. If one branch abuses its power, it’s up to the others to check those abuses. We can use the next four years as an example to the world of the power of institutional control. With so many countries descending into demagoguery and unchecked populism, now is the time for us to show leadership, not pettiness through quixotic recount attempts or spouting false news that suits our biases. Our political system isn’t perfect—our nation’s history is full of examples of oppression. Still, we should utilize the opportunities and means our constitutional republic provides us to constantly strive for a more perfect Union – regardless of who resides in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Will Fuller is the Communications Director for JIPS and a 2nd Year MIA student at GPS. His track is International Politics with a focus on China and Southeast Asia. Prior to attending GPS, Will worked on Capitol Hill as a staffer in a number of Congressional offices.