Where are we and where does the GOP go from here?
In July of 2020, I made the case to moderate Republicans on why Joe Biden should get their vote. In November, now-President Biden was officially elected President. Now, with the Capitol recently being stormed by pro-Trump rioters, the President finally “accepting” the results of the election, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris becoming the 46th President and 49th Vice President of the United States, Republicans and Democrats are all wondering: now what?
Not long ago, the prospective 2024 Republican presidential candidates met in Florida for dinner with the newly re-elected RNC Chair, Ronna Romney McDaniel. Former UN Ambassador and former Governor of (my home state) South Carolina, Nikki Haley said that President Trump’s actions since losing the election were “very disappointing” and that he’ll be “judged harshly by history.” She also went on to praise Trump for his “truly extraordinary gains” during his time in office. Essentially, she’s saying here, that in order for the GOP to move forward past Trump is to flaunt his accomplishments, continue to use most of his policies, but tone down the rhetoric.
She’s exactly right. As a Republican myself, and as someone that didn’t support the President in 2020, the reason the President lost wasn’t because of his economic policy, his infrastructure policies, or his foreign policy. He lost for 3 main reasons: COVID-19, his rhetoric, and Joe Biden wasn’t nearly as scandal-plagued as Hillary Clinton is. Donald Trump was not elected President in 2016 because people wanted him to be President. He was elected because people didn’t want Hillary Clinton to be President. And still, even then, voters were conflicted. A little over 77,000 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania would’ve tilted the election to Clinton.
However, his impact on the GOP and politics as a whole is undeniable. Trump’s reach out to the Latino and Hispanic communities in 2020 was like none I’ve seen since George W. Bush in 2004. For whatever reason, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Trump himself in 2016 could not reach out to Hispanic voters the way Democrats could. Trump made significant gains in Miami, Florida, successfully courting and turning out Cuban-American voters. He made significant gains in Nevada, a Clinton state, where he was pretty close to winning.
Trump’s impact on polling shouldn't be understated either. For whatever reason, when Donald Trump’s name is on the ballot, the polls are just flat wrong. If polling were correct, now-President Joe Biden would have won in a landslide. All the states he did win in 2020, plus Florida and North Carolina. He’d even get close in Texas, Iowa, and Ohio, all of which ended up being Republican strongholds. The polls during the 2018 midterms were largely accurate, predicting the GOP would retain the Senate and the Democrats would take the House.
There are three key ingredients if the GOP wants to take back the White House in 2024: unity, a fresh mix of Trumpism and “establishment” policies, and a turnout machine that matches the Democratic machine. There’s a strong divide between the “Trumpists” and the “regular” Republicans. For a while, many (including myself) were deathly afraid that the now-former President would launch a new third party, the Patriot Party. However, now major newsgroups are reporting that the President plans to stay in the GOP, committing to help the GOP take back the House and the Senate in 2022. In my opinion, there are only 2 candidates that can bridge the divide between the establishment wing and the Trump wing. Two candidates that can unite the party and get voters out to vote: Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.
Nikki Haley served as Governor of South Carolina and UN Ambassador. As Governor of South Carolina, she united a racially divided state by banning the confederate flag from government property, lowering the flag from the SC State House in response to the shooting at the historically Black church in Charleston. She also incentivized bigger businesses to come to South Carolina to bring jobs and boost the economy. Charleston wouldn’t be the booming city it is without jobs from Boeing, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo.
During the 2016 campaign, Haley endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio and received some nasty tweets from Donald Trump. However, as the general election came closer, Haley said she would vote for Trump, just to prevent a Clinton victory. After Trump shocked the world and won the White House, she was heavily considered for Secretary of State. After feeling underqualified for the position, Haley removed herself from consideration, instead opting to represent the U.S. in the United Nations.
During her time in the UN, Haley prioritized changing the UN for the better. It seemed, more often than not, those big countries were bullying Israel simply because it was the sole majority-Jewish nation. She stood up against those bullies, against China, and held Bashar al-Assad accountable for using chemical weapons on his own people. She was one of the few Trump cabinet nominees that were confirmed in a bipartisan manner, by a vote of 96–4 (Senators Sanders, Heinrich, Udall, and Coons voting against her).
After a year in the position as UN Ambassador, Haley resigned to start her policy organization, Stand for America. Since then, Haley spent her time campaigning for down-ballot candidates, flocking to Georgia in December along with the other 2024 hopefuls to campaign for then-Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Even though their campaigns didn’t work out, Haley began testing the waters among Republican voters. And it seems, it just may work out for her if she can court Trump voters. If she can prove to them she’s not just another “swamp creature” that sought to undermine Trump. She’s soon to be facing a tough balancing act between appeasing Trump supporters and winning Trump-Biden voters.
Ron DeSantis is currently serving as Governor of Florida. Before that, he was a Congressman and he served in the military as a young man. In Congress, DeSantis was a firm supporter of Donald Trump and a strong conservative. He sparked controversy when, after winning the 2018 FL GOP primary for Governor, he said that he had faith that Florida voters wouldn’t “monkey this up,” by electing his challenger, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (Gillum would later be found to have his own problems). Many thought this would end up derailing his campaign, and the polls agreed. In the end, DeSantis edged it out narrowly, winning by around 33,000 votes or 0.4%.
Within days of being sworn in, DeSantis posthumously pardoned the Groveland Four, a group of Black men that were falsely convicted of rape. He also suspended Sheriff Scott Israel after his mishandling of the Parkland shooting. He invested $2.5 billion in improving Florida’s water quality, he dumped Common Core in Florida, and made Florida an “anti-sanctuary state.”
Just like Haley, DeSantis has a strong record of defending Israel. While in Congress, he proposed the Palestinian Accountability Act, which would cut off aid to Palestine until recognizes Israel and its right to exist as a Jewish state and cut off all ties with Hamas.
DeSantis’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has been mixed. At first, he was criticized for not taking very many measures to slow the spread of the virus. But in recent months, however, DeSantis has garnered praise for his handling of the virus and vaccine distribution. DeSantis is on track to be re-elected by anywhere between 5 and 10 points in 2022, a rare feat in a swing state like Florida.
In my opinion, whether DeSantis or Haley is at the top of the ticket, as long as the GOP has both, then we have a really good shot of taking back the White House. Haley can win back suburban women, can win back Trump-Biden voters, she’d be a historic VP, and has a good track record of getting things done. DeSantis can win over hardcore Trump voters, has a military background, and has been receiving praise for his leadership in Florida. Haley/DeSantis or DeSantis/Haley, both are wins for the GOP and put the party back on track to winning elections and changing the Nation for the better.