It is time to build a grand new party. A party based on individual rights, economic freedom, common sense and market-based solutions to our most pressing problems like the environment, inequality, education.
But before we can rebuild, we must acknowledge the grandest problem of the Grand Old Party. The party leadership — I struggle to call what I saw over the past four years leadership — must be wiped clean. The party spent so much time obsessing about the supposed threats to our democracy from people like Congresswomen U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that they failed to see the real threat to our democracy was fomenting from within the GOP. Staring at us right in the face. A coordinated effort to disenfranchise millions of votes was just the start. It ended in a wildly dangerous —yet equally pathetic attempt — to storm the hallowed halls of our nation’s Capitol to stop the peaceful transition of power.
At a state level I am more disappointed. I was excited to see what Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan could bring. A highly educated and world traveling Asian-American woman took over the party. I hoped she would bring the needed change and a new vision. Instead, she enabled sycophants and profiteers like her husband U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn.
Equally frustrating is what happened to people like Rep. Tom Emmer. Prior to his bowing at the altar of Trump, Emmer won me over — and even some liberals I know. In fact, Emmer was open with his feelings about Trump not being a real Republican, something I heard him say in a small discussion at an event and confirmed with other Minnesota politicos on both the left and right who heard similar things from him. Yet, he took charge of the House Republican campaign arm and further enabled this mess. Just because he voted against vote disenfranchisement on Jan. 6 should not allow him to escape culpability for his role in this disaster.
While we cannot forget the enablers, profiteers and poseurs who enabled the greatest threat to our democratic principles in a generation, we still must look forward. Some of my liberal friends have said that no reasonable Republican can remain with the party.
I disagree. Here’s why:
First, the reason the Democratic Party has slid so far to the left is they did not have a reasonable party to provide a counterbalance. Instead, the left has become a mess of identity politics, cancel culture and socialist-leaning solutions. Something I learned as a Capitol lobbyist and energy attorney is that my best work came when I was confronted with a knowledgeable foe, not when I was going up against someone weak or ill-prepared.
Second, the party must accept that negative partisanship — defining itself by what the other party is for/against — is not a viable or honorable approach establishing a political platform. Simply denying the existence of systemic societal problems or scientific facts is what led to both the creation of Trump and destruction of the GOP. To be clear, that does not mean accepting liberal solutions, it means a more thoughtful and disciplined approach.
The party must work towards solving the problems facing our inner cities — like the education opportunity gap. Simply pointing out that Democrats and their ally the teacher’s unions have overseen our inner-city schools and a growing achievement gap is a start, but it is not a solution.
That approach of attacking without offering solutions is lazy and unbecoming, and it has fostered a culture of “whataboutism” antithetical to personal responsibility. It’s always, what about the other side? They do it, too! This was on full display when state and party leadership were confronted with the realities of the January 6th attack on the democratic process and their response was an “unequivocal condemnation.” Oh, but also what about the destruction from the George Floyd protests or the actions of a DFL candidate? That is the antithesis of personal responsibility and objective truth.
We conservatives must dig in and solve the problems while promoting conservative ideals like individual rights and economic freedom. That is how we will encourage a new generation of Republicans.
By listening to those affected by these problems and solving it with them — not for them — we can encourage a whole new base of voters. The same goes for issues like climate change and environmental degradation. Market-based solutions can appeal to a wide variety of conservatives and identified Republicans, but for some reason the party chooses to just ignore the issue altogether.
The solution is not to run away from the problem but run towards the opportunity it presents. This is possible while at the same time holding those accountable who enabled the rot at the federal and state level. It appears that the fever within the GOP may have broken, even if it took such unfortunate circumstances. This is not a call to arms, but a call to rise to the challenge of leadership.