Every time I talk to a member of the media, they always ask me the same question: Is the Republican Party Donald Trump's Party?
The answer to me always seems obvious, even if it is not the answer they are looking for or hoping for. The members of the media are hoping for one of two answers, either one would satisfy their agenda. They are either hoping for:
- Yes it is Donald Trump's Party, or
- No, it is not Donald Trump's Party.
They use the first answer to paint the party as a bunch of zealots, hopelessly devoted to a cult of personality centered around the person they believe is dangerous, fanatical, and disgraced by two impeachments and electoral loss. They will then find that "NeverTrumper" who will give them the second answer they are looking for, someone despondent about the direction the GOP has taken under Trump and all too ready to join the Democrats in decrying the end of the Republican Party they once knew.
I don't give them either answer.
The answer to the question is not one that contemplates personalities or people, but the underlying values and principles of the GOP.
Too often we (and the media) define the Party by those who run under the banner of the GOP. For the media and the left, they want to define the Party based on which Republicans they despise the most at any given moment. They demonize a candidate or office holder then start a "guilt-by-association" campaign hoping to turn Republican against Republican, and, far too often, they get what they hoped for.
This double standard, of course, is never applied to Democrats.
In our own Party, it takes a different look as the grassroots members of the party threaten to abandon the GOP, seemingly willing to turn our cities, counties, states, and nation over to the Democrats if a Republican fails their purity test.
It's as if somehow those Republicans elected to office are chosen by some small cabal of Party leaders (the infamous "smoke-filled-room) and forced on us unsuspecting grassroots Republicans against our will, when in reality, all GOP nominees are ultimately chosen by thousands of Republican primary voters.
My answer is always different. When asked, I tell the media, "Yes, this is Donald Trump's Party, but it's also Ronald Reagan's Party, Teddy Roosevelt's Party, and Abraham Lincoln's Party too. The reason is each one of them ran as a Republican because they believed in the principles, ideals, and beliefs of the Republican Party."
Donald Trump's position in the Republican Party is not secured because of who he is, but because of what he believed and what he did as President. One of Donald Trump's earliest actions was to cut taxes. As I ask the media, what is more Republican than a "tax cut"?
Donald Trump's love of country and firm belief in its inherent greatness is second only to Ronald Reagan's in my lifetime. Both used the campaign slogan "Make America Great Again" (though Reagan added "Let's" at the beginning). In fact, every Republican candidate we have had has stood head and shoulders above the Democrats in love for our nation. Compare that to the campaigns and governing of the Democrats who would seem to want an America submissive and weak.
In fact, across the broad scope of Donald Trump's accomplishments, what actions, policies, or practices did he engage in that were not Republican? I do not know many Republicans who would look at his accomplishments and not be able to put them squarely within the beliefs of the Republican Party. What I do know is there were far too many Republicans who cared more about his personality than his policies or accomplishments. They chose style over substance, and refused to vote for him.
This was evident in Donald Trump's first major speech since leaving the White House, where he proudly backed the Republican Party and put to rest the idea that America needed yet another third party.
Even former South Carolina Governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley took to Twitter calling Trump's speech "strong" and noting that the GOP civil war the media is hoping for is "not going to happen."
Still, there are those who claim to be supporters of the President who DO want a civil war in the GOP. In doing the work of the Democrats, they seek to purge not just the NeverTrumpers from the GOP ranks, but anyone who they believe was not sufficiently supportive enough. In their anger, rather than trying to build the Party, they seek to practice the politics of subtraction, rather than reaching out to add to the ranks of the GOP.
No political movement has ever found long term success in purges, and it will only result in assuring more Democratic victories in 2022 and 2024, whether or not the nominee is Donald Trump.
Republicans must stay united on our principles. That doesn't mean that Republican elected officials who do not uphold the principles shouldn't be primaried...far from it! As I said, we are a party of principles, not people or personalities.
That means we let the Republican Primary voters vote, then respect the will of those voters. We don't take our ball and go home just because we disagree with the majority of the primary voters.
I said that in 2016 when the Republican Primary voters gave Trump the nomination, and shamed Republicans who demanded I respect the will of the voters when it was McCain or Romney, but would not themselves when it was Donald J. Trump, and I will continue to say that today.
The reason is, there is not a cabal of Party bosses who decide the candidate and force that candidate on the voters, quite the opposite! It's the voters who decide the nominee and force the Party bosses to do their job...get that candidate over the finish line in November. If we divide ourselves, we will not make that happen.
As Donald Trump said on Sunday, the Republican Party needs to "unite and be stronger than ever."
A house divided against itself cannot stand, but we need our Republican leaders to stand up and not cower one way or another for political expediency.
As Donald Trump said yesterday, "Let's start a new party and let's divide our vote so that you can never win. No, we're not interested in that."
Neither am I and neither should anyone who is proud to uphold the principles on which our Republican Party was founded.
If we do that, as Donald Trump said, "We will be united and strong like never before, we will save and strengthen America."