It was far from pretty, but after months of sniping the Republican National Committee elected a chair at the end of January. After weathering a flurry of opposition from firebrand alternative candidates like California’s Harmeet Dhillon and Mike Lindell, the “MyPillow” guy, Ronna McDaniel was selected to serve a rare fourth term.
McDaniel’s win marks a modest step toward equilibrium for the GOP. While it is increasingly difficult to define the “mainstream” of the party, McDaniel — who enjoyed quiet but firm support from former president Donald Trump — was undoubtedly the establishment choice.
The Republican Party still has a long way to go, however, before it can agree on a unifying set of principles that will allow it to govern in this fractious age of populism.
Bitterness remains on the part of activists over the results of the midterm elections and the shambolic process of electing Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House. Hard feelings between the populist and the traditional wings of the party aren’t going away anytime soon.
But all the noise shouldn’t distract Republicans from the opportunity to govern and advance a conservative agenda, including providing oversight of President Biden’s policies.
While it’s true that Democrats retain control of the White House and the Senate, Republicans took back the People’s House. Control of the House provides conservatives a beachhead from which the party can advance policy solutions grounded in principles that don’t burden future generations of Americans with debt.
Republicans can set the policy agenda and show the American people they can govern before the next election. The strategic value of breaking single-party control in Washington can’t be overstated.
The party has a massive opportunity, but with it comes the responsibility to offer policy solutions that strengthen the country. Republicans in Congress will have to temper their tendency to overplay their hand and waste chances to legislate with grandstanding and boorish behavior. If the populist can put party over “retweets,” the GOP’s electoral prospects in 2024 could be much brighter than the last cycle. The lopsided Senate map already favors Republicans, with Democrats defending eight seats in red states.
Here’s what the GOP needs to do to move the ball: focus on substance. Take the job of the majority seriously. Push hard for the party’s core priorities but consider the gains that could be made by reaching across the aisle. No one expects Republicans to shy away from exercising its oversight responsibilities, but the GOP should avoid turning investigations into a circus. Make your points, hold your hearings, but remember you’re there to govern.
There hasn’t been much traffic on the high road lately, and both parties share ample blame. After years of partisanship, impeachments and investigations, it’s been hard for either side to get back to regular order.
One thing is clear regarding the effect of this kind of partisanship: Voters don’t love it. It sells newspapers, makes for great social media clickbait, and boosts small-dollar online donations. But while such activities may fire up the base, they tend to push most Republican and Republican-leaning voters in the opposite direction.
If the goal of governing is to make the country a better place, and the secondary goal is to retain power and influence, the path forward isn’t rabble-rousing. It’s legislating.
As a lifelong conservative, I’m no stranger to politics as a team sport. I want to win just as much as anyone. But the GOP has to remember the definition of “winning.” The winner isn’t the party that “owns the libs” the hardest on social media. The winner is the party that the American people trust to govern.