Politics & Policy

Video: The Future of the Republican Party Discussion

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"The Future of the Republican Party” was held on Wednesday, November 10 at the Old Capitol Senate Chamber. This was the third and final event in the Policy Challenges for Iowa and the Nation discussion series. The event was livestreamed and recorded, as well, and can be viewed in its entirety below.

Tom Rice, PhD of political science and professor at the University of Iowa, served as moderator for the discussion and introduced the speakers, who would be answering the following questions from their perspectives: How do policy views of Trump supporters differ from traditional Conservatives in the Republican Party? How do these differences affected traditional constituencies versus newer constituencies attracted to the Trump agenda? How will these differences affect future elections and the ability to regain majority in the US House and Senate?

The discussion’s first speaker was Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science at Emory University, who gave a short-term and long-term outlook on the future of the Republican Party.

In terms of the upcoming elections, Abramowitz explained that Former President Donald Trump’s presence may still be felt in 2022 as candidates are “vying for [his] endorsement and the support of his voters.” Additionally, incumbents that have close ties to Trump may make it difficult for other Republican candidates to distance themselves from Trump.

Bigger picture, Abramowitz suggested that changing demographics in American society may pose a threat to the GOP. An increase in racial and ethnic diversity with a decline in white non-college populations, as well as a decline in traditional religious beliefs could all be structural factors that decrease the party’s popularity.

The next speaker of the discussion was Republican Party political consultant, Terry Nelson, providing insight on the evolution of the Republican Party and the change that it is currently undergoing. 

According to Nelson, the demographic structure of the GOP is changing. “We used to talk about ‘country club’ Republicans, but we don’t hear that as much anymore as many upper income college-educated voters have migrated from the Republicans to become Democratic voters,” Nelson said. "Meanwhile, many voters who are white, blue collar, and don’t have college degrees have shifted to the GOP.”

Nelson then went on to explain that margins for Democratic-leaning voters are closing, and if even a small number of Democrats flips parties, it could cause substantial upset in competitive states and help build a stronger electoral coalition for the Republican Party.

The final speaker to present was David Young, a former U.S. Representative for Iowa’s 3rd District, discussing the last 20 years in the party and what its future looks like.

Young noted an example of change that was seen during Trump’s term was the overall attitude toward policies surrounding trade and tariffs. While the Republican party generally welcomes free trade and opposed levying tariffs, when Trump levied tariffs particularly against China, the party seemed to go along with it.

He continued with the issue of climate change, explaining that more Republicans are engaged in the issue than they were 20 years ago, however, Young specified that solutions to the issue presented by the Republican Party differ from those of the Democratic. 

“The approaches to better climate solutions by the party are not mandates, but using new technologies, incentives, and harnessing the power of the sun, wind, and wave,” he said. 

Young concluded with the idea that new issues that arise have a major impact on the division among parties, as well. Identifying these issues and firmly supporting or opposing them is a key way to assign populations that align with those principles to a certain party, he said. 

The discussion closed with reactions from Iowa state representatives Joe Mitchell (Henry County) and Michael Bousselot (Polk County), and Chris Hagenow from Iowans for Tax Relief, followed by a question-and-answer session from the audience presented to the panel.

Read an article about the event in the Daily Iowan.