This year has been an undoubtedly turbulent and eventful year for politics, with atypical candidates such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders challenging convention and generating formidable momentum. Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election, the precedent set by these rogue candidacies will surely have powerful implications for the future of the American political landscape. Recent polls have seen these so-called “anti-establishment” candidates rising significantly in the rankings, with Trump leading the pack of potential Republican nominees and Sanders aggressively closing the gap with the current leading democrat Hillary Clinton. Both candidates have differentiated themselves through radical stances on current issues, setting themselves apart from the typical Democratic and Republican candidates through their rhetoric and proposing dramatic changes to the current system. This approach seems to have garnered a great deal of support from a nation that has become increasingly disenchanted with the current gridlock of the two party system.
Trump’s campaign is particularly interesting because it comes during a very significant time for the future of the Republican Party in America. The GOP has become increasingly divided in recent years and has been steadily declining as the party’s social issue politics that once drew a strong voter base have driven younger generations of voters away and caused significant internal turmoil. It is clear that the party now stands at a crossroads, and significant changes must be made for it to survive in the future.
Trump has built his platform on aggressive and controversial rhetoric regarding immigration and social issues, allowing him to harness the sentiment of the modern day “Tea Party Republicans” while drawing a great deal of criticism from more moderate voices within the party. Trump’s radical comments and no-holds-barred approach to speaking his mind have drawn him a huge amount of flack from across the political spectrum, and his inflammatory comments regarding immigration and social security have led to his widespread condemnation by the Latino and other minority voter populations in America. Additionally, his aggressive social media presence and borderline juvenile attacks on opponents and naysayers have drawn quite a bit of backlash from the country as a whole (Trump is notorious for attacking those who speak against him over Twitter, using anything but subtle insults, famously resorting to calling opponents ‘losers’). This approach to politics has made him one of the most hated candidates in recent history, but also has clearly been a highly successful tactic in drawing support from his target demographic of voters.
Trump’s campaign has been particularly damaging for conventional Republicans, at least in the short term. Not only do his publicity-drawing antics distract voters from the other more conventional Republican candidates, but the image that he has cultivated also poses the potential to do serious harm to the image of the Republican Party as a whole. However, at this vital point in the formation of the future Republican Party, the splintering off of the kind of politics that define Trump’s candidacy could do the overall party a great deal of good in the future.
Personally, I believe that reasonable fiscal politics in the Republican Party have for too long been intertwined with inflammatory rhetoric and irrelevant social wedge issues. Trump’s candidacy may bring out the worst in the party regarding these issues, but in the long run this is a good thing; his campaign has effectively helped to separate these issues from the GOP as a whole and led to their condemnation from within the party. If Trump’s candidacy manages to draw out these traits present in Republican leadership and separate them from the views associated with the majority of the party itself, it will allow for the party as a whole to move forward in a more positive and successful direction in the future–despite the short-term damage that Trump’s shenanigans have done to its image.