Nearly five years ago, the GOP held its breath as the divisive candidate, Donald Trump, blazed through the primaries. The party-faithful and the coalition Trump had put together rushed to the polls in November 2016. Right-leaning moderates hoped, maybe even prayed, that Trump would clean up his act as president. They were wrong, and so was I.
At the end of Trump’s presidency, I was left with questions about myself and what I had thought was my party. Trump’s impeachment trial truly showed the change in the Republican Party that, in an increasingly purple North Carolina, alienated moderate GOP members and independents that lean Republican. This, in turn, could potentially tip the state blue.
How did we get here? According to a Pew Research report in 2018, “mixed” ideology voters voted for Trump 48 percent and 42 percent for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Had I been eligible to vote in 2016, I would have found myself in this category. I didn’t like either candidate, but like many, I hoped that an outsider might shake up the government and improve it.
Oh, was I wrong! It'll be a while until we receive the Pew study for the 2020 election, but the “mixed” ideology votes are what I believe changed significantly following Trump’s antics. Moderates decide the course of most statewide and federal elections, especially in swing states, and the GOP pushing them away will hurt them.
I knew the Trumpian tactics and ideology attracted people that were incompatible with the GOP establishment and presented unpalatable views on many hot-button topics. However, I would have never believed that the president of the United States would have incited an insurrection over a lost election.
After losing almost every court battle over the election, card-carrying members of the “blue lives matter” movement smashed through the surprisingly very thin blue line and stormed the Capitol. Not only that, but members of the Republican Party seem to be standing by the former president, regardless of the danger that the president put them in through his actions.
What happened to my party? It feels like the rug was slowly being pulled out from under me the last four years, but in January, it was clear that the rug was long gone. The weak Republicans in Congress back Trump for the sole desire of reelection, fearing that they will be primaried for having a spine.
Trump didn’t poison the Republican Party, he destroyed it brick by brick and built his own party under the same name. Some Democrats feel the same way, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulls their party further left than they ever imagined it could go.
Where does that leave me? Trump’s GOP isn’t my party, as seen when North Carolina’s GOP censured Burr for voting to convict Trump. The Democratic Party is too far left for me, but I found myself sliding to fully independent, where seven percent of Americans find themselves.
I am lost but not alone, while a total of 38 percent of Americans are independents (about 125 million Americans). Regardless, most lean towards a particular party. The two-party system is broken with its single-member districts and winner-take-all system.
The end of big tent parties is unlikely, but I do predict a significant political realignment. The moderates abandoned by the GOP might pull the Democrats right, which could lead to the liberal wing of the Democrats splintering off to form its own party. Another possible event is that a third party rises, similar to the Republicans with Abraham Lincoln, to scoop up the moderates left by both the GOP and the Democrats. This could lead to a significant shake-up in politics in the near future.
Where do moderates go from here? It isn’t exactly clear. I have not given up hope that the Republican Party can turn itself around. Without party leadership attempting to wrestle power back from the man who made their lives miserable for four years, it is unlikely to see change unless there is an external motivator.
A horrific side effect of the hyperpolarization of America is the mentality that both sides have adopted. Inescapable in any political discussion, the views of moderates are inconsistent with either party’s stance. Instead, they are actually a synthesis of beliefs from both sides. Neither side embraces the moderate, but rather pulls them in for the general election before quickly dispensing of them after they fulfill their purpose.
It is on the moderates to stand in their beliefs and the partisans to not make the moderate feel embattled.
I am a slightly right-leaning moderate in post-Trump America, and I am by no means representative of all of them. However, the direction that Trump’s GOP has gone left many feeling lost about their position in our politics.
It's imperative for moderates to speak up and continue voting, despite the partisan divides that fracture the country. This nation is for all of us, and subsequently, the government is responsible for serving all of us. As an American, I hope Joe Biden and subsequent presidents work to unify a nation, our nation, so severely fractured by Trump’s Republican Party.
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