Written by Cynthia Turner.
Months ahead of the first Republican primary and a full year and a half ahead of the presidential election, prospective candidates have lined up their campaigns before the American public. The 2016 presidential election boasts fifteen Republican candidates, but it seems to most that the diverse ideologies of the differing candidates are covered up by the alarmist and racist comments of he-who-has-been-mentioned-one-too-many-times-in-media. The opinions and concerns of those invested in the Republican Party are being startlingly left out.
This Republican candidacy race follows a unique moment in party history. The Republican Party, according to the Pew Research Center in July of 2015, is facing its lowest favorability rate yet. Sixty percent of Americans view the Republican Party unfavorably, and a mere thirty percent view the Republican Party favorably. In the past couple of years, the Republican Party has lost ground with the public on pivotal issues such as gay rights and immigration. The influx of candidates relative to the Democratic Party seem to suggest that individuals of the party see a vacuum in party leadership. Each candidate sees the 2016 presidential election as an opportunity to have a role in redefining the face of the Republican Party.
The opinions and concerns of those invested in the Republican Party are being startlingly left out.
Unfortunately, what most of the public is seeing in this process of redefinition are the extremists with bigoted attitudes. Self-identified Republicans of the University of Texas student body hope to see the party take a different direction. Madison Yandell, the current president of College Republicans explains, “for college students that identify as Republicans, we tend to be the more open-minded and diverse end of the party. It is easy to get frustrated with party leadership when they take a hard stance on social issues. Sometimes the platforms that they put forth are not a true representation of what members of the party believe.”
This moderation in political beliefs was evident at the debate hosted by UT Student Government on Monday, October 12th. The College Republicans took traditionally conservative stances on issues such as voter ID laws. However, for sensitive issues such as gun rights and abortion, they hinged closely to the pragmatic and logistical concerns of policy implementation rather than focusing on broad, ideological differences as commonly expressed by media-grabbing Republican pundits.
The Republican candidate will have to appeal to the general population, which consistently clings to the middle.
This approach of adhering closely to principles of preserving individual rights while providing pragmatic critiques to opposition likely rings true for most Republican voters, not just college student Republicans. The Republican Party recognizes that come the general election, the Republican candidate will have to appeal to the general population, which consistently clings to the middle.
Student run organizations supporting specific candidates reflect this moderation and the belief that the Republican Party has much to offer the American public. Zachary Long, a sophomore and Campus Captain of UT Students for Jeb Bush commented that he became “involved in a Republican candidate’s campaign because the Republican party…is the most optimistic. We love this country and believe that freedom and prosperity are the key to a successful nation.” For Long, Jeb Bush embodies these principles most clearly, especially as they relate to those of our generation when considering Bush’s stances on education and immigration.
Despite media coverage focusing on a small fraction of the Republican candidates, most UT Republicans agree that students should take the time to become knowledgeable on each of the different Republican candidates and become invested in the political race. “I genuinely think that voters should take a look at each issue and determine where a candidate stands before supporting him or her,” said Long.
Republican voters will be looking for someone who can balance appealing to the general public and championing the party agenda. Once the primaries open up, student Republicans believe that such a candidate with substantive understanding of political issues will rise to the front.