Illustration by Ren Rader
If you watched last week’s Democratic presidential debate, you might think that the presidency is a highly sought after position. Which is true, in the case of Democrats, but far off the mark for Republicans. As of now, there are only four candidates for the Republican nomination, and none of the current president’s challengers stand a chance.
The leading candidate is, of course, the president himself, who currently holds a net disapproval rating with 54 percent of Americans believing he has done a poor job in his position. Republicans, however, have firmly coalesced behind him since the day he captured the nomination back in 2016. But in recent months, his support among them has waned.
Since taking office, the common speculation among political pundits and analysts has been that the president will face a Republican primary challenger in 2020 because of his status as one of the most unpopular presidents, his Russian associations and his support of unpopular policies. The question has never been whether he will be challenged, but rather how significant of a challenge will the president face from his own ranks.
Now that former South Carolina congressman Mark Sanford has entered into the field already occupied by former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh, it seems clear that a serious challenger is unfortunately not likely to come forward this late in the race. The fact that conservatism has essentially been hijacked and corrupted by the alt-right in this country, and that no one within the Republican Party appears to be bothered by it is both upsetting and terrifying. I have long admired and respected the principles and values espoused by conservatives like John McCain and Mitt Romney, but today, the Republican Party appears more interested in sewing divisions and consorting with autocrats than balancing budgets and defending democracy.he fact that conservatism has essentially been hijacked and sold out by the alt-right in this country, and no one within the Republican Party appears to be bothered by it is both alarming and upsetting. I have long admired and respected the principles and values espoused by conservatives like John McCain and Mitt Romney, but today, the Republican Party appears more interested in sewing divisions and consorting with autocrats than balancing budgets and defending democracy.
Joe Walsh was a former supporter of the president who himself engaged in divisive and racist rhetoric when talking about president Obama and other opponents. In Sanford’s case, his unprofessional way of handling his extramarital affair and his disappearance make for more than an interesting Google, but genuinely tarnish his credibility to criticize the president’s moral leadership. The problem with the three Republicans running against the president is that none of them present real challenges, even without taking the incumbency factor of the current president into account. The current candidates are either too compromised by their past rhetoric morally to hold the higher ground in a race against the president, as is the case with Sanford and Walsh, or are simply out of touch with the issues important to the party’s base like with Weld.
As a Democrat, I naturally would like to see this president removed from office in the next election; furthermore, as a fiscal conservative, I would like to see the Republican party rise to the occasion and fend off the entry of the alt-right into the conservative movement with a a real challenger. I have witnessed my own party abandon the middle ground and lurch leftward, and as a result, I am left feeling as though there is no candidate or party in the race seeking to represent my values. It is time for a candidate to come forward within the Republican Party to boldly stand up for what is right and confront the tragedy that is this current presidency.
In all honesty, I am growing tired of politics in this new era under the current president. I simply want to see him out and for us all to return to a better kind of politics. The repugnant rhetoric and nonstop dysfunction coming from this president have become more than just exhausting, but literally deadly, as mass shootings and hate crimes continue to climb as he continues to defend neo-Nazis and embolden white supremacy in this country.
For Republicans to not consider the alt-right’s occupation of their own party to be enough for them to defend conservatism is mind-boggling. I believe the silence of true and sensible conservatives amidst the rancor of reactionaries is what created our situation. What happened to the small-government, tax-cutting and budget balancing conservatives of old I wonder? We cannot afford to continue waiting near the sword in the stone for a gallant new leader to appear; therefore, I encourage everyone reading this to get involved and vote. Today, all we have that’s left to stand up for true conservatism is Mark Sanford, Bill Weld and Joe Walsh. We can and must do better. Conservatism deserves better. We all deserve better.