If there is one thing Republicans have struggled with the past couple of decades, it has been how to sell their policies and candidates. While in the past the Democratic Party has produced presidential candidates such as Barack Obama, known as one of the most charismatic presidents ever, the GOP produced men such as Mitt Romney and John McCain, who came off as interesting to voters as a bag of sand.
Then, came Donald Trump. The most energetic, charismatic, cult of personality driven candidate that we may have seen in our lifetimes. Controversial? Yes. But modern day voters had never seen a guy with such energy or dominating personality in a Republican since Ronald Reagan. He dominated the primaries and then dismantled the establishment candidate, dubbed the “most qualified presidential candidate” in American history, in Hillary Clinton, accomplishing the most surprising upset in political history.
After the shock ran out, then came the action. There were a lot of Republicans that were nervous about how conservative Donald Trump was truly going to govern. Those notions were quickly wiped as he appointed three conservative justices to the Supreme Court, prioritized being an ally of the country of Israel, cut taxes, created one of the best economies in American history, and more.
However, it may not be his traditionally conservative accomplishments that define how he has truly helped the Republican Party, but instead how he has helped shift the narrative based around them.
Trump’s constant efforts on fronts such as criminal justice and anti-interventionist foreign policy are positions that Republicans would often be firmly against. However, because Trump was the sitting president and the leader of the party, he chose this direction, and convinced a lot of “establishment” conservatives to go along with him. Trump’s efforts on criminal justice reform were unprecedented. The president signed the single most reformative criminal justice act in American history in the First Step Act, that passed the Senate 87-12. Were there still some staunch, hard-on-crime Republicans that still voted against the bill? Sure. But the fact that Trump and administration officials such as his son-in-law Jared Kushner were able to convince neoconservatives and establishment conservative senators alike is telling about how influential he was in the party, and for the better. Most Americans feel as if the justice system has significant problems, and with the GOP acknowledging and attempting to fix some of those issues, their perception to the common voter can be vastly improved as opposed to the “tough-on-crime” Republican Party of days past.
The same notion goes for the president’s view on anti-interventionist foreign policy. Historically, the GOP has been the party always pushing for the increase of U.S. relations in sections of the world like the Middle East. However, despite many fearing that Trump would be a war hungry President, he has been the complete opposite. Trump cast out rhetoric about ending endless wars, withdrawing soldiers in mass from countries such as Afghanistan, and prioritizing diplomatic peace over militaristic action in terms of foreign policy. Trump’s messaging about being anti-war is something, again, not man have seen from politicians with an (R) beside their name, but it seems as if he is helping aid that perception.
Rhetoric wise, we all know Trump is one of the most polarizing leaders in modern history. However, he has increased the amount of personality in the Republican Party to a place it has never been before. It is now cool to be a Republican in the same way it was cool to be an anti-war hippie in the 1970s. If you are a Republican, you are demonized, made fun of on national media, and made out to be a monster. However, you are also more likely to get media coverage, have a viral social media moment, and be invited to be a guest speaker at a college campus than Democrats.
Trump has made the GOP interesting again, and that is a very beneficial attribute going forward. His policies have changed the party forever while still remaining a traditionally conservative administration, infused personality into the party, and embraced policies that appeal to more and more voters. Regardless of the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump has aided the Republican Party for decades to come.