With the election over, there is finally a moment when both major political parties can examine their current standings and future paths. What is so fascinating about the 2016 election is that the Republican Party was not expected to win the presidency nor retain the Senate; some even speculated the House of Representatives was in jeopardy. Yet in a shocking manner, the Republican Party kept both houses of Congress and recaptured the presidency.

When the new administration and a new Congress are sworn in this January, Republicans will control the White House, Congress, 33 governorships and have full legislative control in 32 states. That is a remarkable gain in a time when the Republican Party was said to be in deep trouble with the American electorate. Just a few months ago, many questioned the relevancy of the party — often predicting a complete reform of the right side of the political aisle. Yet the opposite happened; momentum since the 2010 midterms has carried the Republican Party to historic levels of power.

Despite these victories, the GOP still needs to remain focused. By keeping their eye on both future electoral strategies and upcoming policy opportunities, the party is poised to solidify its control on the nation’s institutions for the next decade.

In terms of electoral strategy, Republicans certainly have much to be optimistic about. Trump was able to win over 300 electoral votes; he outperformed with Latinos and women and unexpectedly mobilized turnout in Rust Belt states. However, the party cannot take these gains for granted. In future elections, the GOP needs to remain focused on continually expanding our party. While we made inroads with minorities, we still have plenty of room to grow. We need to prove to the Midwestern working class, many of whom were Democrats who voted for Trump, that the GOP is the party that truly represents them. This election gives us the opportunity to shed the wrongly applied labels of corporatist elites and gives us a path to prove that we have the policies that actually help American lives.

In addition to successful outreach to different groups of people, the party’s bench is also strong. While many ridiculed the nomination processes for having so many candidates, it proves that we have youth in the party that will eventually be able to lead. Look at Congress, for example. Members like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Utah Rep. Mia Love and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst are stars within the party and they have the power to continue the party’s momentum in upcoming elections. 

But in order to remain electorally successful, we need to succeed on policy. If the GOP doesn’t follow through on many of its promises, this will be a wasted opportunity. Whether it be repealing and replacing Obamacare, securing the border, reforming the tax code or appointing very conservative Supreme Court justices, the party will match the left’s course of achieving little if it doesn’t implement significant changes to current policy, if not replace policies entirely.

In my opinion, as a conservative Republican, we cannot miss out on the chance to implement new policies. Every dollar taken out of my small paycheck makes a difference. A simpler, reformed tax system would go a long way to help out students across the country. Repealing and replacing Obamacare would jumpstart the hiring market, as many businesses have cut hours to get around certain Obamacare requirements. As a millennial who has experienced this phenomenon personally — a cut in my hours and pay because of new Obamacare regulations — I believe the GOP has so much potential to both help the country through its policies and solidify a moderate portion of the electorate.

The Republican Party also has a rare opportunity to reshape the political debate. Hopefully, the party will be able to shift the nation’s attention toward economic and international issues. Moving away from many social issues will allow the party to put forth solutions on the issues that matter more to those on the right. The party, by maintaining a commitment to promised policy changes, can potentially solidify a voting bloc by restructuring the importance of different political issues with many different groups, especially students and younger people who are fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

This said, one major question that remains is that of which path the party should take in the coming years. Does the party become more moderate on social issues in hopes of solidifying a large proportion of the youth that considers itself Libertarian? Do Trump’s nationalist views take over and remain a constant driver of policy for the foreseeable future? Or does Reagan’s party return to his principles and move farther to the right?

It’s impossible to predict which path we will take. It will become clearer, however, as Trump implements his policies. Without clear proposals, it’s anyone’s guess as to what type of Republican he chooses to be, and if the party as a whole chooses to follow him. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the Republican Party is not as weak as many predicted before the election. With dominant control over America’s institutions and the potential for the implementation of solid policies, the Republican Party seems poised to be the party of the future.

Max Rysztak can be reached at mrysztak@umich.edu.

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