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Today we live in a wearied America where tensions run high and trust in government runs low. With over three quarters of Americans convinced the country is headed in the wrong direction, the need for political stability is perhaps as high as it’s ever been. With inflation, the economy and poor leadership ranking among the top issues for Americans, conservative leadership is needed to balance out a progressive agenda that has achieved some success, but has largely gone unchecked with Democrats in complete control of the legislative and executive branches. Unfortunately, the Republican Party in its present form is ill-suited to meet this challenge and needs to change dramatically to once again become a constructive contributor to the two-party system.

Up until the 2016 election cycle, the Republican Party prided itself on fighting for family values, public safety and a strong economy, but the last 6 years have seen the party’s leadership lose focus entirely. Now, the party of Reagan and McCain has been overrun by conspiracy theorists, right-wing extremists and hate groups. With Joe Biden’s approval rating down nearly 10% since the start of his term, the GOP looked destined to achieve a tremendous midterm victory just a few months ago. As the party continues to devolve, however, they risk distancing themselves from everyday Americans and failing to take back the House and the Senate this November.

Since Donald Trump left the White House, his power within the Republican Party has arguably increased. In the two years since his loss, he has used his influence to close ranks and fight back against those within the party who question his election narrative. His level of control has been stunning, with only two House Republicans who voted to impeach him advancing to their general elections. Perhaps the most high-profile Republican to oppose him, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., recently lost her primary by a colossal margin of over 37%.

In addition to the dangerous election security narrative, Republicans have shifted to become more extreme on other issues like abortion. After the Dobbs decision this summer, the party’s leaders raced to implement stringent bans on abortion, with some GOP members even pushing for national legislation to prohibit all abortions through the Heartbeat Protection Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa. Beyond national politicians, the GOP is being completely remade at the state and local level. In Michigan, Tudor Dixon, the GOP candidate for governor, has pushed the false election narrative and promises to prohibit abortion in all instances, including rape, if elected. 

With all these extreme stances, the Republican Party is on the brink of falling into irrelevance and needs to immediately pivot to save itself from becoming a fringe organization. As anti-Trump Republicans in leadership thin out, however, the GOP is left with fewer and fewer examples of what a moderate agenda might look like. Luckily, an example of a reformed GOP can be found in the policy proposals and governing styles of Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, both of whom have fought to maintain independence from Trump. If Republicans are serious about helping restore balance to a fractured political system, it’s paramount that leadership ditch Trump-era priorities and focus on the mainstream issues championed by Romney and Youngkin.

While the GOP has moved further to the right, Romney has been an outlier in continuing to push moderate policies that align with the family values he ran on in 2012. Most recently, he proposed a plan to send most parents up to $350 monthly per child. As opposed to the vitriolic proposals of many other Republicans, this policy would reach back to the roots of the GOP and help improve quality of life for many families. According to the Niskanen Center, Romney’s proposal would slash child poverty by approximately 12.6%, a tremendous boost to the working class Americans that Trump Republicans claim to fight for. In addition, it could provide couples with the support system they need to expand their family comfortably, without concerns about feeding and providing support for their children. Rather than forcing women to start families against their will through abortion restrictions, this policy would offer a healthy boost to the family values that Republicans have traditionally embodied.

Another example of a Republican bucking the trend of their party is Youngkin, whose economic policies helped Virginia make a strong pandemic recovery. While other Republicans have diverted their focus from economic reform, a large part of Youngkin’s agenda has centered around helping small businesses, promoting job creation and helping individuals weather economic hardship. With economic problems ranking as the top issue for Americans, Youngkin has advocated for measures that focus on household problems rather than ideological squabbles.

Since taking office, Youngkin has aggressively cut regulations and red tape surrounding the creation of businesses, part of his goal to add 400,000 new jobs and 10,000 startups over his term. In addition, he has worked to cut taxes across the board, reducing taxes on veteran retirement pay, eliminating the grocery tax, reverting the gas tax hike and instituting the largest tax refund in Virginia history. With these popular policies, Youngkin has fortified Virginia’s economy and demonstrated the true power of classic conservative values.

If & when Joe Biden and Democratic leadership continue to lose support, Republicans have an opportunity to capitalize on their political weakness by retaking one or both houses of Congress. Even if the GOP succeeds in doing so with their current agenda, however, implementing the dangerous policies their platform proposes would further alienate the party from voters in future election cycles and fail to improve the lives of most Americans. With the right mix of policies, Republicans can remake their tarnished image and provide relief and stability for everyday Americans in a turbulent time. It’s time for the GOP to finally break loose from Donald Trump’s grasp and stand on its own.

Nikhil Sharma is an Opinion Columnist & can be reached at