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Hoover Institution Scholar Reflects On The Future Of The Republican Party

The elephant, a symbol of the Republican Party, in the lobby of the Republican Party's headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)
The elephant, a symbol of the Republican Party, in the lobby of the Republican Party's headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images)

To determine the future of the Republican Party in this country, one policy expert says the GOP needs to redefine itself as a governing party with ambitions beyond a single leader.

During the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, seven Senate Republicans voted to convict Trump while the remaining senators stood by him, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Lanhee Chen, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and advisor to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, says the GOP’s path forward will likely be tumultuous as Trump continues to have a stronghold with conservatives. The question now, he says, is how much Trump’s influence will be mitigated as time goes on.

According to a new poll from POLITICO’s Morning Consult, 59% of Republican voters still want Trump to play an important role within the party. That number jumped 18 percentage points from when it was taken Jan. 7, a day after the insurrection at the Capitol.

It’s clear that while some Republicans are still fond of Trump, others like Chen want the GOP to think about where it stands as a party of governance.

“The more durable approach in the long run is to have a party and a movement that’s focused on ideas rather than personalities,” he says.

The party needs to clearly articulate what it intends to do about major issues facing Americans, Chen argues, such as economic mobility, a market-based approach to health care, and even controversial topics that are not commonly discussed within the party like immigration and climate change.

“So far we haven’t heard too much in the way of solutions,” he says. “Only rhetoric, not solutions.”

And although Trump may be out of the Oval Office, members of his family are still planning to step in and be heavily involved with the GOP — namely Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, who is planning to run against Sen. Richard Burr for the North Carolina Senate seat.

Many GOP members are hopeful for the Trump family’s continued participation. Although it’s difficult to pre-judge one candidate over another, Chen says would rather support a vision-based candidate over a personality-based one.

For the next two years, whether the GOP continues to be divided or united, Chen says things might go south before they can become better within the party.

“In the long run, I am optimistic,” he says. “I am hopeful that we’ll have a viable conservative movement that’s a counterweight to the progressivism we’re seeing in many parts of the country.”


Jill Ryan produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Chris BentleyJeannette Jones adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.