As President Biden gets settled in the White House and former President Donald Trump begins his extended stay at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Republicans are left to chart a course for their party into the future. The presidential transition needs to be a time for conservatives, especially those in the younger generation like myself, to consider our own beliefs and how the Republican Party can truly serve America.
The best route for the Grand Old Party is not one focused on a single person or the faults of the opposition, but on a commitment to truth over politics and people over government. If young Republicans are going to make the future of our party and our country bright, we need to commit ourselves to the core conservative values of liberty and opportunity.
Many on the right and left have come to view politics as the only means of healing society’s ills and see politicians as glowing examples of moral virtue. What Republicans need to realize is that this idolization of politics is antithetical to conservatism and reality.
According to limited-government conservatism, there are certain things the government should not do. Republicans aren’t opposed to the likely well-intentioned goals of a particular government action. Instead, we believe that the government can not effectively accomplish many sweeping societal changes in the first place.
This is why many conservatives are wary of large anti-poverty programs resulting from former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. It is not because we oppose the admirable goal of poverty reduction, but because we believe government programs do not successfully accomplish that goal.
Instead of looking to the government in Washington, true conservatives look to themselves and to their faith, family and community to effect change. Young Republicans have the responsibility to remind their party of this in an age where the defeat of preferred candidates has the tendency to bring not just disappointment, but despair that even lead to violence in rare instances.
While government action is merited in plenty of instances, our ultimate hope should not rest in the government. Change always begins in the hearts and actions of individuals. For example, it wasn’t a wise politician in Washington who first thought up the notion of greater civil rights for Black Americans one day. It took decades of action by common Americans to make the Civil Rights Act and similar legislation a reality.
It is not the government’s job to exert control from on high or act as an all-providing parent. Government officials should concentrate on promoting safety and justice through an orderly system of laws that treats everyone equally and disincentivizes wrongs. Government also exists to ensure security from threats abroad through well-developed national defenses, something former President Trump promoted through his revitalization of the military.
Economic prosperity and American ingenuity flourish best when people are allowed to keep most of their own earnings and businesses can make decisions free from burdensome taxes and regulations. Faith communities and charities will only return to their prominent role in American life when Americans realize politicians aren’t saviors and the government cannot effectively satisfy all needs.
Young conservatives are beginning to move from simply observing the political landscape to serving as its voters, activists and eventual leaders. Instead of letting the agendas we oppose occupy all the conversation, driving us towards hate and despondency, young Republicans need to make the hopeful and proven vision of true conservatism the foundation of our political philosophies.
In a recent email sent by the College Republicans at IU, it seems young conservatives, at our university at least, agree with this principles-based direction for the GOP.
“It is time to return to our roots as the Grand Ole Party, as representatives of small government, as ambassadors of truth,” the message reads. “Let us take (inauguration day) as a new beginning for our party. These next four years we will focus on education, foundation and tradition. Keeping America Great started with President Trump but it ends with us — America's future.”
Charlie Willis is a law and public policy major and religious studies minor. He is a member of Cru and a former member of IUSG Congress. Oddly, he maintains a community of 150-plus pet rocks with their own government.