A Tempered Harpoon is a column on American Politics written by the ’18-’19 Editor in Chief, Chris Park (’19). – Ed.
Former senator from Arizona and failed 1964 Presidential election Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater noted in his 1960 book, The Conscience of a Conservative, that “conservatism looks upon the enhancement of man’s spiritual nature as the primary concern of political philosophy [while] liberals regard the satisfaction of economic wants as the dominant mission of society.” This was the winning principle of the man who set the stage for the rise of Ronald Reagan—and conservatism—in the United States.
Goldwater promoted free trade, envisioning “a day when all the Americas, North and South, will be linked….in a rising tide of prosperity and interdependence” in his 1964 acceptance speech. His political successor, Ronald Reagan alluded America as “a city on a hill,” with an adamant conviction that the American value of individual freedom should be a model of the world.
The Republican party of present-day looks vastly different. President Trump touts economic protectionism with his “America first” agenda, severing the United States from various trade agreements. During the campaign, he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” eventually delivering on that promise with Executive Order 13769, letting the sacrosanct American principle of religious freedom to wither. The Grand Old Party was never like this—not under Bush, not under McCain, not under Romney, and certainly not under Goldwater or Reagan.
Picture a politician.
He yearns for power, fights to get it, and–for better or worse–never loosens his tight grip on it. Thus it is peculiar when he does relinquish the seat for which he so arduously labored. Especially if he is a Senator from a state where a presidential candidate of his party won bigly just over a year ago.
But with the Trump takeover, many Congressional Republicans are faced with a predicament: get on the Trump Train or go home. A recent CNN-SSRS poll showing Republican support for Trump at 86% further perpetuates this reality.
Two Republican Senators, Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), decided to take the latter route, announcing their retirement from the Senate at the end of their terms in 2019. Trumpublicanism has become an overwhelmingly popular political principle of the conservative America.
True, there are vast differences between the politics of Corker and that of Flake. Corker was an ardent supporter of Candidate Trump throughout his 2016 campaign and was on a short-list to becoming his Secretary of State, while Flake wrote a 160-page book decrying Candidate Trump. DW-NOMINATE, a comprehensive system of measuring political ideologies based on voting records, ranks Flake as the third most conservative member of the Senate while Corker is somewhat of a moderate.
Voting records aside, however, they do have one thing in common: fundamental disagreements with the policy direction of President Trump. Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned the President’s approach to handling conflict with North Korea, suggesting that he is leading the United States into a World War III. Flake bemoaned the moral decay of the Republican Party in its silence while “norms and values that keep America strong are [being] undermined” and maintained his stance on free trade and immigration, both of which greatly parts from the Trumpublican agenda.
What does the future hold for the GOP? Only time can tell. The Republican Party is moving to where Trump, along with Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, awaits hand in hand with candidates like Judge Roy Moore—is he the future of the party? Perhaps. But one thing is clear: the Senators’ decisions act as a clear testament to the transformation of the GOP today. We bid adieu to the bygone era of Goldwater conservatism that galvanized the nation in the late 20th century.
– Chris Hyunsoo Park (’19)
Featured image: Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite