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The Grand Old Party's Long Walk Away From Sanity

By MichaelMH Published Dec. 23, 2022

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It’s no secret that the Republican Party has become increasingly extreme in recent years. But

what many don’t realize is that this transformation has been a slow and steady process, with several key milestones along the way. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest moments in this decades-long saga and how they have shaped the GOP into its current form.

(The Move Toward Extremism Begins)

The Republican Party began to move away from its traditional values of fiscal responsibility and limited government in the late 1970s, when Ronald Reagan was elected president. Reagan was an outspoken supporter of several traditionally conservative issues, such as tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations, deregulation, and strong anti-communist foreign policy. However, he also supported socially conservative policies such as prayer in public schools and restrictions on abortion rights. This marked a major shift from traditional Republican orthodoxy towards more extreme positions on both economic and social issues.

(The Gingrich Revolution)

This new direction for the party gained further momentum in 1994 when Newt Gingrich was elected Speaker of the House. Under his leadership, Congress passed several controversial pieces of legislation including welfare reform, tax cuts for wealthy individuals, and an increase in defense spending. The so-called “Gingrich Revolution” ushered in an era of unprecedented partisanship and obstructionism that continues to this day.

(The Rise of Trumpism)

The culmination of this decades-long trend came with the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016. Trump ran on a platform that embraced both fiscal conservatism (such as tax cuts for businesses) and socially conservative positions (such as opposition to LGBT rights). This combination has come to be known as “Trumpism” or “populist conservatism”—a mix of economic libertarianism and social authoritarianism that is now firmly entrenched within the Republican Party.

My Short Take

The Republican Party has undergone a drastic transformation over the past few decades; one which has seen it abandon its traditional values in favor of increasingly extreme positions on both economic and social issues. From Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich to Donald Trump, each successive leader pushed the party further rightward until we arrived at its current state — firmly entrenched within populist conservatism. As we look ahead to future elections it remains to be seen what direction the GOP will take next — but one thing is certain: it won't be going back anytime soon.

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