It’s 7:30 on the evening of Nov. 13, and people are still slowly filing into the Orton Center at the University of Redlands. At the front of the room, four empty chairs await the arrival of speakers Julie Ponzi, William Voegeli, Andrew Busch, and Ben Boychuk. In just a few minutes, each speaker will be given about eight minutes to speak, followed by questions from the audience. By the time the discussion started there were 50-60 students and community members sitting in the audience.
The purpose of this forum was to discuss the future of the Republican Party, as each speaker is well educated on the topic. University of Redlands senior and President of the Young Republicans Club, Sarah Sparks introduces the guests with the following credentials:
Julie Ponzi: Senior editor of American Greatness and contributing writer to the Claremont Review of books, The Online Library of Law and Liberty, The Columbus Dispatch, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Washington Times.
William Voegeli: Visiting scholar at the Henry Salvatori Center at Claremont McKenna College and contributing editor to the Claremont Review of Books.
Andrew Busch: Crown Professor of Government, George R. Roberts Fellow, and director of the Rose Institute for State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College.
Ben Boyschuk: Managing editor of American Greatness and columnist with the Sacramento Bee.
The discussions followed a similar structure, where each speaker made a specific point, or multiple points per topic. Ponzi was the first to start the conversation, and stated that when choosing a political representative, Americans have a tendency to “want them to be like us.” She continued, “you can’t get elected in America unless it is clear to the people who elected you why you love them.”
Ponzi emphasized the importance of the people’s point of view and expectations for a successful political leader. Ponzi’s final concluded by explaining that “a representative needs to have an understanding that you need consent, an understanding that the American people are not ideological, and an understanding that the American people need to be loved.”
Next to speak was William Voegeli, who started by saying, “I will be extraordinarily brief, as I am extraordinarily unprepared,” which drew the otherwise quiet audience into laughter. Voegeli’s key point was that Trump is unlike any other president that we’ve ever had. He backed up this statement by explaining that every other president has been previously involved in the government or the military. Voegeli pointed out that the Republican party is making huge strides in the number of democratic seats being flipped from blue to red in the past year.
Andrew Busch began his discussion points by saying the current state of the Republican Party was like the Clint Eastwood movie, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Before diving into his analogy, he stated that it is “highly unlikely that the Republican Party will cease to exist.” He continued that, although Trump has extremely low approval ratings at the moment, Republicans “will survive and adapt,” which is “the good” part. “The bad” is that our President only has a 6 point lead to democrats. Then “the ugly” is that the Republican coalition is shaken, and that the Republican college graduate vote is shifting away. Trump only had a 4 point win during the election, which is the smallest margin in recent history. Busch clarified that Trump was not the first one to start this shift.
Busch gave his final remarks, by asking the audience “what are Republicans going to stand for? Can they broaden their coalition? Who’s going to pick up the Trump argument after Trump?” The last question was in reference to the fact that many Republicans are in support of Trump’s values, but not the President as an individual.
Ben Boyschuk was the last speaker of the night. He too touched on the important fact that Trump is unlike any President or Republican to be elected. He started off by taking a poll of how many people in the crowd were Republicans, and about 15 people raised their hands. Boyschuk then asked, of those people who consider themselves conservative, and a few hands went down. The next question was, “who voted for Trump?” after that about 10 hands were left in the air. The same number of hands remained raised when Boyschuk asked how many people were satisfied with Trump. When the audience was asked who was dis-satisfied, and who was unsure, and to that about 5 hands were raised.
Mr. Boyschuk said that conservatives would most likely end up being unhappy with Trump because he didn’t follow the guidelines of “check-list conservatism,” which includes the following three pillar values: strong military, free markets, and family values. During Trump’s campaign he did not emphasize these values, and in fact criticized the way the nation has been practicing fair-trade. Boyschuk suggested that even though conservative Republicans are not going to be happy with Trump, he thinks it’s okay.
Boyschuk moved his discussion to his opinion that the American people need to stop making predictions. According to Boyschuk, Trump has proven to be unpredictable, and he says that the people should just “shut-up and listen for awhile.” In conclusion he said that America is a divided nation, and that it is dangerous to develop political ideologies because it leads to aggression and disappointment.
Once all four speakers finished their discussions, there was only enough time for two questions from the audience. The first question was in regards to gerrymandering, which is a practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries. The audience member wanted to know if the guest-speakers thought this was an ethical practice. The responses were mixed, as to whether or not the speakers agreed with the practice of gerrymandering.
The final question of the night was in relation to the future of the Republican Party on a state level. All four speakers said that the Republican Party in the state of California is not in good standing. They agreed that in order to see an increase in the Republican Party in California that changes need to be made on a small scale, and then build to a larger scale. The future of the California Republican Party is heavily dependent on what happens to the Republican Party at the national level.