After an underwhelming midterm election and political infighting within the party, the topic of “The Future of the Republican Party” was timely for this week Pachyderm Luncheon down at Ahmad’s Persian Cuisine in Omaha. The panelists were Jim Rose from KFAB, Joe Jordan from News Channel Nebraska, and Dr. Randall Atkins, a political science professor and Senior Associate Dean of the Social Sciences at UN-O.
Host John Sieler summarized the feeling of many Republicans after the last elections, where many populist candidates supported by Donald Trump went down to defeat. “Do we want purity or do we want to win?” he asked. “Do we want to elect ‘pure’ Republicans, or do we want to have a big tent and elect Republicans who can win the Presidency?”
Randall Atkins cited two books that lay out how elections have been won and political parties have been shaped in the past. The first was “Ambition and Politics,” by Joseph Schlessinger, which suggests winning candidates such as Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan tend to shape their parties for years to come. As such, Atkins predicted Donald Trump has similarly reshaped the Republican party and would win the GOP nomination once again in 2024 — based primarily on the current Gallup poll results.
The second was a book titled “The Party Response” written by a group of political scientists at UCLA. According to this book, Atkins says, “a party out of power, in their first election cycle … focus on nominating ideological purists,” such as Barry Goldwater in 1964 or Walter Mondale in 1984. Atkins seemed to predict a moderate candidate like Bill Clinton would be more successful in the next election. “Their argument is that over election cycles, the party will nominate somebody who is more electable and less ideologically pure.”
Joe Jordan said that Republicans are at the “be careful what you wish for stage.” He cited some contentious issues, such as Bob Evnen’s reelection to Secretary of State against two “election deniers,” a victory that came with a minority of the primary vote. Jordan also cited the recently-passed ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage, which was opposed by all state-wide Republican candidates, and a future initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Jordan also believed that Trump had a clear-cut advantage in winning the Republican nomination in 2024 because of how delegates are determined in primary elections. “Democrats do it progressively — if you get 40% of the vote, you get 40% of the delegates,” Jordan said. “If Trump wins a state by one vote, he gets all those delegates … if he can win with 35% of the vote, and four or five other candidates have to split up the remaining 65%, he wins and he gets all the delegates.”
Jim Rose advocated for Republicans to moderate on issues such as climate change, and abortion in order to appeal to younger voters who vote Democrat by wide margins. “Most young people want [abortion] safe legal and available,” Rose said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t restrict it. The total bans may jibe with God, but it will lose you elections even in Kansas and Kentucky.”
Rose also said that Republicans should court young voters with issues such as student loan forgiveness. “Five years from now, you’ve got to have a solution on student loan debt,” Rose said. “It can’t just be ‘pay it.’ You’ve got to sell an idea on how to work off the debt so that they don’t have it.” He also talked about the importance of Republicans to have a presence on social media and find “young, attractive” African-American, Hispanic, Asian influencers to push the youth vote to the Republican side. “All you need is another five to seven points from those demographics and you’re golden.”
There was about forty minutes of Q&A after the three panelists finished speaking. There were several questions about tactics Republicans should use to win elections in the future. Former Mayor Hal Daub asked Atkins about political bias at the University, which the professor believed was limited to specific schools and not more unusual than society in general.
Jordan cautioned Republicans about potential investigations in Joe Biden, particularly over the current scandal on classified documents. “Right now, Biden’s hands are tied on this whole document mess because DOJ his DOJ is the one handling the investigation,” Jordan said. “Once the Republicans start to beat him up, then the Democrats get a chance to fight back.”
The next luncheon will be on the fifth Monday, January 30, and feature David Friend from Metropolitan Utilities District.