Why you should care
Because complaining won’t bring back your mama’s GOP.
Susan Del Percio
Susan Del Percio is a New York–based Republican strategist. This is her first column for OZY.
When writing your first op-ed for a media outlet, as I am now, you try to show that you are smart and thoughtful; you really try to “wow” them. I thought I had a great idea — my first paragraph went as follows:
Want to figure out 2020? Look no further than the 2018 New York primaries. There’s a progressive celebrity challenging the incumbent Democratic governor. The conservative, establishment Republican is folding his campaign to a Republican who admits to not voting for President Trump. And for good measure, and because it’s New York, there is a convicted felon running against a conservative Republican, who now holds the felon’s old congressional seat.
I liked the direction it was taking, but as I continued to write, my thoughts kept returning to an article I had recently read. The thing I couldn’t shake about it was how Republican voters were classified. It used to be that when polling Republicans, the identifiers were very conservative, conservative, moderate and somewhat moderate. But this article categorized Republicans as Trump Republicans and Party Republicans. According to The Wall Street Journal, 54 percent were Trump Republicans and 40 percent were Party Republicans. Even when taking the margin of error into consideration, one thing was clear: The Republican Party is now the party of Trump.
Some will think this is too calculating. Some will point out that Republican women can fail like Republican men.
As a Republican strategist, I knew that the base was behind President Trump, that elected officials and candidates needed to support him to win primaries. Yet the part of me that became a Republican 30 years ago, on my 18th birthday, was devastated when I saw those numbers.
I’ve often described myself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Some would call me a Northeastern Republican, which I always took to mean a big-tent party person. I believed that the principles of the Republican party were inclusive and while there were big differences on social issues, we could respectfully disagree.
As a political commentator in New York City, I know a lot of Democrats. We chat in greenrooms before television appearances, and most of the time the conversation turns to the Republican Party. I’m often asked, “Why can’t there be more Republicans like you?” I respond that there are a lot of us, frustrated with not only the president but also where he has taken the party. To that, I almost always hear, “You need to take back your party.” I smile and say that I will continue the good fight and then sigh to myself.
Going back to those depressing numbers … how can I and others take back a party that is so solidly behind President Trump? Well, as it turns out, women represent 54 percent of Party Republicans, compared with just 41 percent of Trump Republicans. So there is a glimmer of hope: Getting Party Republican women to take a leap of faith and run for office.
Many of these women strongly disagree with President Trump and his policies, and hang their heads when admitting that they are Republicans. After all, how do you explain Roy Moore, the accused child molester, or Todd Akin, the Republican who challenged Sen. Claire McCaskill and his “legitimate rape” debacle. Republican women have had to endure a lot, and now we need them to raise their heads and run for office.
It is great that people like Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are willing to speak truth to power, but they are on the way out. We need to focus on who replaces them, or potentially lose our party for a generation, not just one president’s term.
We need to show leadership in our cities and statehouses and in Washington, D.C. As a strategist, I know that in this environment, and for years to come, strong, qualified Republican women are our best bet. Some will think this is too calculating. Some will point out that Republican women can fail like Republican men. That’s true, but now is the time to show that the Republican Party is more than a bunch of middle-aged (yes, I’m being kind) white men.
We will learn a lot in this year’s primaries. Celebrities are not the answer for the progressive movement; establishment Republicans are not going to stay loyal to Trump if they believe they can win. And even a convicted felon can get a second chance on Staten Island.