Rise of Hope Republicans: Reflections on the midterm elections

“In high school I started really getting into politics, but our politics club wasn’t that fantastic. I knew Hope Republicans was a thing that existed. I emailed them, no response, emailed them again, no response, and then I had to ask seven people to find the advisor in charge. “I met Professor Pocock, who is the professor in charge and he said, ‘oh yeah! Our first meeting is this day.’ I was the only person to show up to the meeting.” This is Jonathan Mann (’22), the new president of the Hope Republicans. When I asked about his transition into the organization, he emphasized the spontaneity of events. “Obviously I’m pretty enthusiastic They saw that and were like, ‘Hey. Our treasurer is going to Washington D.C. next semester. Do you want to be the new treasurer?’ and I said, ‘Of course I’ll be the new treasurer! I’d love that opportunity.’ So they trained me. Then, as of two weeks ago, I said, ‘When’s this next meeting going to happen?’ and the president texts me and says ‘I’m resigning because I’m not living up to the club, and the vice-chair is also resigning, so you’re going to be the new president of the club.’”

Redefining Hope Republicans

After learning of the administrative changes in the club, I was curious to see what direction the club was going. What did it mean to be a Hope Republican? Mann replied earnestly: “When you come to think about it, Republicans are conservatives. However, we’re opening the conversation up to everything. If you’re more of a moderate politically but you still identify as a Republican, we want to hear your voice. We want to hear your views.To be a Republican is to be pro-democracy.” He then summarized his points by stating: “You could define us as a club that discusses topics that promote fiscal conservativism, small government [and] stuff like that.”

Reflecting on the mid-terms

Of course, being a Republican has an additional connotation during the election cyclem when the party is campaigning to have more influence over America’s political system. As such, Mann and I quickly began to delve into the results of the midterms: “I’m happy with the results. Even though we lost the House, it was very successful compared to past presidencies. Obama lost 50 seats during the midterms during his second term, which is crazy high, and Republicans only lost 30-something seats this time around, so that’s good. We’re most likely to have gained three seats in the senate. I was a little upset with the Michigan results. I did some campaign work with John James for U.S. Senate, and he was such a nice guy. I felt so bad that he lost. At the same time, he came very close to winning compared to previous people who had run against Debbie Stabenow. While he didn’t win, he got his message across, and that has really resonated with the people of Michigan, I think.”

Proposing proposal implications

We then began to discuss the ballot proposals. With the disclaimer that “I’m not going to speak to specifically what my views on the proposals are,” Mann began to detail the proposal implications. “In terms of Marijuana legalization, statistics show that a majority of people support that. That’s a no brainer; that was easily going to pass. On gerrymandering, I know Republicans were against gerrymandering. Currently, we have a majority of districts because of gerrymandering that we’ve done. We have more control. A lot of people didn’t like that for the decade that’s been in place. For easier access to voting, there’s same day registration. That just simplifies the entire process, which a lot of people seem to support. They all were easy landslides. Some of it was very surprising. A lot of people didn’t think proposal two [the antigerrymandering proposal] was going to pass, but it did.” He then focused on the ramifications of proposal two passing: “I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing so long as they do it correctly. How Michigan currently is, half the state is conservative and half the state is liberal. Races are pretty close. Michigan’s a swing state. If they draw the districts to where it can represent that, I am all for it. If they keep seven Republicans and seven Democrats to represent Michigan, I think that’s very proactive, healthy and will represent everyone.”

Realizing Republican ideals

Before the interview, I had the chance to examine the GOP website and record the list of what GOP voters considered to be the prominent values of the party. Reviewing all of the Republican values, we began to chat about what those values might mean for the greater Republican party as well as Hope Republicans. In response to the first value “the Constitution should be honored” Mann stated: “Republicans definitely hold that ideal that the Constitution means what it means and Democrats are more about ‘No it should change with the times.’ I think that as long as it’s nothing too radical, it’s acceptable. We can have a compromise about what we can do about guns, but we have to have the right to protect ourselves. We can interpret [the Constitution], but it cannot take away everything from [it]. We should just apply the words on the page, and that’s how things should work.” As for the second value we discussed, that “the institution of traditional marriage is the foundation of society,’ Mann was less supportive. “I’m not opposed to gay marriage. I take a more libertarian view [that] it’s a free country, and you can do whatever you want in the privacy of your own home. I think that’s very fair. Most young Republicans support gay rights and stuff. It’s not that controversial across young audiences. But with older generations who are much more used to their society, yeah, it’s weird. Even in the Constitution, there’s no specific clause about marriage.” As for the value that “the military must be strong” Mann had this to say: “That’s a big fundamental of Republicanism and conservativism is ‘peace through strength.’ I think that there could be a better system where we could put more money into other programs, but I’m not opposed to having military strength. You know the statistic that the US pays more than the ten countries under it in terms of its military? What they don’t realize is that the United States funds many of these countries’ militaries. So if we scaled down our influence, a lot of these countries would be defenseless.”

Trumping former policy

There is one major influence when viewing Repulican shifting political ideals. The elephant in the room when it comes to any modern discussion about American politics is the current president Trump. When I asked Mann about his views of the president, he replied: “I’m kind of like Ben Shapiro. I kind of take [Shapiro’s] stance on a lot of things. I’m really happy when [President Trump] does smart stuff and governs conservatively, and I’ll be upset with him when he doesn’t do something right or does not govern correctly. I like the guy. I think he’s a good person. His personality is very… unique He’s one hundred percent the most outspoken president we’ve ever had. Honestly, I think that’s what a lot of people like about him. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. I respect him so much for that, because I’m not that outspoken. I’m much more of a listener… I don’t like upsetting people and he just does not care. He’s like, ‘If I see something wrong, I’m just going to say it how it is.’” In further support of the president, Mann highlighted his economic policies: “He has really low approval ratings, but I can’t really complain if he’s fixing the country. Our economy was just doing terribly before he came in. He comes in, get’s rid of all those restrictions being put on companies, and our economy is booming right now. GDP is at 4% right now, and we gained 250,000 jobs just in the last month. We’ve gained a few million jobs since he’s been in office, and that is one hundred percent helping the American people. At the same time, I think he’s just doing what he thinks is best for the country with regards to the economy. If he thinks the trade agreement with Canada and Mexico is bad, he thinks that already. He forced Canada and Mexico to change the policy, and now there’s a new trade agreement. If it’s gonna help the people, then let’s do it. Everybody should be on board if they can have a good economy.” While we didn’t come to an agreement about that issue, we both agreed that Trump’s power as a president was aided by his propensity in branding, and thusly rebranding the Republican party. “I would definitely say that there is this new Republican party that is very pro-Trump. The thing about the Republican party is that it was just getting bashed on and bashed on and bashed on and it had no real identity. Reagan was the last successful Republican. [Bush] was successful, but he didn’t put much of a splash on politics. Reagan was very funny, outgoing and comedic. Trump is not funny (he’s sometimes funny but) Trump is really outgoing, and he just branded himself into the Republican party.”

Closing notes with open doors

As our interview came to a close Mann implored a final note that “if you’re interested in joining [Hope Republicans] email us at republicans@hope. edu.” When considering doing so, consider the vision Mann described for Hope Republicans: “I really just want to strive to… open up conversations that we should be having.”

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