For more than a decade, Republicans in Arizona have confidently declared our state a GOP stronghold, claiming that Democrats who run for statewide office face an uphill climb.
It’s true that Republicans, myself included, had history on our side to backup such claims. After all, Republicans have dominated the political landscape in Arizona since the mid-1990s.
Just consider the past 20 years: Between 1995 and 2016, Arizonans elected four Republican governors to the Democrats’ one, five Republican secretaries of state to the Democrats’ one, three Republican attorneys general to the Democrats’ two, and three Republican U.S. senators to the Democrats’ zero.
Republicans have also consistently outperformed Democrats at registering voters. And, Republicans still hold an advantage — 34.7 percent to 31 percent — despite a notable increase in Democrat voter registration this past year, according to data released by the Arizona Secretary of State’s office in November.
But things are changing.
Political parties in America are undergoing realignment on a scale not seen since the 1960s. (Party realignment is rare, usually only occurring once every two or three generations.) A change in culture and values, due in no small part to shifting demographics, has accelerated this most recent alignment and brought it to the forefront of our political discourse.
As Democrats continue to make strides in urban cities and coastal states, Republicans are in the meantime reaffirming their edge in rural regions and small towns as well as making considerable gains in the Midwest.
However, the realignment is not strictly limited to geography — party ideology has also evolved. For instance, today’s Democrat Party looks nothing like the Democrat Party of 1960. And while left-wing progressives drag their party further away from the middle, an overwhelming majority of Republicans now support President Trump’s views on issues like immigration, trade, and foreign relations — views that don’t align with traditional Republican orthodoxy but are a refreshing change among working-class Americans.
Unfortunately for Republicans in Arizona, our state party has shown a distressing level of ineffectiveness at charting a path forward in this rapidly changing political environment.
The Arizona Republican Party proved unsuccessful in 2018 at articulating to independents and potential crossover voters why they should reject the radical, socialistic policies of Democrat candidates who promoted open borders, sanctuary cities, and single-payer healthcare.
More than anything else, 2018 made clear that the Arizona Republican Party has its work cut out for it heading into 2020. And with so much on the line in the coming election — a U.S. Senate seat, 11 presidential electoral votes, redistricting — the time for sitting passively on the sidelines is no longer an option.
Our party is always strongest when we are the party of the individual, not big government; free markets, not welfarism; lawfulness, not lawlessness. For when we lose sight of why we fight, we also will surely lose the fight.
Republicans can win in Arizona — and win big league — but it’s going to require us choosing smart leaders, electing bold candidates, and embracing the platform that Republicans ran and won on in 2016. It’s true that the road forward will not be easy but, then again, when have we as Republicans ever asked for a handout?
If our party unites, once and for all, Arizona’s future will be bright.
Dr. Kelli Ward (@KelliWardAZ) is an osteopathic physician who served two terms as an Arizona state senator and is running to be the new chairman of the Arizona Republican Party.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.