Trump’s enemies have every reason to gloat. They know they don't need to win elections to vanquish their enemies and win real victories. Republicans, meanwhile, find most of their wins these days in the increasingly embattled Supreme Court. Outside of certain states, such as Texas and Florida, real political victories are few and far between.
The only way for Republicans and conservatives to counter left-wing political action is to adopt the left-wing understanding of power, and act.
For decades, the Republican doctrine has been characterized by a reliance on “limited government” as their governing principle. It’s an honorable and noble position to take and would be practical under different circumstances. Unfortunately, the left doesn’t abide by the same “limited government” principles as their right-wing counterparts. They use power regularly and often to achieve their ends, and they’re smart to do so.
Their strategy of using political power with the utmost ruthlessness has resulted in them acquiring more political and cultural power than ever before. They took their time. They’ve been doing this sort of thing since before I was born.
The left’s legal war against Trump, its unrestrained use of bureaucratic power to change policy on the ground, and Democratic state governments using power to radically change their states' policies all serve as examples of this.
The Republican response to these actions has remained consistent over time. Accusing the Democrats of “hypocrisy,” asking how the left would react if “the roles were reversed,” and writing strongly worded letters of condemnation. Coming as a surprise to no one, none of these moves have slowed the left-wing onslaught of new policies and precedents.
While the left has marched on American institutions, Republicans have chained themselves to “limited-government” principles, preventing them from achieving anything of value and making it impossible to put up a challenge to left-wing governance.
If they want to put up a real challenge, Republicans need to start by using the bureaucracy to its fullest extent. They need to insert staffers and implement their agenda by practically any means necessary.
Donald Trump has made plans to purge the bureaucracy of left-wing appointees under a new iteration of Schedule F, an initiative he implemented in the waning days of his administration. Joe Biden repealed Trump’s reforms during his first week in office. The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 is working to fill Schedule F bureaucratic positions with sound appointees ahead of the next Republican candidate’s victorious campaign.
In the judiciary, conservatives should be following a doctrine of ruthless judicial action that stops progressives in their tracks. Legal crackdowns can drain the Democratic Party’s machine of money, in a similar fashion to how legal expenses stemming from investigations by leftist DAs have drained Trump’s PAC of more than $40 million in legal fees.
We can start holding career government employees to account for their abuses of power "under the color of law"—which is a major federal charge against Trump at the moment. The House’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government is building a record of such abuses, but the records will be of little use if the committee's work ends up sitting on a shelf.
The “free market” principle should end once any private entity takes it upon itself to push left-wing dogma, such as Disney. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made good steps in applying pressure when Disney pushed left-wing ideology in their programming and tried to protest the state’s actions restricting the spread of LGBTQ+ ideology in classrooms.
This doctrine should be expanded and applied universally. The only way to prevent the private sector or any institutions from facilitating the spread of progressivism is to make an example of those who engage in it.
Finally, Republicans should start using power to fight the culture war. By pushing back on issues that were once thought settled such as gay marriage, contraception, and Christian values in the government, they can force the left to give up on more poisonous contemporary ideologies, like transgenderism, which red state legislators and governors have been battling to remove from schools.
Republicans must ask themselves whether they wish to hold on to self-imposed principles that limit them in their ability to achieve policy victories. Is it worth it to lose with principles, and watch America fall into disarray at the hands of leftist ideologues? If our goal is to win and make this country a better place to live, work, and raise a family, then we should embrace playing dirty. We can’t limit conservative governance, it must be unleashed.
Gabe Guidarini is the Affiliates Director for the College Republicans of America and the President of the University of Dayton College Republicans.