Godfrey: GOP should look to Huntsman


Photo: Erika Dimmler/CNN

Jon Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China, launches his presidential campaign June 21 at Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Hunstman is one of the few politicians left who is committed to debating the issues and compromising with other parties in efforts to move forward.

Elaine Godfrey

The Republican Party experienced a serious — and rather unexpected — defeat on Nov. 6, 2012, from Mitt Romney’s failed bid for the presidency to several lost seats in both the Senate and House. In the aftermath of this defeat, Republicans at all levels of the political system agreed that the Grand Old Party needs some serious restructuring — or, at the very least, a little post-election introspection. It was proposed that a new approach should be developed for dealing with issues involving the working class, Latinos, and women as well as and adapting to new technology within the country’s changing media scene.

The party “has to modernize in a whole range of ways,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “We were clearly wrong on a whole range of fronts.” Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who lost to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, agreed, saying that the GOP needs to be “a larger-tent party.”

But the Republican National Committee (RNC) continues to scratch its head about how to become this “larger tent.” They aren’t willing to rethink any aspects of the Republican platform; according to chairman of the RNC Reince Priebus, the party’s main issue is the “biologically stupid things that people say,” referencing Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape.” And while these idiotic comments are causing serious problems with the American public’s view of the party, it really comes down to the increasing conservatism of the party itself. The Republican Party is more conservative that it has been in 100 years, with more moderate members of the party being rapidly pushed out, the most recent example being Sen. Olympia Snowe, who left Congress because of her frustration with the party’s increasing narrow-mindedness.

The GOP needs to make some serious changes, and most have acknowledged this. But these changes will have to be larger rather than simple tutorials in technology or better word choice when pandering to Hispanic voters.

For these changes, the Republican Party should look to Jon Huntsman.

Former governor of Utah — and the Mormon, third cousin of Mitt Romney — Huntsman dropped out of the race for the 2012 Republican nomination for president, deeming the current state of the GOP to be “toxic.” The fact that he was so moderate on issues like foreign relations and civil unions for homosexual couples probably didn’t help either.

But Jon Huntsman has an attitude that isn’t seen very often among today’s politicians; he cares more about going with his gut than about sticking to party agenda.

In a recent op-ed, Huntsman declared his support for gay marriage and asked conservatives to “push their states to join the nine others that allow all their citizens to marry,” saying that “there is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love.”

Huntsman has received serious flack for straying so far from the party’s current ideals, including being disinvited to speak at Republican events to being asked to be in another state during Republican National Convention. But he is still a proud Republican – just one who isn’t afraid to criticize his own party, and one who certainly isn’t afraid to be himself.

(After all, the guy rode a dirt bike in his campaign kickoff video, while a narrator described how he dropped out of high school to tour with his band, “Wizard.” Talk about appealing to the common man).

“In my party,” Huntsman explains, “compromise cannot be seen as analogous to treason, which it has been recently.”

Huntsman suggests that the GOP accept a few more progressive ideas, like supporting gay marriage and acknowledging both evolution and man-made climate change. After all, he says, these issues are inherently Republican; in an interview with Stephen Colbert, Huntsman describes the Republican Party as drawing from many different “chapters” in history, from Teddy Roosevelt’s emphasis on the importance of caring for the land to Abraham Lincoln’s value on every person’s individual dignity.

Huntsman also says that conducting foreign policy with much more emphasis on diplomacy is in the best interests of both the party and the nation; this is probably good advice, coming from a man who fluently speaks both Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese Hokkein and spent years working as the United States ambassador to both Singapore and China, facilitating the entrance of both China and Taiwan into the World Trade Organization. (See him discuss Romney in Mandarin online.)

And while Jon Huntsman is a firm believer that serious change is necessary in order for the Republican Party to move forward, he is still firmly committed to the conservative ideals of his party.

“I’m one who happens to think we don’t need to turn in on our fundamental Republican principles,” Huntsman says. “We don’t need to run away from our message. … We maybe need to listen a little more than we speak sometimes.”


Elaine Godfrey is a sophomore in journalism and mass communication and global resource systems from Burlington, Iowa.