Looking at the results of the presidential election on their own, it appears as though the Republican Party did not do well this cycle. President Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection, ceding all three “blue wall” states back to the Democrats and watching historically red Georgia and Arizona go blue as well. The popular vote is going to be won by the Democratic Party for the seventh time in the last eight presidential elections.
Beyond the top of the ballot, though, Republicans had an excellent night on Nov. 3. Incumbent Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) defied the polls to hang onto their seats. The GOP is just one runoff victory in Georgia away from retaining the Senate against all odds. In the House, the results were even more surprising for the GOP, with the party making unlikely gains in Iowa, California, South Florida and elsewhere.
The standout storyline in the congressional elections is the success of female and minority Republican candidates. Every single House seat that flipped from blue to red this cycle was done so by a female or a person of color. The number of female Republicans in the U.S. House is set to at least double from its current count of 13. These numbers and the surprising GOP success in down-ballot races is no coincidence — the recruitment of women and minorities helped the GOP make these gains, and the party must continue to support these candidates in order to appeal to the increasingly diverse populations of America and achieve electoral success in the future.
On some level, elements of the conservative movement already recognize this. After seeing the number of GOP women in the House shrink from 23 to just 13 after the 2018 midterms, many conservative groups rose to help fix the problem. Groups such as Winning for Women, VIEW Pac and E-PAC spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to boost Republican women in GOP primaries, and their efforts clearly paid off on Nov. 3.
But, in many ways, the Republican Party has been failing to see what it needs to do. In the 2020 campaign, President Donald Trump largely sought to play to his own base by holding large, fiery rallies in which all he did was give off-the-rails speeches to inflame America’s partisan divides and gin up his own supporters. He did nothing to moderate himself or reach out to persuadable voters, many of whom are people of color, and Republicans largely followed his lead. In doing this, Republicans basically ceded the big cities and suburbs to the Democrats. Trump didn’t give these diverse voters any reason to vote Republican.
And yet, amazingly, many of them did anyway. Trump improved his performance among Black voters, Hispanic voters and Asian American voters compared to 2016, garnering the second-highest minority vote share of any Republican since 1976. These results are reflected the most in Miami-Dade County, Florida and Zapata County, Texas. In Miami-Dade, Trump lost by nearly seven points after losing by nearly 30 in 2016. In Zapata County, Trump overturned a nearly 33-point loss in 2016 to win the county by over five points, becoming the first Republican in a century to win there. Both counties are largely Hispanic, and both were crucial to Trump’s victories in those swing states. Imagine what could have happened if Republicans actually tried to appeal to those voters.
Clearly, minority voters are in play, and the GOP can no longer continue to ignore them as America grows more diverse. Republicans need to demonstrate that their party is for everyone and that their agenda can in fact work for all Americans of all backgrounds. A key part of doing so is investing in these candidates at both the congressional and presidential levels.
The results of the election give the GOP a clear roadmap on how to perform well in future elections. The conflicting results at the top and bottom of the ballot suggest that the Republicans’ loss of the White House was not due to their message, but their messenger at the top of the ticket. Many voters unwilling to vote for President Donald Trump seemed to have pulled the lever for down-ballot Republicans, enabling the party to make the gains that it made in unlikely places. This election showed that, with the right candidates, the GOP platform is a winning one that can lead to victories down the road. There is an opportunity in this country for the Republican Party to expand its sphere of support. It must take it.
Justin Zion is a senior majoring in political science and is Sports Editor at Pipe Dream.