Since the United States has only two major parties, each party will include people with different political philosophies. For example, Joe Biden differs significantly from Bernie Sanders. The Republican Party has tended to be more ideologically homogenous, but it also contains some degree of diversity.
Some might be tempted to dismiss concerns about political philosophy as misguided, perhaps due to a broader view that all philosophy is useless. One might dismiss political philosophy by asserting that politics is a practical matter of deals, power, money and lies, so philosophy is pointless in this context. But such a view, that practical matters are all that matter, is a political philosophy—and usually a simplistic one at that.
Politics is, of course, a construct of the human mind and built from and upon ideas. As such, even the simplest version of politics requires a basic political philosophy. At the very least, a justification of authority is needed, even if it is based on the philosophical view that “might makes right.” Those engaged in politics also need to have goals and means to achieve them; this requires considering values and weighing them. Even if one just focuses on the simple goal of power, that is to have a political philosophy.
While some people are honest about their goals and methods, politicians are notorious for professing laudable principles that they either do not believe or are willing to quickly jettison in favor of what they value more. As such, sorting out the political philosophy of the Republican party using their words will certainly result in an erroneous understanding of their real political philosophy.
Both parties profess to embrace the political philosophy of the founding fathers. When they wax philosophical, they have sometimes referred to thinkers such as John Locke. Sometimes they accuse each other of subscribing to extreme philosophical views, such as Marxism, anarchism, and fascism. In some cases, these accusations hold true.
While the Republican Party has long engaged in efforts at voter suppression, the triumph of Trumpism has seen the party embrace the big lie of widespread election fraud. They have been using this lie to push laws aimed at restricting voting and this indicates an explicit rejection of American democracy in favor of securing power through non-democratic means. One could argue that this is consistent with traditional values; at least the tradition of Jim Crow and other anti-democratic efforts over the course of United States history.
Traditional American political philosophy has emphasized the importance of loyalty to the Constitution and the country, as opposed to obedience to a specific person. While the United States has seen some cults of personality in the past, Trump has shaped the Republican party into the party of Trump—one rises or falls within this political system based on one’s usefulness and fealty to one man. Thus, the Republican party has embraced an anti-democratic authoritarian political philosophy with both their words and their deeds.
Republicans typically profess to embrace a traditional conservative political philosophy, and the current party does still act on some aspects of that philosophy. However, pressures have revealed large cracks between their professed views and their actions. A good example is the traditional Republican philosophy of business. This has manifested in lower taxes, free market capitalism and deregulation. However, when corporations have acted in ways contrary to the interest of Republican politicians, then Republican leaders have been quick to condemn these corporations and threaten them with regulation. A good example is Mitch McConnell’s threats against businesses that oppose Georgia’s effort to cease to be a democracy. McConnell made it clear that he wants corporations to stay out of politics, except for being in politics by making campaign contributions. These “cancellation” threats might seem ironic given that the Republican party’s major focus is on fighting “cancel culture.” But, as I have argued elsewhere, this is not a battle for free expression—it is merely another example of made-up grievances used to energize the base with lies. If the Republican party was truly in favor of free expression, they would not have booted Liz Cheney for making true claims about Trump’s lies. These actions show that the driving political philosophy of the Republican Party is that what matters is power, and they should use any means necessary to acquire and hold that power. Beyond that, all their professed principles seem to serve merely to mask this core principle.
One could, however, point to the Republican Party’s focus on transgender people as showing their principled commitment to conservative values. Republican state legislatures are rushing to pass anti-trans bills, with a major focus on athletics. While Republicans are professing that they are motivated by fairness, this claim is absurd on the face of it. After all, if they were truly concerned with women being treated fairly, legislatures would ratify the ERA and pass laws addressing the array of inequalities women face. The anti-trans bill are clearly aimed at energizing the base by “owning the libs” through hurting trans people. But one could take this as advancing traditional values; at least values from a certain tradition.
Fairness requires that I admit that trying to reconstruct a Republican political philosophy from their words and actions is problematic. After all, I am biased and an outsider. What is wanting is a professional political philosopher on the inside who can honestly and clearly lay out the current political philosophy of the Republican party. Surely there must be someone who can step up to that task?