The More You Tighten Your Grip, Mr. Ginsberg…

Image of Grand Moff Tarkin from Star Wars
CREDIT: WOOKIEEPEDIA

I’ve been working quietly on the next phase of the New Party for a couple of weeks, but in the meantime I was interviewed by reporter Gwynn Guilford for an article that was just published today.

It’s called “How the Republican elite tried to fix the presidency and instead got Donald Trump,” and I think it’s pretty great, both as a chronicle of the Ron Paul 2012 insurgency and as an explanation of how the Republican Party set itself up for self-defeat in 2016. Gwynn did her homework with the GOP rules nerds, and it shows:

…the big changes to the 2016 delegate math still changed the race’s strategic dynamics in a way that wound up favoring Trump. The binding of previously unbound caucus-state delegates made it impossible for grassroots activists to rally their support behind a challenger to Trump. The newly bound delegates included the hundred or so RNC representatives from each state—party insiders that, had they not been bound to vote for Trump, might have coalesced around a consensus candidate, giving that candidate motivation to stay in the race. Without Rule 40, more candidates might well have had the impetus to stay in the race longer. That could have given national convention delegates—the majority of whom don’t like Trump—a better chance of supporting a challenger to the party’s new orange-haired overlord in Cleveland.

By shutting up a vexingly vocal minority, GOP leaders may have summoned forth Trump’s “silent majority.” Though Minnesota’s James Heaney is avowedly anti-Trump, he still relishes what he sees as “poetic justice” in what resulted from the Republican elite’s rules overreach in Tampa.

“That line from Star Wars comes to mind,” he says. “‘The more you tighten your grip, Mr. Ginsberg, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.’”

Read the whole thing; she earned the clicks.

I am now officially on record comparing Ben Ginsberg to Grand Moff Tarkin, so I guess my career in the Republican Party as presently constituted (where I am currently clothed in immense power as precinct vice chair) is doomed whether or not the New Party takes off. I can’t say I’m the least bit sorry.

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New Party: Elevator Pitch

On May 5th, I wrote a lengthy piece proposing that we give up on the Republican Party and start a new one. Several people wrote to ask me to post a shorter version of that post. Here it is!

The now-inevitable nomination of Donald Trump is a disaster for conservatism. We knew this. But the disaster is much worse than that.

It is a disaster for conservatism that so many Republicans voted for Trump. Trump is a 2016 fever dream, but those who voted for him will still be around in 2018 and 2020. They are essential to the conservative-Republican coalition… and it turns out they aren’t really conservative at all. Still: the conservative coalition can survive a rebellion. It’s worse than that.

The real disaster for the conservative movement is that the Trump Train only began with a rebellion. It ended in a palace coup. Republican Conservatism could survive one; it can’t survive both.

The Reagan Republican Party Is Dead

The Republican East Coast ruling class always claims we can’t nominate a conservative because of concerns about “electability” and “expanding the map.” Instead, they say we need to “compromise.” Oddly, their “compromises” always take the form of surrender on social issues, from abortion to immigration, while standing fast — no matter the political cost! — on tax cuts for the rich. Hence nominees Dole, McCain, Romney, and, to an extent, both Bushes.

This year, Acela Republicans had to choose to nominate either Sen. Ted Cruz, who is irritating but conservative, or Donald J. Trump, a violent, racist, lying, adulterous thug without a conservative principle in his body, whom the general electorate likes about as much as they like scrotal cancer.

And the Republican Establishment picked Trump.

So: one-third of the Republican party (the populist faction) has enthusiastically rejected conservatism for Trumpism. That’s bad enough. But then another third of the Republican party (the establishment faction), proved that it hates conservatism so much that, if forced to choose, they’d rather have Trumpism.

Trumpism, people! That’s how little the Wall Street Journal Republicans think of Russell Kirk and the National Review! They don’t just hate conservatives more than Hillary; they hate us more than Trump!

The populists and the leadership are together on this one: they are against conservatism. We can’t beat them both. On the contrary, they have roundly beaten us.

For decades, small-government, local-business, pro-life, pro-family, pro-liberty, pro-Western, and pro-local voters, calling themselves “conservatives,” have flocked to the Republican Party. That party is now dead. There is no plausible future in which the Republican Party — always an imperfect ally — ever again serves those causes. It may do so in name; bribing conservatives with show votes and meaningless words in the Platform. The party’s interests may even occasionally align with ours; the plutocrat class would be delighted to cut subsidies for Planned Parenthood, because they view it as a waste of money. But the Party’s commitment to conservatism is not even skin-deep. Fight to protect the rights to conscience and private property and you’ll find yourself alone; threaten un-conservative subsidies to super-corporations like Boeing and God Help You.

The Republican Party is no home to us. It’s possible that it has not been for some time. It surely won’t be again.

So what are we to do?  We seem to have no options: the Democratic Party is unacceptable for a number of reasons, and the compromises we’ve made to make the Republican Party serve us seem to be failing, too. Existing third-parties aren’t viable; if they were, they would have broken out to major-party status by now.

In these radical circumstances, we should take a look at the same radical solution embraced by the very first Republicans, 150 years ago: start a new political party.

Taking a Page out of Lincoln’s Book

Every few decades, somebody tries to start a new political party. Most attempts, like Teddy Roosevelt’s in 1912 or Strom Thurmond’s in 1948, fail immediately. Even those that gain a foothold in national politics, like the Greenback Party (1874-1888) usually collapse eventually. But, in 1854, anti-slavery “issues voters” across the North came together to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska Act and, out of this loose coalition, the Republican Party emerged.

Why did the Republicans succeed where others failed? Here are a few reasons:

  1. Republicans drew sizable numbers of voters from both existing parties. There were plenty of anti-slavery Democrats out there just waiting to be welcomed into a party whose platform they could support. Republicans were predominantly ex-Whigs, but drew enough Democratic support that they were able to build a majority coalition… not just split the Whig vote.
  2. Republicans started from the grassroots. The Republican Party began in a one-room schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin, where the Whig town committee met with anti-slavery Democrats and Free Soilers and voted to start a new political organization — a local organization dedicated to electing local anti-slavery candidates. Hundreds of towns followed suit, and those organizations only slowly knitted themselves together into a national Republican Party over the course of several years. Great national leaders like Teddy Roosevelt are handy, but local parties are the hands, feet, head, and heart of a new political party. If you don’t have them, you don’t have a party.
  3. Republicans still needed (and got) support from elites. The Republicans were able to fill their ranks and build local organizations quickly because prominent Whigs defected to the Republicans en masse, at every level, while sympathetic newspapers spread the message and even helped organize Republican political conventions.
  4. Republicans adopted a narrow platform focused on a couple issues that ALL their voters could agree on. If you’re asking people to abandon their current political affiliation to throw in with a brand new party, you need to be backing policies that they really want, without backing anything that they’re deeply opposed to. For the early Republican Party, the central issues were opposition to the expansion of slavery, support for the rule of law, and support for national infrastructure spending. Their official platform was just a few hundred words long.
  5. Republicans had strong regional support, but potential to grow beyond it. Nationally, Republicans weren’t very popular; the South hated them and the Northeast was more inclined toward the Know-Nothing Party (which was basically the Trump Party of 1854). But Republicans had strong regional support in the Midwest, where they won many races. This allowed them to gain a foothold in national politics. They later expanded into the Northeast, giving them a majority.

Lessons for Us

I have no interest in building yet another utopian fringe third-party that never wins an election. America has plenty of those, from the Constitution Party on the Right to the Green Party on the Left. There will always be two and only two major parties in America. If our new party can’t disembowel one of the existing major parties and take its place within a dozen years, then there’s no point.

Fortunately, the Republicans of 1854 have given us a blueprint. While it is too late in 2016 for us to make a difference, we can (and should) begin trying to lay the groundwork for a new organization. This will require the support of many local grassroots activists (protesters, local party chairmen, interest groups, and so forth), as well as the support of “elites” — influential opinion columnists, national organizations, and, yes, even Congressmen.  The first steps will be the most difficult, because nobody wants to be the first to risk their political necks on a new, unproven party, but, once momentum starts to build, it will keep rolling, and, by 2018, we should have the strength to put up competitive slates in at least ten states, and we should win at least ten seats in Congress.  (If that doesn’t happen, then there probably isn’t an appetite for a new party right now.)

We also need to find a couple of core principles that a new party can rally around: principles that can help us build a narrow, targeted platform that attracts both Republicans (especially anti-Trump Republicans) and Democrats (especially anti-Clinton Democrats) in large enough numbers to build a new majority coalition. I am still talking to people about what that might look like, but the two principles I have in mind right now are:

  1. A commitment to the inherent dignity of the human person: at conception, at birth, in childhood, in college, in poverty, in sickness, in prison, in a refugee camp, in marriage, in the workplace, at church, in parenthood, in our country, in foreign lands, in old age, in natural death. Wherever there are human beings in need, we will support them, and we will protect their lives, their liberty, their property, and their well-being through wise, honest laws and a strong social safety net.
  2. Broad opposition to the giant, impersonal, inhuman entities that increasingly rule our modern world: Big Business and Big Government. Businesses would be encouraged to get smaller, to de-emphasize stock prices, and to operate at the local level rather than in gigantic, powerful multi-nationals. Meanwhile, government would also move toward the local level, still providing a social safety net, but with each state figuring out their own way of doing it. (If voters in one state want Scandanavia-style single-payer health care, let them do it. If voters in another state want Singapore-style free-market health care, let them do that instead.)

I think a new party constructed along these lines could win a great deal of support, especially in the West and Midwest. Pro-life, pro-family Republicans would back it for its strong support of human dignity, as would many anti-poverty, anti-racism Democrats. Catholic voters, long divided between the two parties over various issues, would find a comfortable home with this platform. Many “Ron Paul Republicans,” highly concentrated in purple-state urban cores like St. Paul and Denver, would swoon for a chance like this. So would a lot of middle-class “Union Democrats.” Mormons fit the party profile perfectly, and there are opportunities for support from African-American voters, who are often socially conservative and economically moderate. All this points to a durable base of regional support in the Midwest and the West, with opportunities to expand into the South and mid-Atlantic.

Off the top of my head, here are four sitting Congressmen who I think could find themselves at home in our party: Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). I also know for a fact there are many more people sympathetic to these principles, in both parties, who are never elected because they are screened out at the primary stage (in both parties) for violating party orthodoxy on abortion (for the Democrats) or the military-industrial complex (for Republicans).

This won’t be a perfect party for anyone — no party is. Big-tent politics means biting your tongue sometimes when your party supports something you don’t. But we live in a Trump vs. Hillary world; many Americans would see this new party as an improvement. Heck, for longtime conservatives, it may be our only hope.

If you broadly agree with what I’ve articulated here, if you’re a Republican suddenly looking for an alternative to Trumpism (or a Democrat looking for an escape from Clintonism), or you’re just interested in where this goes, sign up for email updates. This is a special mailing list I am making just for the new party: you won’t get anything except updates about this party, and that’s assuming it goes anywhere at. You won’t get blog updates or other spam:

The subscription script isn’t working. For now, click this link. I’ll try and get the proper form fixed later.

And if you have any suggestions for the new party’s name, the combox is open! The trick, I’m discovering, is finding a word that hints at what we stand for without alienating anyone. Until we’ve voted on a name officially, I’ll keep calling it the New Party.

I hope you’ll join us on what promises to be a strange ride.

 

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New Party: Next Steps

I’ve been asked what we need to do next to get the New Party up and running for 2018. It’s been almost two weeks since I first proposed a new party, so I figure I ought to say something, even if it isn’t much.

I said ten days ago to start talking to people about the future of American politics and where they see themselves in that future. That’s still where we’re at right now. I’ve had several such conversations, some very productive, some less so. Here are some of the things I’ve been asking in those conversations:

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New Party: Mailbag

I did essentially nothing but blog for three days after Trump won — I skipped meals, ignored some committees I’m on, didn’t sleep — so I am taking a couple days off of blogging/thinking to catch up… and recuperate! (Rod Dreher, consider me newly impressed by your daily output. It’s exhausting!)

However, I am getting and seeing a lot of feedback from my proposal yesterday to start a new political party. I’m really happy about that, and I want to share with you some of what I’m hearing. I am, for the moment, just trying to listen, so I am (for the most part) refraining from comments:

1:

I like your ideas, but I have to tell you, this article takes a long time to get to your point, which is that you want to form a new political party and that you have some ideas on what it should be about. You and I and a lot of people on this thread love long, detailed trains of thought like this (A history of the founding of the Republican party! Party-formation benchmarks out to 2024!) but some readers are going to want you to get right to the point and tell them what you want to do, so you might consider writing another post or even rewriting this one, so that your core idea(s) can be more readily shared.

COMMENT: This is true. Although I think everything in the article is necessary for the full picture, I will write a condensed (and perhaps more readily shareable) version soon.

2:

I don’t remember these conservatives who say they believe in “upholding human dignity” proposing the formation of a new party when George W Bush started torturing people, suspending habeas corpus, and pursuing a foreign policy that has all but eradicated Christianity in the Middle East. I don’t even remember them saying people should refrain from voting for him…

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TRUMP!: What Now? …A New Party (3 of 3)

If other men choose to go upon all fours, I choose to stand erect, as God designed every man to stand. If, practically falsifying its heaven-attested principles, this nation denounces me for refusing to imitate its example, then, adhering all the more tenaciously to those principles, I will not cease to rebuke it for its guilty inconsistency. Numerically, the contest may be an unequal one, for the time being; but the author of liberty and the source of justice, the adorable God, is more than multitudinous, and he will defend the right. My crime is that I will not go with the multitude to do evil.

–William Lloyd Garrison, abolitionist, in an 1854 speech (h/t Neil Stevens)

In 1854, sixteen brave men killed the intolerable Whig Party by forming the Republican Party. It's time to do it again.
In 1854, sixteen brave men killed the intolerable Whig Party by forming the Republican Party. Perhaps it’s time to do it again.

Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the Republican party.

On Tuesday, we discussed how this happened. Today, we have to decide: what are we going to do about it?

This is the third and final part of a three-part series. The first part deals with the fight from here to the convention. The second part deals with the 2016 election. This final part looks beyond 2016 to a new conservative future.

This is the longest entry in the series. It is also the most important. I do not know how to make it shorter.

November 9th and Beyond: Conservatism Without Republicans

I don’t think we can stay in the Republican Party.

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TRUMP!: What Now? …Election Day (2 of 3)

“If Trump and Clinton are the nominees on Election Day, right and wrong will become meaningless, blood will run like a river through the streets until the eventual victor is seated on a throne of skulls, and all atrocities will be moral, because life will be utterly without meaning.

“So I think I’ll finally go see Gods of Egypt.”

–Me, three months ago, on Facebook, when asked what I would do if Trump won.

Election Day 2016 will be directed by Zach Snyder and set in the DC Murderpocalypse
Election Day 2016 will be directed by Zach Snyder and set in the DC Murderpocalypse

Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the Republican party.

Last night, we discussed how this happened. Today, we have to decide: what are we going to do about it?

This is the second part of a three-part series. The first part deals with the fight from here to the convention. The second part deals with the 2016 election. The third part looks beyond 2016 to a new conservative future.

July 18th – November 8th: The Election From Hell

“What in the heck am I going to do this fall?” That’s the question everyone’s asking me. Heck, that’s a question I’m asking me.

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TRUMP!: What Now? …To The Convention (1 of 3)

“Even though… many old and famous States have fallen or may fall… we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!

“And even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

–Winston Churchill, 4 June 1940

Commander Riker and crew gaze in horror on the ruins of the conservative movement
Commander Riker and crew gaze in horror on the ruins of the conservative movement

Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the Republican party.

It would be difficult to overstate the magnitude of this disaster. If you are a supporter of Mr. Trump and reading this, well, first, hello! We don’t see many of you around these parts, and I welcome your differing perspective. Second, I take you for either or a liberal or a fool; it is impossible to believe him an ally of conservatism after even a few minutes’ exposure to his record.

Odds are, you are a regular reader of this blog, and we have been over my opposition to him many, many times before. To sum up, Trump is the most unpopular major-party nominee in polling history (the second most-unpopular, oddly, is Hillary Clinton). It is difficult to imagine the Republican “brand” ever recovering from the historic damage his candidacy will do among women, non-whites, and young people… which, oh, hey, happen to be the exact demographics most key to winning elected office for the next generation. Even if Trump does win (which remains a small but real possibility), his constant shifts of position make it impossible to know precisely what he would do in office — though his more consistent opinions expressed prior to this election cycle make it clear he would be much closer in practice to Hillary than his supporters would believe possible. Will he nominate good judges to the Supreme Court? I’ll give you a definite maybe on that!  Are you sure he’ll build that wall? He’s not! (Which… is probably a good thing, come to think of it.)

Last night, we discussed how this happened. Today, we have to decide: what are we going to do about it?

This is the first of a three-part series. It deals with the fight from here to the convention. The second part deals with the 2016 election. The third part looks beyond 2016 to a new conservative future.

May 4th – July 18th: Fight In the Fields and the Streets

“If you need me to explain the problems with Donald Trump, you are one of the problems.”

–Me, in July of last year

Trump is the all-but-certain nominee. I had an array of desperate, convention-coup tactics lined up, all ready to publish here on De Civ in the event of a narrow Indiana loss. Heck, I’ve been teasing those tactics for weeks. They were the planned climax of my Conventional Chaos series. But the magnitude of the Indiana loss, combined with the GOP establishment’s sudden surrender to Trump, combined with the organized anti-Trumps (Cruz and, later today, Kasich) dropping out of the race, swept even my desperate tactics into the dustbin of implausibility.  (I may still publish the final parts of Conventional Chaos, but it is now a theoretical exercise.)

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TRUMP!: What Happened?

Not even a month ago, it seemed that the Republican nomination would likely be decided in Cleveland at a contested convention. Wisconsin had voted overwhelmingly for Ted Cruz over Donald Trump. Cruz was sweeping up delegates in the so-called “shadow primary,” making Trump look like a klutz. The math was bad for Trump: Indiana, demographically similar to Wisconsin, held a crucial 57 delegates, and it was hard to find ways to get Trump to 1237 delegates without a victory in California, all the way out on June 7th.

Of course, the media exaggerated this narrative, as the media does, with some pundits saying really silly things, like that there will “almost certainly” be a contested convention. But it definitely seemed more likely than not. April 19th and April 26th were always expected to go badly for Cruz (and did), but from there on out the wind seemed to be at Cruz’s back.

Yet, by April 28th, that confidence had faded — not just among workaday pundits, but among Delegate Twitter.  By April 30th, the mood was grim throughout the anti-Trump universe.  And by May 2nd, we could see clearly that either the polls were very, very wrong or the anti-Trump campaign was very, very toast.  On May 3rd, the party united — behind Trump — and delivered Trump a massive 16-point win in Indiana. Within the hour, Trump’s only viable opposition, Ted Cruz, dropped out of the race, effectively ending the primary that was so recently an open question.

What happened?

I don’t believe any one explanation can account for what happened. Many things played small parts, and, together, they added up to the race-ending catastrophe of May 3rd.  Here are ten:

  1. Indiana was never as friendly to Cruz as we thought.

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“We May Yet Prevail”

Since last week, when I wrote that it all comes down to Indiana, the situation has become desperate. According to reliable reports, internal polls, which seemed merely shaky when I wrote my piece, have since gone into free-fall. Public polls of Indiana, which finally became frequent enough to become reliable after April 26th, have gone from bad to catastrophic.  FiveThirtyEight now rates Trump as having a 90% chance to win. I have long maintained that we must fight on against Trump, even if Indiana is lost. I have said that we have a small chance even with a narrow loss in Indiana. Well, I still say we must fight on. But, if Trump wins by the vast margins suggested by the polls, it won’t be narrow, and we won’t have a chance.

The conservative movement, which has made its home in the Republican Party for decades, faces the abyss. Trumpism, a philosophy based on thuggery, resentment, and complete epistemic closure, is poised to take its place in a new coalition with the East Coast Establishment… leaving conservatism in the wilderness.

One imagines Ted Cruz touring his Indiana headquarters tonight, preparing for what may be the final battle against Donald Trump, and reflecting on the future, as Captain Picard once did before the Enterprise‘s great battle against the Borg:

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