Vacate the Nomination

Dump Trump: Save the Party of Lincoln.
Lincoln never stopped hoping, and neither should you.

Since winning the nomination, Donald J. Trump has done all of the following: insulted the family of a man who died in service of his country; kicked a baby out of a rally; failed to rebut evidence that he was a draft dodger; embraced the opponent of the sitting Republican Speaker of the House while refusing to endorse the 2008 GOP nominee for president; attacked fire marshals at his rallies as “political” for enforcing occupancy limits; driven his staff and the RNC to despair; and denied the (very real) Russian conquest of Crimea.

I’m sorry, did I say, “since winning the nomination”?  Actually, that was just the past 36 hours (as of this writing). By the time you read this, no doubt Trump will have disqualified himself from the nuclear suitcase many more times – and it’s not like Trump was an angel before August, either.  Trump should not be the Republican nominee for president.  He should not even be the Republican nominee for Secretary of Transportation – 13th in the line of succession is far too close for a man of his low character.

Fortunately, he doesn’t need to be.

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Conservatism is Dead!

That’s the provocative title of my recent piece at The Federalist, which you should check out if you haven’t seen it yet. Here are some excerpts:

[T]here is no conservative movement. The “Reagan coalition” stopped existing as an operational political force some time ago. The conservative movement cannot use the Republican Party to advance its aims simply because, as a non-existent entity, the conservative movement has no aims to advance.

There are three factions within today’s Republican Party, all of them deeply and structurally opposed to one another. All three call themselves “conservative” and berate the other factions for their deviations from “true” conservatism, but each defines “conservatism” according to their own factional priorities.

The populists are nationalist, nativist, and pro-American. They supported Trump almost from the start, and they read Breitbart and Drudge

Because they consider giving voice to “Americans” the defining characteristic of conservatism, populist conservatives see support for illegal immigrants as an excommunicable offense, but are open to raising taxes on the rich to keep middle-class entitlement programs running, and are largely indifferent to (or “pragmatic” about) “culture war” issues like religious liberty.

Going by presidential preference polls, populists make up about a third of the Republican party. The other factions pejoratively refer to the populists as “Know-Nothings,” among other things.

The establishment is chiefly concerned with growing gross domestic product at all costs. They supported Jeb Bush or John Kasich at the end of February, and they read the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.

Because they view “growth” as the defining characteristic of conservatism, establishment conservatives see tax increases or even tax cuts that do not flow directly to the pockets of so-called “job creators” as grave heresies against conservatism, but they are eager to increase immigration and happy, nay eager, to surrender to the Left on “culture war” issues.

Although smaller than the other factions, the establishment wields disproportionate clout through its well-heeled donor class. The other factions pejoratively refer to members of the establishment as “plutocrats,” among other things.

The grassroots, which fights for a culture that protects life, liberty, and the family, supported Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio by the end of February. They read the National Review,The Federalist, and First Things.

Because they see “culture” as the central feature of conservatism, grassroots conservatives obviously view so-called “culture war” issues as essential. They see economic growth as just one aspect of the movement (and do not take the establishment’s rigid view of how to achieve it), and they take a more nuanced, even “pragmatic” approach to immigration than either of the other two factions. Like the populists, they seem to make up about one-third of the GOP. The other factions pejoratively refer to the grassroots as “religious fundamentalists,” among other things.

When the modern conservative movement started out under the political leadership of Barry Goldwater and later Reagan, it was built on centuries-old principles handed down by men like Edmund Burke and Alexis de Toqueville. In 1953, the great intellectual, Russell Kirk, summarized those central premises of conservatism.

In his “six canons,” Kirk articulated a conservativism that embraces “a transcendant order, or body of natural law,” because “[p]olitical problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems.” Conservatives, Kirk said, reject “uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims,” even as they recognize “ultimate equality in the judgement of God and… before courts of law.” They maintain the importance of property rights against Leviathan government, and distrust “sophisters, calculators, and economists who would reconstruct society on abstract designs.” Finally, a Kirk conservative is prudent, recognizing “that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress.”

The modern “conservative movement” has lost touch with these essentials… Yet those core, conservative ideas, plainly stated and honestly championed, are still popular across a wide swath of American society, including large groups of voters who wouldn’t be caught dead identifying themselves as “conservative.” (I think here of black economic moderates, various first- and second-generation immigrant groups, white union Democrats, and others.)

The implications for the “new party” are clear: we need to return to the core ideas of conservatism, while at the same time we need to compromise on, attenuate, or even abandon some of the core policy commitments that have come to define the modern, corrupted conservative movement.  For example, if we grassroots conservatives are to establish a successful new anti-abortion party based on Kirk’s core conservatism, we are not going to be able to maintain a commitment to the “abstract designs” of the “sophisters, calculators, and economists” on the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board.

In this process of realignment and reassessment of our policy commitments, we will lose some old allies — the WSJ comes to mind — but, if we are honest and not too stubborn about old political habits, we will gain many more.

More on this later.  (Soon, I hope!)  For now, go read the article.

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Should I Watch: Mr. Robot?

Looks like I’m back with a TV review after all! Here’s my two cents on USA’s Golden Globe-winning hit drama, Mr. Robot.

Type of Show: Though it aired on a (cable) network, Mr. Robot is another in the new genre of “binge-watch” shows, in which every episode must be watched in sequence to make any sense, the most exciting story beats happen at the end (rather than the beginning and middle) in order to keep you watching for another hour, and everything from storylines to individual shots are padded to make the show fill an entire season. (see also: The Man in the High Castle)

One of my favorite parts of MR. ROBOT is how realistic its hacking is. This code is pretty close to something that would actually work.

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Where’s James Been?

Things have gotten a little stoppered up here at De Civitate, and you, the faithful reader, deserve a wee update.

I’ve been hesitant to post any of my regular blog fare (discussion of social issues, horse race updates, TV reviews) until I’ve fleshed out the New Party proposal a little more. Many of you put your faith in that proposal and I want to show that I remain serious about it.

However, the next piece in my series about the New Party (and the need for it) was submitted to a conservative magazine last month. They’ve agreed to publish it, but, as sometimes happens in the publishing world, they got a little delayed, especially with the conventions.  We’ll see what happens there.

In the meantime, I’ve been in a holding pattern.  One way or another, we’ll be back soon. Whether it’ll be with a new post about the New Party or my review of Mr. Robot, I don’t know yet.

Cheers, all.

Posted in Housekeeping | 12 Comments

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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Posted in Mere Opinion | 4 Comments