One year ago the Republican Party finally forced my hand.
So I left the party I had belonged to most of my adult life. The party I had volunteered for and served several times since I was in high school. The party I’ve recruited and helped candidates for. The party of Ronald Reagan, my first political hero.
But to paraphrase some famous words Reagan once said, I didn’t really leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left me.
It long ago left conservativism behind. The betrayals we’re seeing now on fake Obamacare repeals and Democrat budget priorities only confirm it. It’s now leaving sanity behind, too, as it disintegrates into a party of Absolute Always Trumpers and Absolute Never Trumpers.
Absolute Always Trumpers change their positions on vital issues like the Iran deal, despotic dictators, and how much the character of our elected officials matter in order to conform to Trump. Meanwhile, Absolute Never Trumpers can’t ever seem to give the president credit even when he deserves it. Each side regularly beclowns itself to justify itself, and their clowning is aided and abetted by a president who all too often acts like a clown himself.
Then there’s the so-called news. Much of it is merely shilling for the Republican-Democrat duopoly, now attacking what it used to defend and defending what it used to attack, on top of all the fake news peddlers on both sides.
It’s clear that it’s time to try something new. The current political paradigm offers no hope for conservatism.
On that there is no debate, except among those personally profiting off of maintaining this scam. However, what is debatable is what to do next. And I believe this discussion needs to be conservatism’s priority, rather than wasting another generation asking Republicans to advance values they clearly don’t share.
The way I see it, we have the following four options on the table for changing the paradigm (with pros and cons for each):
1. Hostile takeover of the GOP
PROS: Why reinvent the wheel when there’s already an existing major party in place with a conservative platform? While conservatives have little sway in the GOP, much of its rank and file are still conservatives. So why not marshal the grassroots’ multitudes and truly take over the Republican Party?
CONS: Civil wars are long, expensive, and bloody conflicts. Do we truly have the resources for such a prolonged engagement, or the stomach for it? Success would require exposing hypocrites and sellouts, risking friendships and relationships. It would also require raising millions of dollars. Current conservative office holders would have to engage in hand-to-hand combat with party elders. If those options were possible, it’s unlikely we’d find ourselves in this position within the GOP in the first place.
2. Bolster an existing third party
PROS: Why reinvent the wheel when there are frameworks for existing third parties, like the Libertarian Party and the Constitution Party, already in place? Each of these alternatives already has a foothold in obtaining ballot access, which is the biggest challenge for any new political party. All they’re lacking are numbers to take them to the next level, and there are enough of us to provide those numbers.
CONS: While there are factions of disenfranchised conservatives who will find much to like about the ideals of the Libertarian or Constitution parties, there are fundamental differences between the two that could deepen existing divisions within conservatism. For example, the Constitution Party’s platform explicitly states it acknowledges the religious premise of our Founding Fathers, and that premise is the basis of its beliefs. However, the Libertarian Party’s platform does not, but allows room for religious freedom within the context of individual liberty. As the Proverb says: How can two walk together unless they are agreed?
3. Create a new party
PROS: A wise man once said something about the foolishness of pouring new wine into old wineskins. After all, this country is a living example that once paradigms embrace corruption, independence from the corruption must be declared, whether it is the Pilgrims fleeing corruption on the Mayflower or the Founding Fathers loading their muskets to stand up to it. Therefore, as students of history, if we’re going to spend years changing the paradigm, choose the strategy history says has the best chance of success — something new. Besides, wasn’t the Republican Party itself originally founded by those who fled the corruption within its predecessor, the Whig Party? This is the rationale behind the effort to launch the Federalist Party.
CONS: This will require finding considerable resources that aren’t currently identified, and until then, there’s little hope of raiding talent from the existing Republican-Democrat duopoly. But without real talent on board, there’s little hope of identifying and attracting the necessary resources. It’s a difficult cycle to break out of. The largest expense is likely to be ballot access, and the two-party duopoly isn’t likely to permit an unvarnished challenger without a costly court fight.
4. Reprioritize, then re-engage
PROS: An argument could certainly be made that a better use of all the time, talent, and treasure that’s been invested into partisan politics in the past generation would have been better spent on church engagement and pop culture influence instead. In other words, go back to square one and realize the church is the institution most likely to produce the voters we’re looking for. From there, invest in influencing pop culture, because that’s the most influential platform in America today. If the church is energized and pop culture is a platform for conservative ideals, the political parties will fall in line. As Andrew Breitbart used to say, “Politics flows downstream from culture.”
CONS: This will require a paradigm shift in and of itself. Much of the church is dormant, lacking the courage to engage, or if it does engage, it does so from a partisan rather than spiritual premise. And conservatives have traditionally been much better at condemning the Leftist influence of pop culture than creating good pop culture ourselves. The harvest is plenty, but the workers are few.
I’m not what many would consider a major influence within conservatism; therefore I’m hardly the one to lead this conversation or steer it one way or the other. And as you can see, there are pros and cons to each option. So I’m not trying to win an argument; I’m merely trying to start one.
We need our leaders with mass followings and influence to engage this conversation, because without them on board, we’ll likely continue to splinter — which means we’ll continue to lose regardless of who wins in November.