Revolution from within: GOP or third party
My recent Ether Zone column, “Revolution from Within: From Whence a New Conservative Movement,” generated a lot of comments. The comments were mostly positive but not all were. I noticed from the feedback I received that there was some confusion about what I was trying to say. With this column I will try to clear up any confusion I might have inadvertently caused. In future columns I will spell out what some of my working assumptions are that lead me to this conclusion.
In a nutshell, I asserted that any new authentic conservative movement, if it is going to arise at all, is going to arise from the remnants of the current “conservative” movement when enough people realize that that movement is not in fact conservative. It is not going to arise de novo or be the result of cobbling together a coalition of right, left, and center, or result from rousing the disinterested masses from their slumber. To illustrate, a recent news story reported that Rudy Giuliani is considering forming a new professional hockey league if the Players Union and the NHL can not get their act together. Well if a new hockey league forms, where will they go to get players? To the local baseball field? From undrafted college football players? Of course not. They will go to the unemployed members of the current NHL. This analogy is admittedly not perfect, but it illustrates my point. My assertion does not seem groundbreaking. In fact, to me it seems intuitive. I am not sure why it has proven to be so controversial.
Additionally, I suggested that since the current “conservative” movement is likely to be our current and future recruiting ground, we are better served by efforts to convert them, than we are just sitting around grumbling to each other about neocons and infidelity to the Constitution. Perhaps it was this observation that caused the bulk of the controversy. Many of us, such as many Ether Zone readers, have decided that the current “conservative” movement is worthless, or worse yet, counterproductive. This has generated a lot of resentment and ill will. Out of frustration and anger, many are inclined to just write off the entire lot of them as mindless “ditto-heads” and be done with it. While this approach might provide some feel good emotional catharsis, I do not believe it is the most advantageous approach at this point.
Now with my basic premise restated, the confusion that I mentioned was that many assumed that by suggesting a “Revolution from Within” I was advocating working within the GOP. Perhaps it is a sad commentary on how intertwined the “conservative” movement is with the GOP that many just assumed that is what I was suggesting. This is in spite of this line that I wrote concerning Conservative Political Action Conference attendees; “But very few were able to divorce themselves from the current Democratic vs. Republican mainstream paradigm, even though it was so obviously not serving them well.”
In reality I am conflicted on the Party issue. There are pros and cons associated with either staying in the GOP or bolting for an alternative party. First, the advantage of staying in the GOP is that it is currently the major party vehicle of organized “conservatism” and as such, provides a huge amount of organizational credibility that is just not currently available with any of the alternative parties. The Republican Party is not incapable of fielding real conservatives. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Judge Roy Moore are two good examples. Neither of these good conservatives would have been elected if they were running under an alternative party. Good conservatives are just demonstrably few and far between. But these two men illustrate the problem with the GOP as well. The GOP, despite all its conservative rhetoric, is a profoundly moderate, middle-of-the-road party. They wasted no time running Judge Moore off because he was considered too controversial, and then promoted his persecutor, William Pryor. Rep. Paul is treated like an inconvenient gadfly, instead of celebrated as someone who is able to get away with saying what the rest really believe but are not at liberty to say.
The alternative parties such as the Constitution Party, the Libertarian Party or the various Southern Parties in the States of the Confederacy, are at a tremendous disadvantage when it comes to ballot access, money, organization, activists, and probably most importantly, credibility. But they can more easily maintain ideological purity.
My own sympathies lie with the Constitution Party and the various Southern Parties. Nothing would hearten me more than if every conservative in mass bolted to the Constitution Party or if every conservative Southerner bolted to the Southern Parties and declared their intention to support secession. But I realize this is not likely to happen any time soon.
As I have conceded, there are advantages to be had at present by staying in the GOP. For genuine conservatives who are so inclined, I say more power to you. Plug on. However, I would offer the following advice. The current strategy of supporting slightly more conservative but still mainstream candidates in the primary, and then supporting the primary winner regardless of where they stand, is clearly “not working for you” as Dr. Phil would say. You should insist on real conservative candidates in the primary. If no one steps forward, then consider running yourself or find someone who will.
As an aside, I do not subscribe to what I call the Historical Taint Theory. Under this theory, the Republican Party can never be the conservative party because it is the party of Lincoln, the party that essentially adopted Wiggery. I bow to no one in my dislike for Lincoln, but the Democrat Party is the historical party of Jefferson and Calhoun, and you can see how far that has gone in helping them today. So if historical precedents don’t save a party, I am not willing to concede that they must necessarily doom one.
For those who are asking what I mean by a real conservative, let me briefly illustrate by example. A pseudo conservative wants to lower marginal rates, or if he is really bold, replace the Income Tax with a “revenue neutral” Flat Tax or National Sales Tax. A real conservative wants to scrap the Income Tax, and when asked how he intends to fund the government at present levels boldly states, “I don’t.” A pseudo conservative wants to means test some Social Security benefits or allow personal accounts. A real conservative wants to scrape the whole Socialist, FDR inspired, New Deal (all redundancies, I know) Ponzi scheme. I could go own, but I suspect you get the point. (More on the pseudo conservative/real conservative distinction in a future column.)
I know many are objecting that those positions are in the extreme minority, and are not politically viable. I agree. This is one of my baseline assumptions that I plan to elaborate on more in the future. For now, suffice it to say that the current debate is between outright Social Democrats and slightly less Social Democrats. Real conservatism never even gets a real hearing. We must as real conservatives throw down the rhetorical gauntlet.
This is where our friends who chose to remain in the GOP can be of great use. Except in the biggest races (President of course, maybe Governor, and maybe Senate) every announced Republican primary candidate gets at least a minor hearing. They will generally be invited to the initial debates, for example. They will get some press coverage. Alternative party candidates generally struggle for any coverage, and when they get it, it is usually not flattering. They are often portrayed as either extremist nut cases or well-meaning, windmill jousting eccentrics.
If real conservatives chose to remain in the GOP, then they should take advantage of this potential opportunity to have our views aired. Support candidates who stake out real conservative positions in the debates, who put real conservative messages on their literature, and who support real conservative issues in their commercials. If no such candidates are running, then as I said above, seriously consider running yourself.
Imagine the following scenario as an illustration of how we need to exploit the potential free publicity that being a major party candidate provides. In a debate Pseudo Conservative Candidate A is asked his view on a new prescription drug benefit for Medicare. He replies, “We must take care of our seniors. I support it.” Pseudo Conservative Candidate B replies, “I definitely think we should do all we can to help seniors afford their drugs, but unfortunately I don’t think we can afford it at this time.” Real Conservative Candidate C replies, “I see nothing in the Constitution that authorizes Congress to take money from the taxpayers to pay for someone else’s drugs. I do not support a new drug benefit. In fact, I can find no Constitutional justification for Medicare either. Therefore, it should be scraped as quickly as humanely possible.” Image the jaws that would drop in the audience. Image the twittering in the press corp. “He didn’t just say that, did he?”
Now I admit that the real conservative candidate, as things stand now, couldn’t get elected dog catcher with positions like that. I believe that is something we are just going to have to concede at this point, but perhaps the real conservative candidate can succeed in moving the debate to the right and educating or shaming a few pseudo conservatives into embracing real conservatism. They will be laying the rhetorical groundwork for future campaigns.
Now here is where it gets tough. With the real conservative Republican presumably out of the race, what is a real conservative to do in the general election? Some believe that if you are a member of the party, you have to support it thick or thin. I disagree. This is what the two parties want you to believe. It keeps them in power and is powerful inertia to keep both parties firmly entrenched in the middle. (I recognize that today’s middle is yesterday’s far left.)
There is no obligation to support the ultimate Republican candidate if they are not acceptable. Despite all the talk of a big tent from moderate Republicans, that tent seems only to extend in one direction. For example, the big tenters would certainly be clamoring for Paul or Moore supporters to get behind Giuliani in the general for the sake of party unity and anybody but Hillary. But don’t believe for one instant that Giuliani or Specter would support Paul or Moore if either, by some miracle, got the nomination. If the general election candidate is just another run-of-the-mill, mainstream “conservative,” real conservatives must be prepared to bolt, even if it means torpedoing the Republican candidate. In fact, torpedoing the Republican may be the best outcome we can hope for at present. Proving to them that they can not win without us. No one has ever been able to show me a convincing scenario whereby we can advance the cause of real conservatism with the current two party, lesser of two evils strategy. It is a strategy for perpetually losing ground a little more slowly.
At present, I believe the best of both worlds would be for many real conservatives to stay in the GOP where they can run candidates in the primary, influence the platform, attend conventions, etc. Those who can not stomach such, including yours truly, should join the conservative alternative party of our choice and begin laying the ground work for a hoped for future mass exodus of conservatives from the GOP as well as fielding good general election candidates even if at present they have no real chance of winning. Real conservatives deserve general election candidates they can proudly support.
I am certainly willing to entertain other strategies intended to convert the current “conservative” movement to real conservatism. I am willing to entertain ideas that suggest we must work around the current movement. But what is certainly not helpful are idle hand wringing, pessimistically throwing your hands up, and name calling. “All conservatives are big government, blood-thirsty jingoist.” That sort of thing. Let’s get out there and be real conservative missionaries. Don’t call them names. Patiently explain to them why they are wrong. Like the true apostle of Christ, you will suffer for your work. Called a dreamer at best or a fringer, or nut case, or worse, but no one said this was going to be easy. Republican Party or Constitution Party or Southern Party or other, make a choice and get to work.
Revolution from Within: From Whence a New Conservative Movement
Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”