In a previous post I discussed my concern at burning down the GOP. Not much has changed of my assessment there.
The GOP is perhaps fragmenting beyond repair, only time will tell if the wounds are fatal or just scarring. Meanwhile the quest to claim the mantle of “TruCon!” continues apace:
If you say you won't vote for Trump or Cruz, spare me the lecture when others won't vote for Rubio.
— Drew McCoy (@DrewMTips) January 27, 2016
Perhaps now is as good a time as any to explain why I vote for the GOP in the first place, and while I’m inclined to vote for the nominee in November. I want to be clear this is not an argument about why you should vote GOP. This is a window into my thinking only.
The GOP to me has never been a conservative party, at least not in the 12 years I’ve been able to vote. However, if you are inclined to believe as I am, that the natural steady state of the constitutionally set up system of government is a two-party system*, especially at the presidential level of politics**, then you’re left not looking for a party that represents your views perfectly, but one that is as close as you can get. Given the rapid leftward movement of the Democrats, the GOP was the default choice. As the GOP itself drifts ever leftward, I find myself asking more often: “are they still close enough to my preferences that I can vote for them.”
This gets at the heart of why I’d begrudgingly vote for Rubio, but not Trump. Now let’s be clear, Rubio is probably about as far from my preferences as I’m willing to go. The problem is Trump is farther. (Huckabee farther still in many respects. I have concerns about Paul’s isolationism, but he might still be at the edge.) I try to consider the totality of a candidates positions. Rubio’s position on immigration is well beyond my preferences, and were I a single issue voter, I’d be staying home this November. But, I’ve come to see that it’s unlikely I find a candidate who is in line with my immigration preferences, so I need to weigh in the other issues as well.
So yes, I’d vote for a Cruz, Rubio, even Christie. I don’t see Kasich being inside my limits (especially based on Medicaid expansion.) And Bush, while possibly inside the reaches of my limits politically speaking, I draw the line at political dynasties, unfortunately for him his brother tipped that scale.
Now I’m sure my adversaries would say “you’re just saying ‘the GOP is better than a democrat!'” Well no, for two reasons: 1) as I said above, this isn’t an argument directed at you, vote how you want. 2) When I go into the ballot box I’m presented options: is this person within my broad definition of “acceptable” or not. I have, in the past, found no one acceptable and pulled no lever. My definition of “acceptable” may be broader than yours, but that’s the rubric I’m using.
Now you may be asking “great, so how do we build a party that’s even closer to my preferences?” The answer to that is a bit more depressing.
You could start a 3rd party, but, if my assessment re: stable state of the constitution is right then you’d be on the losing side until you peeled enough people away to dissolve the GOP. If that’s a path you’re willing to take so be it. For my part I think it makes the perfect the enemy of the good.
In the past I’d have suggested that we engage in a primary process that pushes more conservative candidates. As I noted in this thread with MWR and AtC I have begun to rethink that conclusion. Pushing candidates fails because the party apparatus still maintains significant control over the candidates once they reach DC. Or put differently: Candidates are the end game, not the starting point. I had it backwards all along.
No, if you want to push for a more conservative GOP, you’ll need to begin changing the apparatus itself. The only way to do this is to go inside of it and play the long game. First you’d need to push the local party rightward, working towards state party. Enough people doing that in enough places would have an effect on the national platform. Push enough people into leadership roles and you could legitimately shape outcomes.
Now, this is a rose colored view to be sure. It assumes among other things that you don’t become corrupted by the apparatus yourself. Or that you can survive the inevitable onslaught of big business (who is tethered to the handouts our currently squish party so readily provides.) And to gain enough traction you’d need to grind for an incredibly long time, and possibly get no where. But it seems to me these are our options:
- Third party, wilderness, etc. (And frankly that’s still grinding.)
- Grind to shift the GOP
- Throw up our hands and wait for the collapse.
- Whine on blogs about how miserable the GOP is and wait for them to change on their own.
I’ve done 4 for long enough. Perhaps it’s time to start #2. To that end, you’ll find me at Missouri’s platform caucus this year making my case.
*How I arrived at this conclusion is another post perhaps, but the cliff notes is that the current structure cannot support more than two parties. In any race of 2+n people (where n>0) the path to victory is to peel off just enough votes from the 3rd (4th, 5th, whatever) to achieve a plurality. If you do that successfully enough, eventually people will see begin to simply join your coalition and party’s 3, 4, 5, etc. simply disappear. Things get more complicated in congressional and senate races, but the principle is roughly the same.
**Kindly insert a rant about an overreaching executive branch and the administrative state here.