It isn't that peculiar a question. During the last election a number of conservatives made quite a spectacle by proclaiming that not only would they not vote for McCain (a position I argued was self-destructive, and which I think the next four years will demonstrate to be so), but they also argued that they would no longer remain in the Republican party. And in one way, they have a point. The Republican party majority seems quite ill suited to represent conservatives.
Then again, one has to define "conservative" before saying that. For example, the pro-censorship authoritarian social conservatives seem to have the ear of several law makers. As do the protectionist "paleo-conservatives", though they, oddly enough, claim the party has been taken over by "neo-cons". Then again, as neo-con has no fixed definition, it is hard to argue that point. One thing everyone can agree upon is that moderate, even liberal Republicans, the so-called RINOs, have come to occupy a disproportionate number of prominent positions int he party.
Now, in some ways, this is to be expected. When neither party has a majority, inevitably both parties will need to compromise. And so both parties often end up with dull centrists in office, and I know I have heard Democrats making similar complaints about their representatives being too far to the right. Such centrist tendencies may disappoint many, and may lead to some degree of polarization among the grassroots, who feel they are not well represented, but it is really inevitable in a democratic state.
However, even the natural tendency toward centrist politicians does not explain the number of RINOs in the Republican party. The Democrats may elect individuals who are willing to compromise, but their politicians still talk far left, even if they vote more centrist. The RINOs on the other hand, tend to not just vote compromise positions, but appear to really believe in them.
And that is why so many conservatives are disappointed with the party. They feel, rightly, that the party no longer represents them. From the preponderance of moderate or even liberal Republicans in positions of authority, it is easy to conclude that there is no real conservative party. At least provided one defines conservative as being for smaller government and reduced spending. And so many on the right, especially "economic conservatives" often threaten to leave for the Libertarian or Constitutional party.
Which brings me back to my original question, why I am not even considering such a move.
Well, the first reason should be obvious to regular readers. There simply are too many problems with existing third parties. The Libertarians and Constitution Parties are both right on many issues, but they share a number of beliefs which I find more troubling than any shortcoming on the part of the Republicans. Mainly their fear of government. I have covered this elsewhere, so I will not say much on the matter, just say that I could not in good conscience join the existing third parties of the right.
So, then why don't I hold any hope for a new third party? One which would represent my federalist views, or even simply provide a libertarian alternative without the isolationist and paranoid tendencies of existing parties? And the answer is, I would be happy were such a party to appear fully formed. However, it is not going to be created in one fell swoop. Third parties, historically, have arisen as local parties, which have then spread and eventually developed a national presence.
However, there is a problem there. If a third party does start to grow, it will siphon support from the Republicans, and in the process will hand a number of elections to the Democrats. granted, eventually it would be beneficial, but for a time it would split our efforts and do quite a bit of harm to conservatism.
A far better solution, as I have written before, is for us to move the Republicans right. The party already exists, is nominally conservative, and is home to most conservative voters already. What would be the point of splitting our efforts, handing years of elections to the Democrats, just to create a new conservative party, when we can dot he same thing by reforming the Republicans?
Yes, it is tedious, and it will take time, and it is not glamorous, but in the end, it is the most sensible choice. In the time it would take to create a new party, establish the party's credentials, win local and state elections, and finally become established enough to field a presidential candidate, we could have had more than enough time to fix everything wrong with the Republicans.
Originally posted in Random Notes on 2008/12/17.