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As I sat down to type my nth comment defending the Republican Party against claims that it is useless, has accomplished nothing, and needs to be abandoned, I decided to write a post about it instead.
If the Republican Party were a monarchy, it could announce its intentions and its loyal subjects would fall in line and march as ordered. As king, the Republican Party could use its fiat power to declare that the things it claims to support and believe in — American exceptionalism, limited government, free markets, a strong military, and the Constitution — were sacrosanct; the Party’s subjects would dutifully vote for the Party and elect its candidates.
But that isn’t how political parties work. They may lead a little, but mostly they seek to attract voters who are generally sympathetic to the party’s positions. The party doesn’t tell the people what to want, but rather tries to convince the people that the party is the best vehicle through which the people can move their own agendas forward.
We have two viable political parties. One, the Republican Party, espouses those ideas mentioned above, of limited government and traditional order; the other has a far more expansive view of the role of government, and places little value on tradition. One, the Republican Party, is dominated by a large center-right contingent that is rarely sufficiently ideological to please its more right-leaning members; the other is increasingly dominated by a hard-left radical fringe that more and more alienates its larger center-left membership.
There is no practical alternative to one of those two parties, nor will one arise in the near future. It’s important that conservatives understand this: There is no path to a successful conservative alternative to the Republican Party that does not pass through huge and sustained Democrat victories at the national level.
This is true because we live in a strongly left-leaning media space, one that reaches most Americans on a daily basis through mainstream media and social networks almost all of which are relentlessly and increasingly dishonest and biased. Any attempt to create a conservative alternative to the Republican Party would be met with glee on the left, which would correctly recognize an opportunity to confuse, mislead, and divide the conservative electorate and prevent either conservative party from achieving a viable majority. This should be obvious to anyone who gives it even a moment’s thought.
The parties exist to get their candidates elected. They attempt to do this by attracting members and supporters who agree more with their positions than with the other party’s positions. Since most Americans are neither far-right nor far-left, each party has to try to appeal to a substantial portion of the electorate closer to the middle of the political bell curve. That means that neither party can be “purist,” in the sense of taking a strong ideological stand that is at odds with a large majority of the electorate.
Conservatives have an advantage at the moment in that the Democratic Party is increasingly being directed by hard-left extremists, and it has become difficult for even a complicit mainstream media to hide that. Now is a good time for the Republican Party to reach out to an electorate increasingly disenchanted by the left’s excesses. The greater the electoral advantage the Republican Party has, the more it can safely put forward candidates who represent the Party’s more conservative positions. We should be working to increase participation in the Republican Party by pointing out what the Party represents and how that contrasts with the progressive left’s agenda. This should be a moment to build up the Republican Party, not tear it down.
If the Republican Party has not been conservative enough for my tastes, I think that has more to do with the electorate than with the Party. The Party has to strike a balance between ideology and relevance: it has to get its candidates elected, and that means competing in the large center of America’s political space. Our goal should be to increase the Party’s electoral margins, so that it can put forth conservative candidates who can be confident of broad support, and so that we can afford to choose candidates a little further to the right without fear of losing critical moderate votes.
There is no ultimate victory here. The battle between conservatism and radicalism never ends. America will never be as conservative a nation as I want her to be. The Republican Party will never be as conservative as I am — not in my lifetime, anyway, not while remaining politically viable.
But the Republican Party is the only political platform that can successfully oppose the left. Criticize it sensibly. Encourage it to embrace the best of the Trump experience and to welcome those who saw in him something missing in American politics. Push the party to live up to its own stated vision. But don’t abandon it or run it into the ground. We are seeing right now what the alternative looks like.Published in