Jan. 16, 2018
Lee Drutman wrote about why words from Jeff Flake are not enough anymore on Vox's Polyarchy blog.
Words, words, words. But what about actions?
The 55-year-old has declined to run for a second term as Arizona senator. Rather than fight for his principles, he’s made the (probably correct) calculation that he’d lose a Republican primary in Arizona. In effect, he is ceding his party to the Stalinesque politics he plans to speak out against.
But there is something he could do, if he’s serious about restoring respect and honor to conservatism in America. He could start a third party.
Sen. Flake, time to start the Conscientious Conservative Party
Sen. Flake, if you’re out there reading, I’ve got a proposal for you: Start a third party. Call it the Conscientious Conservative Party (since you named your book Conscience of a Conservative, just like Barry Goldwater did 57 years ago).
Run as a Conscientious Conservative in Arizona. Recruit Conscientious Conservatives to run in other states and districts.
America needs a responsible conservative party that respects process, that doesn’t view the media as the enemy of the state, that won’t tolerate racist demagoguery.
The Republican Party of 2018 is not that party. It is hostile to expertise and reasoned argument, hostile to procedural norms of liberal democracy, anti-free press, and increasingly ethnonationalist.
And for most citizens, who identify first as Republican but don’t think much about ideology, Trump is transforming what it means to be a Republican. We need an alternative. And we need it now.
Yes, third parties in American politics are kamikaze missions. Because of our single-winner plurality system of elections, third parties almost never gain representation.
And yes, a serious third-party conservative challenge to Republicans would help Democrats in the short term, by siphoning off votes from Republicans.
But each month that the Republican Party has a leader who can’t conceal his overt racism, who calls the media the enemy of the people, is a month in which voters who identify as Republican have to update their worldview to fit with their partisan identity. Only losing, and losing bigly, will break this Republican partisan trajectory.
Or change the electoral laws
Perhaps you like the idea of starting a Conscientious Conservative Party, but don’t like the idea of losing and tipping the balance of power decisively to Democrats. In that case, maybe you could get on board with changing electoral laws to make it easier for third parties.