Conservatives learned a hard lesson following the 2020 presidential election. It’s a lesson we’ve had to relearn over and over again, but like an abused spouse who just can’t leave, many of us kept coming back for another beating. We basked in the “good times” of President Trump and an apparently unified Republican Party in Washington DC (Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins notwithstanding) and thought wistfully that maybe the Republican Establishment finally understood us.
They didn’t. They pretended to be on our side until the moment it seemed safe to abandon the President and his base. That’s when many of us realized just how much Fox News, Mitch McConnell, military leaders (as opposed to actual soldiers), around half of the GOP in the House of Representatives, and a majority of Republicans in the United States Senate all hate us. If we believe in President Trump’s America-First, Drain-The-Swamp vision, then we are only useful as donors and “lesser of two evil” voters.
This isn’t new, of course. This is how they felt the whole time even when they were pretending to defend President Trump and his agenda. They rode his coattails and took seats on the Trump Train. But they made sure their seats were close to the exit so they could hop off as soon as the coast was clear.
We were suckers to think they’d learned the lesson that we do not want their neoconservative, business-as-usual brand of Swamp governance. We were fools to think they finally realized they work for us. They were biding their time for a Joe Biden to come along and save their from having to pretend they love this country. These people represent the worst part of America, even worse than the radical progressives rising to control the Democratic Party. At least with people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, we know what we’re getting. With people like Dan Crenshaw or Liz Cheney, we were caught flat-footed with our expectations that they were willing to do what’s best for America.
It’s long past time to cancel them. All of them. The Republican Establishment must be abolished completely. It has been useless since the formation of its current manifestation in the 1970s. Its only purpose has been to prevent constitutional conservatives from driving the narrative and agenda for the party. They’ve maintained control over the GOP, not because of their ideas but because they’re good at fundraising. That’s it. The only question that seems to be popping up is whether we should try to fix the party from within or abandon it for a new one.
Both options have major drawbacks. Fixing it from within has proven futile during past attempts. As exciting as the Tea Party was, its efficacy was limited. There were many more losses compared to the highly publicized handful of wins. Many of those wins have already been reversed through losses or conversions. How many people remember Tim Huelskamp or Dave Brat? If you’re reading this you’re probably among the more politically aware, but ask your neighbor or cousin if they remember these “major” Tea Party victors from just a few years ago.
The other way the Republican Establishment killed off Tea Party candidates was to engulf them into The Swamp. Lest we forget, Marco Rubio was arguably the most ballyhooed Tea Party win. Less than 18 months after being installed at Capitol Hill, he was the poster boy for John McCain’s “Gang of 8” and began to systematically normalize his neoconservative values. Today, he’s a so-called “rebel” within the GOP Establishment based solely on an occasional dissenting view from Mitch McConnell. Today, his votes line up more with Lindsey Graham than the promises he made when he was a Tea Party candidate.
The other option is to form a new party. This is difficult. It’s easy to form a party. It’s even relatively easy to raise enough money to put forth a valid candidate or two. But unless President Trump himself were to directly form his own party, I have major doubts that one will be able to achieve the velocity necessary to make a minor impact, let alone a serious one. I’ve worked very closely with multiple third party attempts, including the Libertarian Party, Constitution Party, Federalist Party, and other smaller efforts. They all suffer from a lack of strong leadership. Unfortunately (or fortunately if it actually happens), the only person in America who could come close to mounting a serious third party launch would be President Trump.
It’s important to note that I did not mention as a liability of a third party the notion that doing so would make it easier for Democrats to win. This is a common complaint against conservative third parties, and it’s a silly one. First, we can count on one hand the number of times a third party truly changed the results of a major election in the last century. Second, at this point there’s very little difference between the Republican Establishment and Democrats. McConnell and his cronies are great at Kabuki Theater, bad at actually opposing the Democrats in a meaningful way.
The other argument against a conservative third party is valid. Most states require party registration in order to vote in a primary. If enough constitutional conservatives switch from Republican to Independent or a third party, it will become harder to nominate the “good guys” in the GOP. But here’s the thing. If a third party is going to be successful, it has to be a commitment. That means those who embrace it go for victory from the start. In such a scenario, Republicans become just as important to oppose as Democrats. A third party would need to establish velocity early on, and that means not voting for Republicans at all in primaries. If constitutional conservatives run as Republicans in this third-party scenario, then they’ll need to learn the hard way that they aren’t welcomed by the GOP.
If I had to endorse one of these ideas, I’d push for a hard reform of the GOP. The Tea Party made so many fatal mistakes during its six years of prominence that it would take a few articles just to give an overview. The fact that they were only relevant for six years is the most obvious fatal flaw caused by all the others. In short, a “revived” Tea Party would and should fail miserably as the vehicle to reform the GOP. If enough strong personalities were to get behind a Tea Party 2.0 that is more than revised but completely revamped instead, it could work. Or, it could be different organization altogether. One thing it could not be is a bunch of smaller organizations going in slightly different directions. That was another fatal flaw of the Tea Party. It was actually several Tea Party factions who acted more like tribal fundraising warlords than a cohesive unit made up of like-minded patriots. Their leaders were simply too greedy, too shortsighted.
The Swamp on the GOP side will not go down without a fight. The damage they’ll inflict will be major. This nation may see tougher times than now before it can possibly be made better, but we have to defeat the Establishment to have any hope of defeating the left.