Matt Welch Los Angeles Times
Just as May blossoms follow April showers, presidential campaigns also fertilize political soil for fanciful post-election dreams of germinating new viable third parties.
“We … declare our intention to catalyze an American revival,” wrote 150 former politicians and mostly Republican security state veterans on May 13 in a breathless joint letter, “and either reimagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals, namely to accelerate the creation of such an alternative.
This new movement, postulated by co-founders Evan McMullin and Miles Taylor in a follow-up Economist essay, seeks either to wean the GOP from its “cult of personality” around Donald Trump or to “unify American voters who have been politically homeless in a new political tribe – a resistance movement of “rationalists” against “radicals”.
Well, good luck with that. The political independents are a turbulent group. Building third parties out of thin air without money or fame is an almost unfathomable task, and the past five plus years of Republican politics have produced a series of humiliations for the #NeverTrump right.
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If the names of the founders of American Renewal sound vaguely familiar to you, it’s because they’re two of the many anti-Trump bugs that have splashed MAGA’s windshield.
McMullin, a former CIA officer, held a final independent presidential race in 2016, finishing in fifth place with 0.5% of the vote. Taylor, a former chief of staff in the Department of Homeland Security, caused a media stir in 2018 with an anonymous New York Times op-ed titled “I am part of the resistance inside the Trump administration.” Few could choose the two men from a line of police; Meanwhile, Trump remains by far the party’s most popular politician.
Several other signatories joined McMullin and Taylor who mingled with Trump and lost: former Jeb Bush strategist in 2016 Mike Murphy, the short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci and the “three stooges” (in Trump’s mocking words): Bill Weld, Joe Walsh, and Mark Sanford. They ran against the 45th President in the 2020 GOP primaries and lost the popular vote by 93 percentage points combined.
Reforming the Republican Party from within seems like a daunting task at a time when half of the GOP congressional delegation has voted against certification of the 2020 presidential election and surnames such as Cheney and Romney are radioactive. So what about a new third way?
Here is where the odds get really long.
“At the risk of an understatement,” Joe Bishop-Henchman, 50-year-old president of the Libertarian Party, told me in January, “creating a new political party is very difficult. It takes a lot of money, a lot of work, a lot of volunteers.
Potential newcomers are at a great disadvantage when it comes to fundraising right from the jump. The Federal Election Commission only authorizes parties with “national committees” to accept individual donations of up to $ 35,000; the rest have to make do with checks for $ 5,000 each. In order to be recognized by the FEC as having a national committee, parties have to overcome all kinds of obstacles, such as holding a national convention and presenting “a sufficient number of federal candidates nominated by the parties on the ballot in a sufficient number of states. in different geographic areas.
Now you may believe as I think such rules are unfair, but let’s remember who writes them: officials elected and appointed by the two major political parties who have gathered together at least 97% of the presidential vote in 18 of the 24 last elections, including four of the last five. And as we’ve seen from 2021, controversies in states as diverse as Georgia and New York, partisan bickering over the rewrite of election law has turned into a nasty exercise of brutal political force.
I, too, would like to see a Republican Party that pulls away and repudiates the worst aspects of Donald Trump. But again, I’m not a Republican. The 74 million people who voted for the guy in 2020 are unlikely to be convinced by haughty former ghosts and 1990s reform governors threatening to hold their breaths until enough people say Orange Man Bad.
With new developments every week – the debate over launching a bipartisan commission on January 6, for example – reminding us, with the ever-capable help of the media, that many Republicans will continually twist their principles to remain professionally viable while Trump’s fate on the party still stands. It is not pretty to watch. But neither are we looking the other way as a Democrat-led Washington skims record spending bills without much scrutiny.
While it’s true that Republicans can’t quite leave Trump, it may also be true that neither the media nor the #NeverTrump can be right.
As evidenced by the fundraising prowess of the Lincoln Project, Trump’s political action committee, which several co-founders signed on to American Renewal, there is a market to sell Democrats the dream of a fractured GOP. As at the right time, the new movement has already been invited to MSNBC and praised by Stephen Colbert.
Turns out that is the easy part. Ask the 35 GOP House members who voted for the Jan. 6 committee if they think the “rational” will soon win out over the “radical”. As for a significant new party, even McMullin and Taylor agree “that would be Mount Everest of political challenges.”
If American Renewal is going to be more than a fundraising vehicle, you better start climbing now.
Matt Welch is Editor-in-Chief at Reason and Contributor to Opinion.