Republicans Explore a ‘Conservative Party’ To Distance Themselves From Trump Politics
Third-party politics in the U.S. have historically been a bad idea. Is this time different?
Since President Trump’s presidential campaign was launched, he has had double digit sexual assault allegations made against him, tarnished virtually every relationship with democratic world leaders, mocked peoples with disabilities, oversaw a family separation program, cozied up to Putin, butchered a global pandemic response, had questionable conversations with Ukraine about intervening in our elections, and actively called for the 2020 election results to be overturned.
But, it was the January 6th insurrection on Capitol Hill which seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, at least for some Republicans, who on Friday joined a Zoom conversation on forming a new party or new faction, the “conservative party”, to operate independently from the GOP.
Only 10 Republicans voted to impeach the former president for “incitement of insurrection” despite Trump’s clear role in the attack.
Despite the damning evidence against Trump and the poor presentation from the defense, it seems unlikely that enough Republicans will vote to convict Trump and he will be free from accountability.
Former Republican Representative Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania warned that where Trump is acquitted he “will not be held to account,” and will try to take down every Republican who voted to convict him.
More than 100 former Republican officials, who had served under Trump, George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, joined the call, expressing discontent with the direction the Republican party has taken under Trump and hoping to show support to the Republican members voting to hold Trump accountable.
The leaders envision the new party to be one of “principled conservatism” where they can distance themselves from Trump and push values of truth, honesty, democracy, and rule of law, according to Dent.
“What we want is, we don’t want to cling to the past, cling to a man who is disgraced, in any way, shape, or form. We don’t want to follow that man who brought nothing but defeat and misery and insurrection,” Dent said. “Let’s go forward, not backwards.”
On the one hand, it makes sense why these officials, who include former Trump White House Press Secretary Anthony Scaramucci and former GOP aide and executive director of Stand Up Republic, Evan McMullin, would want to create a dividing line between themselves and Trump politics.
There is clearly a division on values within the party. There are those who have relentlessly sided with Trump and engaged with his supporters in conspiracy, including an attempt to overturn the 2020 elections results, and the institutionalists, who believe that Trump poses a risk to the rule of law and democracy. At the end of the day, the institutionalists do not want to be on the side that attacked the institution.
There is also clearly an interest in the longevity of the party, or at least the “conservative party” faction of the party. Under Trump era politics, while the Republicans have gained an ever loyal base, they have also lost the House of Representatives in 2018, and the Senate and the White House in 2020. With some of those loses coming from core red states like Georgia. There were also a number of close states which in a different Republican party era, would not have been close including North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, and Arizona.
However, forming a third party is quite, well, radical. Third parties do historically bad in major elections. Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, and Maine Senator Angus King are the only sitting third party senators. Further, no person in recent history has faired well in a presidential election on a third party ticket.
These officials entertaining a conservative third party are not blind to this history. They must believe that they could garner enough support to have political influence. Either that, or they are intent on being on the right side of history.
They may be saved from the efforts though as Trump has also considered starting a third party, the “Patriot Party” reserved for lawmakers who have remained loyal to him.
It remains to be seen whether a new conservative party will be born, but the fact that the idea is being seriously and publicly entertained makes it more likely that we will hear more from this front, particularly before the 2022 elections, which may be a test to see if a third party really could fare in modern politics.