The Republican Party, for better or worse, remains the only effective platform for a center-right vision.
In the lead up to last year’s mid-term elections, George F. Will made an intriguing plea to conservatives who remain hostile, or at least skeptical, to President Trump’s leadership of the Republican Party and his level of influence over the conservative movement. In an opinion article for the Washington Post, Mr. Will encouraged them to vote for Democrats and help wrest control of Congress from the Republicans who had acquiesced to President Trump’s arguably undeserved dominance. His goal was to shock the foundations of President Trump’s “cult of victory” in the hope a re-calibration upon traditional conservative principles could take place before the 2020 presidential contest.
It’s hard to say whether Mr. Will’s article aided the smaller-than-anticipated but still effective “blue wave”, which won the House of Representatives for the Democratic Party. However, a study of 2018 results can demonstrate that Democrats owe thanks for their victory to moderate center-left candidates who achieved success in traditionally center-right Republican districts.
Some examples include New York’s 11th Congressional District, a district that voted for Trump by nine points. In the district, army veteran and democrat Max Rose won his Republican opponent by two points. In Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District, Democrat Kendra Horn defeated her opponent by two points, despite Trump winning the district by over 13 percent in 2016.
It would appear that Democrats won by gaining votes which under normal political circumstances would have gone to the Republican Party. Unfortunately for Mr. Will’s hopes of what might ensue after Republican defeat, the direction in the rhetoric and intentions of both political parties have been disappointing, to say the least.
In the Democratic realm, the moderates immediately faded away from the spotlight. Instead, the progressive darlings of the freshman class have been hard-left activists who won exclusively in progressive Democratic strongholds. Blue dogs like Ben McAdams are relatively unknown while the national conversation moves at the whim of firebrands like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. The counterintuitive trend of the Democratic Party is one where center-left calls for normalcy have successfully defeated the President’s Republican allies. Yet the broader progressive movement continues to double down on a socialistic vision which arguably set the stage for Donald Trump’s rise in the first place.
This trend is apparent in the Democratic field of 2020 candidates. Almost without exception, these candidates voice support for the full gambit of progressive dream policies. Meanwhile, those who express support a return to normalcy fail to excite progressive hardliners either because they are not sufficiently “woke” or are not of the ethnicity or gender which excites an identity-driven movement.
Similarly, the Republican realm has not responded to defeat in 2018 as Mr. Will might have hoped. Armed with another useful foil, President Trump has been able to add the House of Representatives to an extensive list of his enemies. This has kept Republicans in a siege mentality conducive to ensuring continued loyalty to his leadership. Aided and abetted by Democrats who gain notoriety through mirroring the President’s bombastic Twitter-troll behavior, even more, conservatives have gravitated into Donald Trump’s sphere of influence. It’s no wonder they feel compelled to stand united against a socialistic vision they detest.
Conservatives, libertarians, center-right moderates and centrists who would like to see a more consciously conservative GOP with presidential candidates able to effectively communicate a center-right vision cannot simply vote for Democrats or third-party longshots and hope the Republican Party learns its lesson in defeat. Instead, they must come to the practical understanding that in an electoral system that engenders a dominance by two major political parties, the natural home remains the Republican Party even if you disapprove of its direction under Donald Trump. If the goal is resurgent conscious conservatism, a goal only possible by dethroning Donald Trump as the face of the movement, they must deal in the realm of what’s possible regardless of what would be ideal.
There is no gentle way to state the truth. The mass exodus of Trump skeptical conservatives, libertarians, moderates, and centrists from the GOP has accomplished nothing but an easier path to the dominance of the party by President Trump and his allies. The attempts to establish new organizations and political parties to re-assert the principles of politically homeless former Republicans have either failed or remain in infancy. The Democrats would gladly accept our votes and voice sympathy for our political homelessness. That being said, they remain mostly hostile to centrist values and have demonstrated that they will not stray from the socialistic path, centrists cannot accept without abandoning their principles as many Trump-enamored counterparts have done. There simply is no present path towards resurgent conscious conservatism in the here-and-now outside of returning to the GOP and reclaiming it.