Libertarians are increasing in number and influence, but political realities still drive most of them to the Republican tent. The Green Party is so markedly a single-issue party that it probably will never be viable. The Constitution Party, as good a group of patriots as one could find, is still marginal as well.
Would multiple parties be a positive development? Would they make for better government? Would political discourse become even more venomous?
Granted, moving to a third party or multiple parties is preferable to talking about secession just yet, but is a third party the answer for Republicans who are feeling disenfranchised, namely social and fiscal conservatives?
My first response to the question, or just the thought, is “Good Grief!” Why all the despair? Was Obama’s victory a landslide? Who still controls the U.S. House of Representatives? Which party holds the governorship of 25 states that hold 53 per cent of the nation’s population and also happen to have Republican-dominated legislatures? Who in the world, besides the 20 or so viewers of MSNBC, thinks the Tea Party is dead? Most importantly, which party has a bench full of attractive candidates-in-waiting for 2016? Who would deny that one of them, the energetic, female Hispanic governor of New Mexico, Susana Martinez, would give Hillary Clinton a run for her money?
Calls for a third party are terribly premature. That’s not to say the time will never come. Right now, however, winning close to half the vote in a presidential election is no reason to start separating from each other.
We do have a nation to think about. We also know, or should know, what politics and government are like in nations with multiple parties. It’s not pleasant: contested elections every election cycle, coalition governments that don’t govern too well, and constant, extreme partisanship among the general populace.
I’m just guessing, but what the conservative advocates of an alternative party to the GOP most likely foresee is a future party that is already coalescing, one that already exists, but without a name or a formal structure: the Tea Party, social and religious conservatives, constitutionalists, some independents, some Catholics, some Libertarians, and even the few remaining conservative Democrats.
Understandably, third-party advocates are not exactly happy with the GOP leaders who are obsessing over the GOP’s need to “re-brand.” In spite of many reasons for optimism, numerous nationally known Republicans are talking and sounding like Chicken Little. Listening to them, you would think that Americans just voted overwhelming to outlaw free enterprise, confiscate all guns and abolish the Defense Department. (I know, many Obama supporters favor all three of those actions.) These GOP leaders are frightened by Hispanics, women and independents; therefore, they argue, GOP policies must become Democrat Lite. In other words, lighten up on illegal immigration, bone up on pop culture and shut up on gay marriage.
Even “The Architect,” Karl Rove, is now sounding more like a wrecking ball. Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has accused Republicans of being stupid. For what? For taking the wrong positions. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has come close to saying the same thing. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Ken Mehlman, former Republican National Committee Chairman (no less) argued that, in light of the November election, Republicans must embrace gay marriage. Asserting that “demography is destiny,” and that “allowing marriage for same-sex couples would cultivate community stability and foster family values,” Mehlman joined those who say, in essence, that Republicans must become Democrats in order to win the White House. So much for core political beliefs.
In light of such caving or near-caving on the part of the highly visible GOP faces, thoughts of divorce on the part of rank and file Republicans are to be expected. But there is one chief reason why “movement” conservatives should remain faithful: They are currently the GOP’s chief constituency, and GOP bigwigs know it. As Lincoln put it, “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”
National GOP leaders know that they must have the conservatives. They know they cannot dump evangelicals, especially since 20 percent of Hispanics are evangelicals.
So what must “movement” conservatives do? Stay in the marriage. Refuse to throw away their leverage. Remember the heady joy of early Tea Party days. Insist that Republican leaders overcome their silly fears and stick to their professed beliefs.
With fresh wind in their sails, Republicans can then resume their mission of perpetuating liberty, not government, and they will win back those who stayed home in November.
Roger Hines of Kennesaw is a retired high school teacher and former state legislator.