If we do not experience some cataclysmic event, Donald Trump will lose badly and many Republicans will lose their seats. Trump may or may not concede, and the nutty cheering section (from Bill O’Reilly to Breitbart) can cry foul and blame whomever they please. (Surely not themselves!) But it will hardly matter. There will be much discussion on the right, some thoughtful and some ridiculous, about what went wrong, who is to blame, how to fix the GOP, etc. But is all that really necessary?
Surely there is a sufficient body of people in the center-right who are entirely and thoroughly disgusted with the existing GOP. The once Grand Old Party has come to embody the heinous qualities that liberals unfairly attributed to all Republicans (e.g. hostile to women, the poor and immigrants) and as a political matter has atrophied and accommodated itself to charlatans, snake-oil salesmen and alt-right bigots. Don’t try to reason with this crowd; just up and go.
Center-right Americans committed to a strong national security policy, free markets with a humane safety net and corrupt-free politics can just leave the GOP and start something new. No furrowed brows and sweating over whether to fire Reince Priebus would be needed. No need to figure out how to expel the evangelical charlatans who believe in nothing but their own power. No need to figure out how to keep talk-radio hecklers and fake Fox News figures from spreading nonsense and making the party dumber by the year. No need to wrest control of early primaries from states that favor fringe candidates.
Plant a flag, announce your principles and then decide whom you want to invite. Save all the energy that otherwise would be wasted on another useless autopsy report and arguing with people who threw away every conviction to support Trump.
Instead, these refugees from the GOP can draft a simple statement rejecting the politics of division, misinformation, anger, racism and misogyny. They should not be shy about going on record to condemn the nomination of someone as patently unfit for public office as Trump. They should vow to support candidates of principle and good character.
The charter for the New Party, or whatever it is called, should not be a laundry list of positions but rather a commitment to practice civil politics and to respect fellow Americans. Conservative habits — moderation, gradualism, tolerance, humility, rational balancing of conflicting concerns, respect for institutions that comprise civil society (from families to churches to volunteer groups) — should be front and center. It is these ideals and habits of mind, even more than issue positions, that will separate the New Party’s politics from the old Republican Party.
Anti-intellectualism should be rejected as should the nostalgia for a bygone America that never really existed. The new movement must embrace modernism — which, yes, entails a global economy, a diverse American population, a refusal to cut ourselves off from the world and a commitment to government reform of the tax code, anti-poverty measures, criminal justice, immigration, education, health care, etc. The New Party cannot blow on the embers of the Reagan Revolution in a vain effort to rekindle a 40-year-old flame.
Like moving across the country, starting a new political movement or party allows one to leave behind broken furniture and crazy relatives. One can escape from the bullies, the phonies and the know-nothings. A movement that rejects Trump enablers need not, must not, import into a new enterprise the same noxious elements and aversion to reality that crippled the GOP.
That, it seems from our vantage point, is what the Evan McMullin/Mindy Finn ticket and other #NeverTrump forces have been hinting at: the chance to start over with fresh ideas, fresh leaders and a fresh appreciation for the importance of integrity, public service and character.
And what is left behind? Goodness knows. Let Reince Priebus, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Heritage Action, the Freedom Caucus and the people who embraced and shilled and worked for Trump (although they had once deemed him unfit) squawk to their heart’s delight in their echo chamber. They can clean up their own mess — or not. Yes, it’s time for the sane and sober Republicans to pack their bags and go.