Featured Post

Is It Third Party Time?

As Donald Trump continued to steamroll to the GOP nomination, talk started about creating a third option for conservatives, a presidential candidate that people could vote for.  The talk of a third-party campaign grew louder in the wake of Trump’s Indiana rout last week.

Predictably, the naysayers have started saying that a third party is either a dream or a waste of time.  The naysayers argue that it would be better to vote for the Democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton, or just sit it out.

Now, third parties don’t have a glamorous or successful history in the US.  Our two major parties have historically acted as party coalitions, therefore nullifying the need for more than two parties.

But as we have seen, 2016 is a different political animal.  The rise of Donald Trump to the head of the GOP has made a third option necessary if one wants to see center right politics remain viable for decades to come.  It is not enough to simply wait for some hoped-for demise of Trump’s campaign, intending to then come back and pick up the pieces.

There are a number of reasons that there should be a third party in 2016, and I will map them out here.

First off is the most obvious, at least to people of color.  Trump has stoked the resentment of the white working class against minorities.  His disdain toward immigrants, especially Mexicans, his flirting with racist groups like the KKK and his proposed ban on Muslims will make the national GOP a toxic party for persons of color.  While some campaigns have used racial animosity, that hasn’t been the case with all GOP candidates and politicians.  George W. Bush, for example, wanted to expand outreach towards Latinos.  But Trump and the millions who voted for him show that there are people who want someone in power that speaks up for the white guy.  What might have been at the margins of GOP campaigning will without a doubt be at the center of the party. The result is a much smaller party.

Matthew Yglesias wrote recently in Vox about how the GOP lost California.  While it is considered a solidly blue state today, there was a time that the Golden State was a swing state.  But then relative moderate GOP Governor Pete Wilson introduced a law aimed at immigrants that changed everything.  Yglesias writes:

Both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were statewide elected officials before ascending to the presidency. From 1968 to 1988, the GOP carried California in every presidential election. It swung to the Democrats in 1992 as part of Bill Clinton’s larger revival of the Democratic Party’s national fortunes.

But in the 1990s California had a Republican governor, Wilson, who had served as the state’s US senator for most of the 1980s. In the 1994 midterm elections, the GOP even swept into a majority in the state assembly.

 Wilson and his Republican colleagues were closely associated with a law enacted via ballot initiative known as Proposition 187 that sought to create a state-run citizenship verification system and bar undocumented immigrants from accessing state services. It was, at the time, the very first effort to create a state-level immigration control policy, and it’s no coincidence that the trend came first to California — the state had a lot of immigrants, residing there both legally and illegally. So many that the state was close to tipping over into “majority-minority” status, which surely heightened the salience of immigration-related concerns to the state’s white conservatives…

…what makes Wilson remarkable is that he was also the last Republican to win a statewide election in California under anything resembling normal circumstances. Sure, Arnold Schwarzenegger sneaked into office in 2003 as part of an unusually structured recall election, and governed completely independently from the conservative movement.

Beyond that — nothing.

Not because Prop 187 became hideously unpopular per se, but because it became emblematic of the California Republican Party’s transformation into a vehicle for white identity politics, a transformation that rendered the GOP unacceptable to a majority of the state’s voters.

The same thing could happen nationwide after Trump. Even if he loses in November, he will have reshaped the party from a conservative party to one focused on white-identity politics. That will cause an exodus not only of persons of color, but also of whites who don’t want to be painted as bigots. Yglesias spells it out:

This is the real risk Trump poses to the GOP. Not that he’ll lose in a landslide so bad the party can’t recover — Wilson didn’t lose at all, and the party bounced back easily from a big defeat in 2008 — but that its brand will be more or less permanently tarnished in the eyes of many Americans.

After all, the message of the party of small government saying it wants to build a wall of unprecedented scale and then create a deportation force large enough to round up 11 million people is pretty unambiguous — he doesn’t want people of Latin American ancestry living in the United States. Both Trump’s trade policy and Trump’s foreign policy seem grounded almost entirely on hostility to foreigners, and his rise to prominence as a figure in conservative politics is based entirely on his assertions that Barack Obama is not genuinely American.

Trump’s campaign to “Make America Great Again” is transparently based on an effort to narrow the definition of who counts as an American. And while Republicans can easily shed specific policy stances that their likely 2016 nominee takes, if they stand shoulder to shoulder with Trump in a campaign whose main subject is whether non-white Americans count as genuinely American, that won’t be forgotten.

People who are part of the #NeverTrump crowd don’t want to be part of what might become America’s version of the Front National. They will need a new home, even if it is temporary.

Secondly, a third party will move Clinton towards the center.  Right now, she is viewed as a default for conservatives who can’t bring themselves to vote for Trump.  If she is the only choice for exiled Republicans, she doesn’t have to budge to welcome these refugees. She can still push a more liberal agenda and former Republicans have no choice but to accept. But a center-right candidate will challenge her. If she wants the votes of former Republicans, she will have to work for it.

The final reason that there needs to be a third alternative is pretty straightforward: hope.  The #NeverTrump movement is dispirited.  When you are down and depressed, you can become susceptible to temptations.  The first one is to simply give in.  I could see a number of folk start to reason that maybe Trump isn’t so bad and end up supporting him.  The longer there is no viable place for the center right to go, the more the temptation is to settle.

The other temptation is to accept fate and do nothing. This is the view being put forth by liberal writers like Damon Linker who thinks that it makes no sense to start a third party.  He pretends to care, saying that a third party would give the presidency to Clinton.  That’s probably true: but as I stated earlier, this isn’t necessarily about winning; it is about trying to keep the center right a viable force in America. Linker thinks the option is basically to deal with the fact that the conservatives are a spent force:

By encouraging a kamikaze mission against the party’s nominee for president, these movement conservatives will only end up hastening their own demise. Instead of accepting their perhaps temporary status as junior partners in the party (limiting themselves to writing critically about the 2016 election while personally sitting it out), or seeking to carve out a new home and place of influence in the Democratic Party, they would instantaneously transform themselves into martyrs for the conservative movement and outright exiles from (and traitors to) the GOP.

Both options seem terrible. The first is to write critical articles that no one will listen to since they aren’t doing anything to stop it. The second, finding a place in the Democratic party, is laughable. If this was the late 90s, when the party was more centrist, it would make sense. But as the party has moved left, it would be hard for people with different philosophies to somehow be able to make a home, especially when there are some on the left that can’t tolerate conservatives. I also have to think that Linker would not offer this advice for liberals, if the parties’ places were switched.

Any third party will probably lose, but it will be able to help rebuild a center-right movement, and maybe even make it better.


Staff Writer

Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Minneapolis, MN.  You can follow Dennis through his blogs, The Clockwork Pastor and Big Tent Revue and on Twitter.  Feel free to contact him at dennis.sanders(at)gmail(dot)com.

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
TwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrintFriendlyMore options

110 thoughts on “Is It Third Party Time?

  1. In before Will T says the same things (because he’s already said them in various fora):

    I agree with you on #nevertrump principle, but just the dynamics of first past the post elections will make it so Clinton will win if there’s a third party conservative challenger. I also disagree that a third party *conservative* challenger will make Clinton go to the middle or even need to. (that is, more than she’s already there). Trump is the figurehead of white identity politics, but that also makes him the (so-called) ‘moderate’ on a lot of issues.

    The Trumpers are already talking about betrayal, pre-spinning a narrative for their defeat. A third party run makes that narrative easier. Just letting Trump lose on his own (as you say, Wilson did not), will do more I think to repudiate that strand of thinking in the GOP than trying to fight him going into the general.

    Report

    • If Trump loses, the stab in the back is going to be the narrative no matter what. Voting is an expressive act, so people who don’t support the major candidates should go ahead and vote for someone they prefer (or abstain if they can’t find a candidate they can accept).

      Report

    • The 3rd party should be Republican backed Bernie Sanders.

      Many of your notions for why there should be a 3rd party rump republican are fine, but I agree with Kolohe that the most specious is the idea that it will have the slightest effect on Hilary. The minute there’s a credible 3rd party challenger, Hilary is in and she’s running a no-fumble offence… that might mean the mildest of platitudes for all public utterances, which might give the appearance of moderation, but there will be no bargaining, no outreach, no promises and no need to stretch to gather in votes from constituencies on the edge.

      I can understand not supporting Trump, what I can’t understand is trying to save Movement Conservatism and the Republican party.

      Report

      • . . . trying to save Movement Conservatism and the Republican party.

        Two different things here.
        Tod has made that case repeatedly on these pages.
        CK has made that argument, here and elsewhere.*
        And Jason K has made the argument in its inverse.
        I used to be part of a group of energetic conservatives devoutly reorganizing American conservatism– until some key members of the leadership of the group moved on to more lucrative positions as staffers and lobbyists.

        The disconnect is integral to the actuality: The American voter is not so sophisticated as to be concerned with philosophical aspects.

        News is, it’s actually much worse on the other side of the fence, for developmental reasons.**
        ________________
        * I have been saying pretty much the same thing for at least ten years now, that “First Wave” Progressivism generally ended with Dewey, and “Second Wave” Progressivism began with the Port Huron Statement; though I don’t believe CK uses those same milestones.

        ** That is, 1960’s: Student movements; 1970’s: organization of movements; 1980’s: institutionalization of organizations; 1990’s: radicalization of institutions; 2000’s: No one can understand what the philosophical underpinnings are, other than a disjointed collection of positions vociferously held, having not one other thing in common.

        Report

        • No one can understand what the philosophical underpinnings are, other than a disjointed collection of positions vociferously held, having not one other thing in common.

          This is something that I’m seeing over and over again. Morality seems to be regressing back to “who gets to do what to whom” rather than “we should really pay attention to what the rules are”.

          When we find, for example, that Facebook might be tweaking its code to exclude certain viewpoints, a *HUGE* number of arguments involved Facebook’s First Amendment Rights To Do This Sort Of Thing (Not That They’re Doing It In The First Place, Of Course) and precious little discussion about the principles the provide the foundation for the First Amendment.

          This is not to relitigate the Facebook algorithm but merely to point out that without the principles underneath the First Amendment, the First Amendment is so much chaff. It may as well not be there at all… because we’ll still be free to say the things that we’re free to say and we won’t have to worry about the things that are no longer socially acceptable to say according to the corporations that create the algorithms that plant the seeds for the things we’ll be thinking about that day.

          It’s not about the rules of the game. It’s just about winning it.

          Report

          • Thank you for this. Seriously.
            This is a bit more meta than I have been able to get.

            I’m locked into this thing, and I have come to understand the answer is political in nature; i.e., building coalitions of divergent interests on overlapping points somewhat directing them to targeted action, using multiple points of access.
            To wit:
            1) Black churches. A few weeks back, I stood up in a black church and went on about tampering with public records at the Office of the Clerk of the Illinois Supreme Court. This was met with a lot of “Mmm-hmmm’s” and “Amens.” At least 60% of the people there (a conservative estimate, go figure) were already aware of this fact. Turns out there was a former city councilman and a retired police officer there, and some other people active in the community. So I started talking about circulating a petition. They’re on board. I just got to figure out what this petition is going to say.
            2) Midwestern farmers. I took advantage of a running-out-of-gas moment to make some acquaintances in ruralia. Since then, I’ve made it a goal to explain to at least 20 farmers a week that it is permissible to enter the State of Missouri and there assume the identity of another person for the express purpose of concealment of assets in bankruptcy. There are a number of reasons for this: Missouri has no statute recognizing the offense of identity fraud;* federal law enforcement acts more as an enforcement prevention mechanism on an effective level, referring as many things to the local authorities as possible; and federal courts are loathe to find any wrong-doing in any matter approved by the local authorities, even in the most egregious of circumstances.
            3) Veterans’ groups; e.g., the American Legion, the VFW, etc. In a not unrelated matter, the sole remedy available to me is to formally renounce my U.S. citizenship. Mere emigration is insufficient, as a matter of law.** Where the veterans’ groups come in is that my father was a decorated war veteran, serving two tours of duty in Vietnam. I believe I told the story on previous occasion on these very pages as to how he almost started a riot circa 1967 by walking to the post office in his dress blues, and the SF chapter of the Hell’s Angels were present, and formed a circle around him on the sidewalk with their motorcycles while he walked in the middle of them, the rest of the way to the post office and all the way home. Fact is, remove the propaganda, and the one thing these men were fighting for, the reason they left their blood on foreign soils, was to protect the prerogative of local and state governmental employees to engage in felonious conduct; and anything else is pure bunkum.
            4) Meanwhile, I have been establishing my credentials in the community, through the university, the Society of Human Resource Managers, various historical societies, etc.

            As far as I have gotten is that institutional corruption has voided many of the social structures we take for granted.
            This is why police officers are typically viewed as being more trustworthy than most other members of the community, even while active deception has become one of the primary tools of policing; while domestic violence infects police households at four times the rate of the general population; while focus groups cite perjury among police officers as being the single greatest threat to our justice system; etc.

            But it’s really a bit more meta than the mere deterioration of social structures.
            ———————
            * Identity fraud as opposed to identity theft. The one is a crime of fraud involving the identity of another, whereas the other is a crime of theft involving another’s identity. Even after Jason Grill’s bill strengthening Missouri’s identity theft law, it remains one of the weakest in the nation. It is exclusively the person whose identity has been assumed that has standing to file a complaint; i.e., no creditor complaints allowed. And there must be a financial account opened under the assumed identity. Merely using someone else’s security credentials for purposes other than opening a financial account does not fall within the ambit of the statute.
            ** Under Missouri law, Missouri courts can assert personal jurisdiction over anyone who has ever been a resident at any time. Residency in the state is acquired by being born there, or spending any ten days in a row there. Once jurisdiction is acquired over the person, according to the laws of the state, it never terminates– ever. Nor does it have any territorial bounds. The State of Missouri may exert personal jurisdiction over any former resident in perpetuity, worldwide. Courts have already held this provision voids any Wisconsin law or any federal law to the contrary.
            Again, here is the MLK quote I was prosecuted for in St. Louis County (after the District Attorney declined to prosecute, and a special prosecutor volunteered to act as special prosecutor), as a resident of the State of Wisconsin:

            Unenforceable obligations are beyond the reach of the laws of society. They concern inner attitudes, genuine person-to-person relations, and expressions of compassion which law books cannot regulate and jails cannot rectify. Such obligations are met by one’s commitment to an inner law, written on the heart. Man-made laws assure justice, but a higher law produces love.

            This quote was published on a website, and a person in St. Louis County captured it on their hard drive with a feed reader. A print-out was made from the feed reader with a current date was printed to show the web page, since deleted, was currently active.
            It is not a self-correcting system. In fact, it is decidedly opposed to any manner of correction whatever.

            Report

      • …Republican backed Bernie Sanders.

        He has two years left on his term in the Senate. His choices appear to me to be (a) run as a third-party candidate; or (b) fight like hell for the Dems in the Congressional races. If he chooses (a), he’s running as a spoiler and no matter who wins the Congressional races, he’s an outcast. If he chooses (b) and the Dems win the Senate, he’s in line to chair the Senate Budget Committee, and can probably swap that for any other committee he prefers. If he were to take Finance, he’d have more power over tax and entitlement policy than whoever’s in the Oval Office. If by some chance the Dems were to win both the Senate and the House, that very-senior Senate position becomes even more important.

        This has already been a surprising election cycle, but even if Bernie doesn’t want to support Hillary, supporting the Dems for Congress seems like the obvious choice.

        Report

  2. I can’t imagine any right of center person, distraught over Trump, willingly voting for Clinton. If Trump is Sauron, Clinton is Morgoth. Any “rightward” movement she’d “show” is just that—show. And if she got a significant amount of Republicans, she’d claim a mandate, she likely will anyway if she wins. I see no good for the GOP for it’s members to vote for her. And if I found out I had a republican rep/senator who voted for her, I’d bust my ass to recall their ass/get them voted out for their treasonous actions. If I was a republican that is. And I expect you see similar in the heavier red states.

    Report

    • Damon: I see no good for the GOP for it’s members to vote for her. And if I found out I had a republican rep/senator who voted for her, I’d bust my ass to recall their ass/get them voted out for their treasonous actions.

      What if they abstained from the presidential vote and voted R down-ticket?

      Report

      • Some people could but the fear is that people turn out for the Presidential race then vote down the ticket as an afterthought. If people elect not to vote for President then the down ticket races loose that support so pushing for the right to abstain from voting for President could turn a bad year into a route across all the branches of elected office.

        Report

    • Koch’ll vote for Clinton. In dollars if not at the polling station (people that rich don’t need to vote). The Powers that Be want Clinton… Therefore the dollars flow her way, and anyone that cares about not being labeled a hypocrite simply stays out of the fight.

      Report

      • I don’t know if this is true, but if it is… isn’t it sort of a vindication of the non-Race based part of Trump’s appeal? If cats are dogs and dogs are cats what are the mice to do?

        Report

        • Could you elaborate? It seems like it fits the Trump-as-white-resentment narrative reasonably well. He’s toxic enough that much of the upper class wants to keep clear of him to save face. Sure, those rich people/institutions could be racist themselves, but not in a way that inspires them to support Trump.

          EDIT: This happens to work even if no one in the environment is actually racist and it’s perceptions all the way down. I just fail to see it as possibly vindicating Trump support, as you do.

          Report

      • I assume that anyone with serious money is 1) invested into the process and 2) eager to influence it. So those guys, and Koch, play both sides and expect favors..and get them.

        The peons, they still think their votes matter.

        Report

      • Koch’ll vote for Clinton.

        Perhaps. Although if the e-mails I get from the Bennett campaign in Colorado are anywhere close to accurate, the Kochs (through AFP) have decided to pour their money into helping the Republicans hold the Senate.

        Report

    • “Treason” is a pretty heavy word, which leaves me uncomfortable here. One commits treason against one’s own nation. A political party within a polity is not the same thing as the nation itself.

      I follow the analogy, of course, but I wish that semantics offered a next-tier-down option, the way “homicide” is different semantically than “murder.”

      Report

      • Treason is NOT, for the record, something that one does via a peaceful demonstration.
        That I feel like I need to say this, because a western democracy has held that it WAS treasonous to use an economic boycott within it’s quasi-territorial borders…

        Report

      • The third definition of “treason” is “the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery.” You are correct that there is a legal definition, but there is also a social definition and going against your groups ideals is well within the common understanding. Is it a little “much”. Maybe. But I consider Bush’s no new taxes promise, and his subsequent backtracking, as treason. I voted for him for that sole reason. He betrayed me and everyone who voted for him for that reason. It’s a correct use of the word.

        Report

        • Those other words and phrases within the definition you offer seem just a touch softer to me — not imputing a change of political position (something that an individual is free to do under our system of Constitutional liberties) with actions on the same level as espionage, sabotage, or selling military secrets to the enemy (capital crimes, which pose existential threats to the polity itself).

          This is a quibble, of course, and an explicitly semantic quibble to boot.

          Report

  3. “People who are part of the #NeverTrump crowd don’t want to be part of what might become America’s version of the Front National. They will need a new home, even if it is temporary.”

    I don’t think it serves their interests to even find a temporary home. For the likes of NRO and other traditional, American conservatives, the best bet is to have Trump lose while not having small-government conservatives seen as causing his defeat. Then they can have a “come to Jesus” moment within the party about their 3 consecutive presidential loses.

    If Trump wins? Well, I would say that would be the end of conservatism as we currently understand it in America. That is a pretty big risk for conservatives, but I don’t see any other way forward but to support Trump if they don’t want to be regulated to minor third party status.

    Report

  4. I enjoyed the post, but I feel like there are two major errors that really affect the conclusion.

    The small one is that the Democratic party has moved left. I totally get that the increase in polarization and party discipline that’s occurred over the last few decades means all the D’s are to the “left” of all the ‘R’s, but it’s not because they’ve become more “liberal” or “left-wing”. The R’s have become notably more conservative and the whole Clintonian/DNC apparatus of party leadership has been allowed to be considerably more centrist/conservative than the party was pre-1992 while still being comfortably to the “left” of any significant figures in the Republican party. Dissatisfaction with this state of affairs among liberals/progressives/The Left shows in the strength of the Sanders movement.

    The big one is that inserting a significant third party bid by Republican/Conservative would do the opposite of what you think – it allows Clinton to pivot much further left than she would without it happening. As it is, persons of truly conservative temperment that can’t abide Trump are at least in play and Clinton is currently doing what she can to appeal to them. That’s no small part of why the Sanders movement has so much strength at the moment and there are so many of his supporters threatening to not support Clinton right now – it’s because the best electoral bet as the race is currently composed is for Clinton to keep moving right.
    If Mitt Romney (or someone similar) runs, Clinton can comfortably accommodate Sanders’ supporters, knowing that Mitt will siphon off that support and she can safely coast to victory.

    What I don’t understand is, aside from the almost bizarre antipathy for Clinton herself, is why more true conservatives don’t see the opportunity before them – that the Democratic party is poised to convert into the US’s conservative party(excepting the “Movement Conservative con–artists) – meaning the one disposed to the general status quo, maintenance of current economic/cultural elites and disposed to the US maintaining it’s dominant position in world affairs.

    At some level, we do see it in the engagement with more big business donors into more financial support for DNC-types, but it seems to me the party is well prepared to jettison the left if conservatives want to take it.

    Report

    • The R’s have become notably more conservative and the whole Clintonian/DNC apparatus of party leadership has been allowed to be considerably more centrist/conservative than the party was pre-1992 while still being comfortably to the “left” of any significant figures in the Republican party.

      This. A lot of people take the leftmost person who might ever appear on CNN and the rightmost person who might ever appear on FOX News, split the difference, and declare that to be the “center” around which everyone is judged. feh. Even if we replaced “CNN” with “MSNBC” it would still be feh. Replace it with “Pacifica Radio” and we have something more meaningful in the broad perspective. But Pacifica Radio is utterly irrelevant. This is the point.

      Report

      • This. A lot of people take the leftmost person who might ever appear on CNN and the rightmost person who might ever appear on FOX News, split the difference, and declare that to be the “center” around which everyone is judged. feh.

        That’s the country you live in. You want some other spectrum, emigrate.

        Report

        • The irony of you defending the MSM’s take on the political spectrum because it happens to cast said spectrum in a rightward direction is so rich I can literally taste it. It tastes like lime dibs. Weird.

          Report

          • It doesn’t ‘cast the spectrum in a rightward direction’. That is the spectrum. Get it through your head: Congress and most of the state legislatures are controlled by Party A and the opposition is Party B.

            You and whatshisname are perfectly free to call the Democratic Party ‘center-right’ to amuse yourself. Victor Navasky’s minions used to babble on and on about how there was no ‘left’ in this country as if we were obligated to have analogues of the French Communist Party making public nuisances of themselves. It’s a dopey, onanistic exercise.

            Report

            • The comment you quoted was about the talking heads who appear on the MSM and you stated baldly that they were representative of the ideological spectrum of the country and if anyone doesn’t like it they should leave. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen you defend the MSM so I thought if amusing and noteworthy. Now it’s looking like that wasn’t even your intention which I find even more amusing so thanks for that.

              Report

    • What I don’t understand is, aside from the almost bizarre antipathy for Clinton herself, is why more true conservatives don’t see the opportunity before them – that the Democratic party is poised to convert into the US’s conservative party(excepting the “Movement Conservative con–artists) – meaning the one disposed to the general status quo, maintenance of current economic/cultural elites and disposed to the US maintaining it’s dominant position in world affairs.

      My guess is that conservative does not really mean “respect for tradition” or “slow and gradual change” but has morphed into meaning center-right political and policy preferences.

      There might be a good number of people from Eric Erickson to Mitt Romney who abhor Trump and think he spells ruin for the Republican Party but they are still not able to embrace Democratic positions. They still generally seem to believe in supply-side economics, want to privatize or drastically reduce Social Security and Medicare, and are at best indifferent to abortion and LGBT-rights and at worse extremely against them. There is also gun control. I don’t think this group of #nevertrump Republicans has enough numbers to turn the Democratic Party.

      The Democratic Party is moving to the left in many ways. I don’t think Clinton can get away with temporary pivots. The movement for a higher minimum wage and something at least resembling the public option for Medicare is increasingly necessary for Democratic politicians to embrace. Same with marijuana legalization (not as much on this one).

      What Trump is exposing is that there was a solid part of the GOP base that did not really care about gutting Social Security and Medicare. More disturbingly, he is showing that a good part of the GOP base might believe in a kind of Herrenvolk Democracy. The Welfare State is okay but only for the “right” (read: White) sort of people.

      Report

    • What I don’t understand is, aside from the almost bizarre antipathy for Clinton herself,

      There is nothing bizarre about it at all. HRC would have been completely unacceptable stem to stern 35 years ago. The Clinton phenomenon is a story of how criminality came to be perfectly acceptable to Democratic voters (who lie about Republican politicians as a diversionary tactic). The Democratic Party did not used to be institutionally and culturally sociopathic, but that was 25 years ago.

      Report

    • The R’s have become notably more conservative and the whole Clintonian/DNC apparatus of party leadership has been allowed to be considerably more centrist/conservative than the party was pre-1992 while still being comfortably to the “left” of any significant figures in the Republican party.

      Citation needed. The discontent of the Sanders wing of the Democratic party doesn’t count as evidence of this, since an obvious alternative explanation is that they’ve moved leftwards faster than the party as a whole. Very conservative Republicans also complain about how the Republican party is too moderate.

      Report

    • On social issues, I don’t think there’s a question the DNC is more liberal than ever.

      On economic issues, the DNC is more liberal than it was through the 90’s. It’s less liberal than it was say, pre-Carter.

      Report

      • Before we can litigate the point, I’d suggest we have to determine if there is a ‘left’ and ‘right’ position on social issues that is fixed from how the US was in some period in the past, or if it’s their relative state to the dominant culture at large.
        It seems most of the time, people like to work from the assumption that there’s a fixed cultural center based on the mid 1960s and everyone who sides with what was left/right then is left/right now.
        I reject the fixed point view completely. If it’s mainstream to think gays deserve to be treated as regular folks – then agreeing with that doesn’t make me a lefty anymore, it just is going along with most people around you.

        In my mind, one reason we can’t have sensible conversations about the political spectrum the dominant voices in political discourse generally refuse to admit two things:
        One, that the liberalism “won” the culture war and it’s high time we start defining where we want to go as starting from 2016 instead of 1966.
        Two, that the economic liberalism (the market advocacy we tend to associate with Republicans/Libertarians) has proven so successful in bringing people out of poverty in the world that to go back on it would be utterly devastating to a whole heck of a lot of people.
        Not dealing with these notions makes finding common starting points to discuss politics in the US all but impossible.
        It’s OK by me if you feel we need change either to be “more” or “less” of either in whatever way you want, I wish we’d just start with “now” instead of “then”.

        Report

        • Two, that the economic liberalism (the market advocacy we tend to associate with Republicans/Libertarians) has proven so successful in bringing people out of poverty in the world that to go back on it would be utterly devastating to a whole heck of a lot of people.

          Which is why incomes have largely stagnated for low- and middle-income Americans and Canadians since the 1980s, while skyrocketing for the super-rich. And why neoliberal policies gutted the resources of African governments to the ability that they had no capacity to combat the AIDS crisis and their countries experienced declining life expectancy. And why Latin American suffered a lost decade through the ’80s and only started seeing some improvements in standards of living when more leaders moved towards the left in the 2000s.

          China’s done great, sure, but their system – including its management of trade – isn’t anything like what Republicans and neoliberals advocate, and trying to push neoliberal policies on east Asian countries in the ’90s did major harm to their growth.

          So the policies you’re championing have done a great job putting a larger proportion of the world’s wealth in the hands of a very small number of super-rich people, but they haven’t done much to benefit everyone else.

          Report

          • The idea that the rest of the world outside the West’s 1% hasn’t benefited from economic change in the world all much is absolutely risible.
            The fact that many nations have a long way to go in terms of liberalizing their economic systems should give us great hope that there is even more prosperity to be had, not pessimism that everyone will be happy enough with some progress from regimes going from awful to merely bad and stop.

            Many cases of the US propping up corrupt regimes around the world as part of our Cold War strategy doesn’t impugn economic liberalization at all in my mind.
            We shouldn’t be sanguine about the awfulness of those regimes or our complicity in their crimes.
            But it’s simply false that they represented attempts to liberalize those nations. Our leaders did what they thought would keep the Commies out, every other consideration be damned.

            Of course, stagnating incomes and prospects for the bottom 80% of Americans over the last few decades says something is very wrong. I think it’s a huge problem that needs to be fixed!
            It’s very likely we disagree on what policies would best achieve a reversal of that situation – but we wouldn’t disagree that reversing it shouldn’t be a top economic priority for the US government.

            Report

            • That’s a giant pile of bull. Global poverty reduction in the 1960s, dwarfed anything we’ve seen since in non-China nations.

              And look at the final chart in this piece: http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats. In the neoliberal 1990s that you praise, global poverty rates at $2 a day increased slightly for nations other than China. It’s only in the 2000s, when some countries started to throw off the neoliberal consensus, that any notable reduction in poverty rates resumed. Numerous people who worked for the World Bank and IMF, Joseph Stiglitz among them, came right out and said that their methods had failed and done considerable harm, and that they needed to change to a model that allowed a greater poverty-reduction role for government, something less than absolute free trade, and a more balanced model overall. Neoliberalism failed. By sixteen years ago it was broadly recognized to have failed.

              Report

              • I don’t know how to say this politely, Katherine, but you are completely wrong.
                Economic reforms in the capitalist direction as against actual socialism have done much to ameliorate the human condition.
                Government-directed economies may be a good way forward in some countries, such as Russia in the mid-20th century, but in general state-run economies are sclerotic and inefficient.
                The vast improvement in human well being over the last 50 years can be somewhat attributed to opening up of markets and the free flow of capital and capitalist ideas.
                There are many problems with capitalism, but good regulated capitalism is clearly the best way towards prosperity for all.

                Report

                • Now, if you could only find someone arguing in favor of state ownership of the factors of production, you would have a terrific argument!

                  Alas, all we seem to have around here are people urging adoption of “good regulated capitalism”.

                  Report

            • Here. From a UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs report:

              Economic growth in Africa and Latin America was far higher pre-1980s than it was post-1980s. Economic growth in Africa had a rate of 5.2% in the 1960s, falling to 3.6% in the 1970s, 1.7% in the 1980s, and 2.3% in the 1990s. In Latin America, growth as at 5.5% in the 1960s, 6.0% in the 1970s, 1.1% in the 1980s, and 3.3% in the 1990s. Inequality has also become much greater: the life exppectancy of the world’s lowest income quintile rose form 38 in 1962 to 46 in 1982, before levelling out to 47 in 1986 and falling to 44 by 2002. Over this time, the life expectance of the world’s top income quintile continued rising at a steady rate (from 70 to 79).

              Furthermore, as regards free trade, the report states:

              According to proponents of trade liberalization, increased exports following trade liberalization will ensure higher rates of economic growth, beneficial for the poor. However, Africa’s export performance following trade liberalization does not support such claims. While greater market access may well have led to the achievement of the expected results, trade liberalization resulted in the loss of tariff revenues, eroding fiscal space, and undermined existing productive capacities and capabilities.

              Most African countries have liberalized their trade regimes. Trade liberalization occurred principally from the late 1980s and in the 1990s, and involved the “tariffication” of non-tariff barriers, cuts in the number and value of tariffs, exchange-rate liberalization and removal of export barriers. Overall, export performance in African countries following trade liberalization has been disappointing. Indeed, although trade liberalization has increased exports expressed as a percentage of GDP, this effect has been weak, and trade balances in African countries have deteriorated since liberalization with greatly increased imports.

              Analysis of values and volumes of exports from Africa show that, following liberalization, African exports continued to grow at slower rates in volume terms than in other regions. Only the rising prices of fuels, minerals and other primary commodities since 2002 have maintained African export value growth at levels comparable with that in other developing regions.
              Export diversification is very low in Africa, an outcome consistent with the theory of comparative advantage. African countries remain principally primary commodity exporters, as dictated by their resource endowments.

              Thus, the dependence of most African countries on a small number of export products has increased following liberalization. Many countries in the region are now less able than before liberalization to withstand price collapses for a few key commodities.

              It also observes, on a global level, that for developing countries:

              Empirical studies do not point to significant employment generation due to trade liberalization. See chapters by G. Andrea Cornia, Eddy Lee, and Bernard Hoekman and L. Alan Winters in Ocampo, Jomo and Khan, eds. (2006).

              Now, it should be self-explanatory that a period with higher economic growth and lower inequality, seen in the 1960s, is preferable to a period with lower economic growth, rising inequality, and falling life expectancy, seen in the 1990s. Given that the 1990s were the high point of neoliberalism, while the 1960s included many developing-country governments who pursued more statist development policies, it is difficult to conclude from these data that neoliberalism has been beneficial, or that free trade has strengthened or diversified developing countries’ economies. The evidence points to the reverse.

              http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/rwss/docs/2010/fullreport.pdf

              Report

              • Good points, and I should have been more clear. Trade liberalization is not necessarily good unless internal reforms are made.
                However, almost any measure of human development, such as life expectancy or per capita GDP, has risen significantly across the developing world, with a few exceptions in war torn areas, in every country. Just because income is stagnant for rich countries does not mean that the global poor have not experienced huge gains over the past 50 years.
                I’m suspicious of the assertion that Latin American have indeed relatively regressed in the past two decades, but even if it is true that region was starting from a much better economic position than tbe truly poor countries in Africa, South Asia, and China.

                Report

                • There has been improvement in poverty reduction and living standards over the past 50 years, yes. The evidence shows that that improvement occurred most strongly in the 1960s, somewhat less strongly in the 1970s, and, on various measures remained largely stagnant or declined during the 1980s and 1990s when neoliberal policies were in their ascendancy. This is the case for both Latin America and Africa. East Asia has followed a different trajectory, with high economic growth produced by managed capitalism rather than neoliberal laissez-faire capitalism.

                  I am not making an argument for all-out communism, but some state intervention in the economy; labour regulations; protection of unions, management of trade in order to facilitate industrialization and economic diversification; state provision of education and health care; careful management of natural resources, particularly oil, gas, and mineral resources, including either state ownership or very high resource royalties; and taxation levels sufficient to pay for health, education, and substantial social transfers to the poor, provide a more successful means of economic growth and poverty reduction than do free trade, deregulation, slashing of government services, and handing over natural resources to foreign corporations with little or no taxation.

                  Report

                • Also, the “declining life expectancy for the bottom income quintile” stats were for the world as a whole, not for Latin America. Sorry for the unclear phrasing. The primary reason for the decline is the HIV/AIDS crisis – this becomes apparent if you look at the data for sub-Saharan Africa – but it’s not likely to be the sole factor. Additionally, slashing of government budgets played a role in African governments’ inability to respond to the AIDS crisis, and economic problems more generally – particularly the large number of workers who needed to migrate far from the families to find jobs – had a major role in the disease’s spread.

                  Report

            • I mentioned them. They achieved major economic growth via policies that did not involve cutting government to the bone, were far from laissez-faire, and which particularly included carefully controlling their trade so that they could build up their exports of specific goods. They didn’t get there by free trade. No nation in the world built an industrial base by unrestricted free trade, except for maybe Britain because it was the first country to industrialize.

              And then all the countries that have achieved economic growth and industrialization by managing their trade turn around and preach about free trade and comparative advantage to Africa countries with monoculture agricultural economies who will never have anything else unless they use trade controls to build up their own ability to produce. If South Korea had listened to market fundamentalist arguments half a century ago, they’d still have an economy based on growing rice.

              Report

              • I belatedly see your argument. Full market liberalisation is not a good thing, and has been hijacked by crooks when capitalist principles have been applied with no regard for historical problems or general reform. Britain has had nothing close to free trade for its industrializing period and neither did the US. Internal free market policies are not always linked with free market foriegn policies.

                Report

              • They achieved major economic growth via policies that did not involve cutting government to the bone

                In fact, Taiwan’s government spending as a percentage of GDP is in the low 20s. This is well below what most African countries spend, and far below levels at which you would you would employ the phrase “cutting government to the bone” if we were talking about the US or Canada. Singapore and Hong Kong, whose growth has been even more impressive, have even lower levels of government spending. Literally cutting government spending to the bone is probably bad policy. But there’s an awful lot of fat to cut through first, and cutting that has historically worked out pretty well.

                No nation in the world built an industrial base by unrestricted free trade

                This is a much less significant fact than you imagine it to be. Protectionism has enormous intuitive appeal, so pretty much every country does it. It’s not like we have a bunch of control countries that practiced totally free trade but were otherwise like the countries that didn’t, and had it fail miserably.

                Report

  5. I wouldn’t be the first person to note that America does have a very viable center-right party called the Democrats.

    What the NRO conservatives are struggling with is to figure out what they really want.

    No, I mean what they REALLY want. Honestly, in their hearts, what policy goals separate them from conventional Democrats like Hilary?

    Obama has successfully implemented all three legs of the Three Legged Stool.

    Cautious budgeting? The budget deficit is declining, from the catastrophic Bush deficits. No Democrat anywhere is advocating that “deficits don’t matter”.
    Social conservatism? The biggest social issue for Democrats is the inclusion of gay and transgendered people into the traditional family structure.
    Muscular foreign policy? Oh hell yeah.

    So what do the “conservatives” really truly want? And do they imagine that there is more than a tiny minority that wants it also?

    Report

    • So what do the “conservatives” really truly want? And do they imagine that there is more than a tiny minority that wants it also?

      People elected by that tiny minority have held a majority in the House of Representatives for 17 of the last 21 years.

      Report

      • What Trump has done is demonstrate that the policy preferences of the GOP are different than the policy preferences of the voters of the GOP.

        How many people want to handle Social Security the way Paul Ryan does? Versus how many who want to handle it the way Trump/Hilary do?
        Global trade? Capital gains tax? Immigration?

        Report

        • What Trump has done is demonstrate that the policy preferences of the GOP are different than the policy preferences of the voters of the GOP.

          No, he’s demonstrated that people’s choices vary according to circumstance and available alternatives. I don’t think you can draw a bead on what Trump voters think by reading what Trump says. He’s too erratic for that. This campaign strongly suggests a degree of alienation between the Republican voting public and the Capitol Hill nexus (given that Trump and Cruz were commanding 80% of the ballots). The more granular reasons for that are not as clear cut. Immigration is an issue. The capon-like qualities of a cretin like AM McConnell are an issue.

          One thing that’s been known for some time is that people evaluate the whole and the parts through distinct processes. Congress as an institution has been lower than dirt in public estimation for 40 years, though individual members have not.

          The Speaker of the House is Paul Ryan. The only people who voted for him live in one district in Wisconsin and they had a variety of reasons for so doing. No question from polling that Ryan’s views on immigration represent only a small minority of Republican voters. In Wisconsin as elsewhere, people vote according to affiliation and general impression, or they make trade-offs.

          Report

      • People elected by that tiny minority have held a majority in the House of Representatives for 17 of the last 21 years.

        Absolutely true that you can win a lot of Congressional seats by saying that you will shrink the size and reach of the federal government. There’s a lot less evidence that you can hold those seats if you actually do the shrinking.

        Report

        • 1. Idiot parliamentary rules prevent the passage of any important legislation unless you have a supermajority in the Senate, which no party has had for any length of time in the last 75 years.

          2. From 1995 to 2007, the Republican plurality in the House averaged about 18 seats. A scatter of New England Republicans and some others acting as tribunes for one or another sectoral interest were enough to frustrate reform legislation.

          3. You only had the Presidency and Congress for a period of 4 years and change. The President was George W. Bush, who was generally not confrontational regarding domestic policy and only given to a full court press on issues the Republican base doesn’t care about or were at odds with him.

          Get rid of the filibuster, replace the gamesmen in gatekeeper positions with real leaders, and elect a president who is something other than a careerist or a highly competitive man bent on besting his father.

          Report

          • “Get rid of the filibuster, replace the gamesmen in gatekeeper positions with real leaders, and elect a president who is something other than a careerist or a highly competitive man bent on besting his father…”

            And then what?

            Even if you had a True Conservative government with total absolute uncontested power.
            What would guys you do with it?

            For 40 years conservatives have been talking about “shrinking government”, but to this day, no one can offer a plausible idea of what that means.

            Even the conservative voters have no idea, and the ideas that are floated like privatizing Social Security are wildly unpopular with the GOP base.

            So the GOP/ NRO / Establishment Conservatives flail helplessly, unable to define their signature issue.

            Report

          • “Get rid of the filibuster, replace the gamesmen in gatekeeper positions with real leaders, and elect a president who is something other than a careerist or a highly competitive woman bent on besting her husband.”

            #feelthebern!

            Report

          • “replace the gamesmen in gatekeeper positions with real leaders”

            How? We all get that you’re deeply dissatisfied with both politicians and the people who elect them, but it would be interesting to hear from you how you plan to transition to ‘real leadership’.

            Report

            • That requires incremental change in the composition of legislative caucuses. To some extent that’s occurred. There are actually only a couple-dozen House Republicans whose tenure antedates 1995. I’ve my criticisms of Paul Ryan, but he compares favorably to John Boehner and to Dennis Hastert. The real problem is the Senate.

              Report

        • You might address that complaint to the Democratic Party press agent who shot his mouth off above. At least he could get the partisan affiliation of the budget and appropriation chairmen of the time right.

          Of course there were revenue losses from the recession and also one-off deficits from the expenditures to clear the banking crisis. That does not count as a ‘Bush disaster’. (The porkulus was certainly a Pelosi-Reid disaster to which BO signed on).

          Report

          • No, we need to put to rest forever the myth of the Republican “fiscal conservative”.

            Beginning with Ronald Reagan, fiscal conservatism and all its attendant tropes- a balanced budget, smaller government, the Laffer Curve etc- were just that, tropes and flashing buzzwords intended to conceal a sham.

            Ronald Reagan never proposed a balanced budget. No, he didn’t sincerely try and see it watered down by a fickle Congress. Instead, he demanded a budget filled with tax cuts and spending hikes that tripled the national debt, and proved that deficits don’t matter, if you are a Republican.

            GWB was handed a balanced budget by Clinton, and promptly initiated a prescription drug benefit and more tax cuts that created a further chasm of deficit spending, even before the two wars.

            None of this was opposed by the GOP brain trust or the base, until 12:00 noon on January 20, 2009.

            And even to this very day, we hear those on the right demanding insistently for yet another round of tax cuts, and a 1.5 trillion dollar fighter jet, which will somehow combine to close the budget deficit, if enough underpants gnomes are accounted for.

            After 40 years of speechifying about Burkean caution and fiscal sobriety, after 40 years of blaming the budget deficit on welfare mothers and children buying candy bars with SNAP cards, not one leading voice on the conservative scene has yet to assemble a plausible vision of how America should spend and tax.

            Meanwhile, the only two presidents who have actually enacted a cautious Burkean governance have (D) after their name.

            Report

            • To say nothing of how a not insignificant portion of Obama’s early deficits came from putting the cost of W’s excellent adventure on the books instead of hiding and deferring it as W had done.

              Report

              • Meanwhile, in the People’s Republic of California, where not a single statewide office is held by a Republican, the far-left Bolshevik Governor Moonbeam preaches the gospel of…wait for it…cautious fiscal prudence , careful planning and rainy day funds.

                So yeah, when I see articles like this thread or elsewhere, people wistfully pining away for a “center-right” party of social liberalism and fiscal conservatism, I call BS, because they have one staring them in the face, and hate it.

                Report

                      • That’s your excuse, is that Obama ran deficits too?

                        The whole conservative schtick is “We Are Fiscally Responsible And Want Balanced Budgets”.
                        That’s the third leg of the Three Legged Stool, right?

                        Yet history has shown that to be utter nonsense. The conservative movement has no desire whatsoever for anything resembling fiscal conservatism, and any suggestion that they do needs to be roundly ridiculed.

                        Report

                        • Chip, this whole mess began when you asserted that Obama inherited some ‘Bush disaster’. He didn’t. The last fiscal plan approved by the Republican President and Congress (FY 2006 / 07) featured a deficit of 1.6% of gross domestic product. That’s more borrowing than they should have been doing at that point in the business cycle, but it’s not a disaster.

                          You know, you talk like a DNC press officer who’s overly emotional about his job. So, you’re going on about deficits ca. 1985. Those deficits had to be approved by both Congress and the President. Discretionary spending at the time amounted to about 45% of the federal budget. Reagan wasn’t ever going to get Congress to agree to the authorization legislation necessary to whittle away at entitlement spending and defaulting on debt service was not an option. You can play chicken for a while regarding discretionary domestic spending. But that’s all. That left Reagan with the option of acceding to a tax increase, acceding to contextually enormous cuts in military spending, or accepting the deficits. There was no option four. It did seem at the time that Reagan was being pig-headed on taxes, but if you look at the ratio of federal debt to gdp after 1990 (when Bush acceded to a tax increase), you get the distinct impression he was just thinking more moves ahead than was David Stockman. That ratio did begin to decline…five years late when the Democrats lost control of the committee architecture in Congress.

                          And, of course, Republicans have had few years since 1931 when they controlled the Presidency and Congress at the same time, and the years when they did so they had Presidents who were unambitious in domestic policy.

                          Report

                          • O came into office while the economy was still heading downward in a massive recession. Dont’ call it Bush’s mistake, but he came in while things were cratering. That is the context with which a lot of people want to scream about how bad O did with the economy. His first couple years were just trying to manage the augering in.

                            Report

                          • The United States federal budget for fiscal year 2009 began as a spending request submitted by President George W. Bush to the 110th Congress.

                            Bush submitted a budget to Congress, which was to be signed by the incoming President Obama. About 200B of the 1.4T deficit was Obama’s stimulus package. The rest was Bush.

                            That left Reagan with the option of acceding to a tax increase, acceding to contextually enormous cuts in military spending, or accepting the deficits. There was no option four.

                            Option four was not to demand a whopping tax cut.
                            Option five was not to demand a hike in military spending.

                            No Republican President has ever submitted a balanced budget, or offered a plan to achieve one, since Eisenhower.

                            Report

              • To say nothing of how a not insignificant portion of Obama’s early deficits came from putting the cost of W’s excellent adventure on the books instead of hiding and deferring it as W had done.

                Military expenditure is on the books, North. So’s the VA. Nothing’s changed in the accounting regarding that.

                Report

                • I’m going to agree with here. All of that spending showed up as increases in the federal debt (public debt plus debt held by the federal reserve plus debt held by government agencies). And it was all properly appropriated by Congress. With my old legislative budget analyst hat on, I point out that you’ve got to look at all the documents.

                  Now, the huge step up in increased debt in FY2008 for the bailout was already baked in when Obama took office. Passed by the Dems in Congress, signed by George W. Obama was required by statute to spend it, with no choice (other than going back to Congress and asking them to change their mind). FY2009 is all the Dems.

                  Report

  6. “Is It Third Party Time?”

    For whom? To what ends?

    There are already any number of third parties. Depending on the state you live in, you will have several options other than R and D to vote for President.

    If the real complaint is that a group of people you disagree with have taken over your party, then you have a few options:

    a. Grit your teeth and go along.
    b. Withhold your vote, hope the candidate loses, and fight to take your party back. (Please note, though, that every single major Presidential candidate for your party proposed a budget-busting tax cut. Financial realism is in short supply these days.)
    c. Join a minority party.
    d. Start the multi-year process of building a new center-right party from the ground up. You may have a few House candidates by 2018 but it’s unlikely. Most people vote on an identity basis, not policy, or so I’m told. Getting people to switch parties is much harder than changing a party.

    Report

  7. Trump would be a disaster. He might try to destroy the Voting Rights Act and disenfranchise people of color via transparently racist “Voter ID” laws and closing polling places in minority neighborhoods.

    Report

  8. Its time for the All Night Party with Presidential candidate Howard the Duck and the Pizza Party with candidate Leonardo Ninja Turtle.

    Report

  9. Erik Erickson wrote a… let’s call it “provocative”… post called “Will the Libertarian Party Grow Up?

    It argued, among other things, that libertarians claimed to care about X, but not when it came to Y. Here’s a fun paragraph:

    Many people think of the Libertarian Party as the pothead party. As long as they can have a good time, they have no principled grounding. Pro-lifers have a hard time accepting a party that claims to be for liberty, but is perfectly happy to let some die. Conservatives have a hard time with the Libertarian Party because the party seems to only care about federalism when it comes to marijuana. Likewise, conservatives do kinda think it is okay if the government builds a road. After all, the Constitution says it is okay.

    So, uncharitably, I’d say that Erik seems to be arguing that if the Libertarians were more pro-life (defined, presumably, by a desire to have the government do something about it) and more Federalist? I guess?, they’d be a more adult party. Indeed, his conclusion:

    To do this, though, the Libertarian Party would need to settle on a grown up candidate with serious ideas who can be taken seriously. Right now that does not seem to be possible. Neither Gary Johnson, seen above, or his rivals seem to have the stature to make the case for a grown up Libertarian Party.

    I made this point yesterday and I’ll make it again: I can understand mocking the whole John McAfee thing. I’m down with mocking the Badnariks and the Brownes (I guess… I kind of have a soft spot for Browne).

    But if a former governor of a state who left his state in better shape than the state in which he found it does not have sufficient stature… Who among all of the Third Party Types would?

    Ralph Nader? John Hagelin? H. Ross Perot???

    Report

    • I don’t think a libertarian party will have much traction anytime soon. Half the faction doesn’t believe in ‘the system’. The nearby right anarchists is near fully repulsed by the system.

      There could be a ‘Burn It All Down’ party but by the time that party wins they would be shoveling ash to enter the Ash House.

      Report

    • Many people think of the Libertarian Party as the pothead party. As long as they can have a good time, they have no principled grounding. Pro-lifers have a hard time accepting a party that claims to be for liberty, but is perfectly happy to let some die.

      Okay, I’m pro-life and I can easily recognize that as ridiculous. A pro-choice position is entirely in line with the principles of libertarianism. And allowing people to “have a good time” in whatever way they like so long as they refrain from physically attacking others would seem to pretty much sum up social libertarian principles.

      I don’t think a principled Libertarian party has any chance of doing well in a general election, because the public mood is clearly in favour of more economic intervention, less free trade, reducing the current sky-high levels of economic inequality, and retaining social security and medicare, and libertarians oppose all these things. The key points or a libertarian economic platform would mainly be the same as the Republicans on economics, minus the social issues that the Republicans have touted to keep social conservatives on board – thereby alienating pretty much everyone except a sliver of the economic upper classes.

      But Erickson leads to learn to distinguish between “positions based on libertarian ideology” and “positions which Erickson agrees with”.

      A platform that consistently followed Libertarian beliefs (and which I would heartily disagree with) seems like it would include:

      – Republican economic platform (tax cuts for the rich, deregulation, opposition to unions, privatize social security, no public health care, major cuts to social welfare programs). But removal of farm subsidies.
      – Legalize marijuana
      – Remove mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes, and for some violent crimes
      – Implement greater monitoring of police activity, including on-person cameras
      – On the big social issues: pro-choice, no opposition to same-sex marriage, no opposition to euthanasia, legalize prostitution
      – No restrictions on gun ownership or use
      – End affirmative action
      – Reduce environmental regulation
      – Ratchet down the security state and surveillance state measures by a ton
      – Avoid entanglement in international conflicts, and reduce US military bases abroad

      Do you think this is an accurate characterization, Jaybird? If so, is there someone who comes to your mind as holding these postions and being a decent candidate?

      Report

      • Yeah, pretty accurate! I think I’d take “end affirmative action” off of there because libertarians at that level, I think anyway, have learned that the sting of being called insufficiently ideologically pure hurts less than being called “racist”.

        Ever since Rand Paul’s dance with the Civil Rights Act, anyway.

        Report

        • “sting of being called insufficiently ideologically pure hurts less than being called “racist”

          It’s just sticks and stones sticks and stones.

          Screw em.

          Report

  10. Thanks for a good launching point for discussion, Dennis. So I have an interesting question for you when you say that you want to find a party that a center-right person can support, but that is different from where Trump has pushed things, because I want to unpack that “center-right”. I’ve generally thought that people who want to define their politics around small government and a lack of government controls prefer terms like libertarian to describe their beliefs, while center-right tend to be more associated with an increased emphasis on social conservatism and perhaps American exceptionalism as it relates to military support/foreign policy. Given that the Trump problem seems to be one of social conservative values mattering more than fiscal conservatism, with an in-group defined more or less explicitly as the white working class, I am surprised that you are asking for “center-right” as your third party interest, and would appreciate better understanding what this means to you as a term of art.

    Report

  11. The time for conservatives to have formed a 3rd party was when the Tea Party movement arose. There was lots of high-minded talk about returning to fiscal responsibility, and it was a message that practically sold itself in the depths of the Great Recession. Sadly, the movement revealed itself to be nothing but a collection of racist know-nothings who were eager to distill the Republican Party down to its most execrable essence. If the movement had even half-believed in its supposed fiscal message, I believe it could have taken off.

    As for the Democratic Party being a hostile environment for disaffected Republicans due to its leftist tilt, this idea is risible. Mr. Sanders seems to think the Dems are of a type with Hugo Chavez, et al. The fact is, the party that will likely nominate Hilary Clinton for President differs from the traditional Republican Party only in name.

    Report

    • I don’t think the Dems equal Hugo Chavez. Being African American and gay, most people would say that should be my home. But the policies haven’t always worked well and it doesn’t always mesh with my beliefs.

      I don’t get this view that the Democrats are a center-right party. At least for a century they have been a center-left party (and there is nothing wrong with that) while the Republicans were center-right. Granted Clinton is a bit more centrist, but I would be hard pressed to characterize her or her husband as center-right.

      Report

      • I’ve been guilty of that in the past – I’m the one who called Clinton ’16 the least-leftest major D nominee since Jackson ’72 or some such rot.

        Two reasons: (1) she’s a wonk, and not a visionary, so she doesn’t talk in sweeping generalities and broad strokes, and pie-in-the-sky; just considered policy – so it’s easy to miss how far she might be pushing the consensus because she’s being so… sensible… about it, (2) on defense and foreign interventionism, she hasn’t done a lot to distinguish herself from the establishment R candidates, and a lot of people are scared of that (that’s why Jackson came to mind – I can see her as a hard Cold Warrior with broadly liberal social views given the mores of the time; a gender-switched reboot like “Ghostbusters”).

        Report

Comments are closed.