A week of big primary states brought key victories for Donald Trump and more anguish for his conservative critics.
As it becomes more likely Trump is going to go into this summer’s convention with a lead in delegates, if not the outright majority, distraught conservatives are now taking steps to creating a new party free of Trumpism.
Spearheaded by radio host Erick Erickson, heavy-hitters in the conservative movement organized a meeting Thursday in D.C. to explore the possibilities of achieving the difficult task of breaking free from the Republican Party and creating a new group from scratch.
The meeting proved that aggrieved pundits and operatives on the Right are actually serious in spurning the GOP if Trump is nominated. Though the group leading this particular effort are probably not going to create a “big tent” party that could attract all of the #NeverTrump crowd. (RELATED: Conservatives Gather In D.C. To Discuss ‘Unity Ticket’ To Stop Trump)
Erickson organized the meeting with other prominent social conservatives and it can be discerned the kind of organization which would be created would lean in that faction’s direction. If a third party does arise from this group’s efforts and it takes on a solid evangelical character, it’s highly unlikely to attract the neoconservatives, libertarians and GOP moderates who are equally horrified by the thought of a President Trump.
Additionally, social conservatives fleeing the Republican Party inadvertently fulfills the wish of the establishment that wanted to jettison the faction anyway in order to “modernize” the party. Ironically, some of the biggest proponents of that moderation strategy for the GOP, like Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, are now urging the creation of a new party for “conservatives of goodwill.”
But, according to the reports, not much was accomplished during the high-profile meeting except for a vague commitment to a “unity” ticket — for the Republican Party. With the general election getting closer, the failure of an organized effort to get the ball fully rolling on a new party shows that the great GOP bolt probably won’t occur this election cycle.
The meeting itself and the increasing number of prominent pundits calling for a new party shows a movement desperate to rid of itself of Trumpism forever. The fact that the real estate mogul is the front-runner and the odds-on favorite for the nomination only furthers the alienation felt by #NeverTrump conservatives.
Along with the calls for a new, 100 percent conservative party that somehow includes both Erick Erickson and Jennifer Rubin has been the giddy pleas for purging anyone from respectable circles who has said nice things about Trump.
According to the purge advocates, there’s a large number of right-leaning politicians, commentators and news outlets that have propped up Trump’s candidacy at the expense of “principle.” They would like these “Vichy Republicans” shunned forever for their supposed treason.
But what exactly are these blackballed folks going to be excluded from? RedState happy hours?
In the days of ole, a universal condemnation from powerhouses like Bill Buckley’s austere magazine meant you were done sharing your opinion in outlets people listened to. There were only a small number of conservative publications and organizations – there was no Twitter. Thus, a small number of people were able to determine what opinions and people were acceptable. If you were considered persona non grata by the right people, you were banished for good.
That’s no longer the case with the rapid proliferation of new media and the undermining of once-impregnable juggernauts of opinion making.
Since he first announced his candidacy, prominent conservatives have denounced Trump and warned their audience to not vote for him. They even went as far as to dedicate entire issues to the subject. None of that worked, in large part due to the radically-changed media landscape.
Some of the so-called Trump enablers in right-leaning media were able to circumvent the dictates of the conservative movement to praise The Donald thanks to their already established star power (like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter) or due to the new opportunities afforded by the Internet.
A conservative “purge” of Trump supporters wouldn’t eliminate them from the public sphere, nor would it, in all likelihood, be much of a punishment. Instead, it would further divide the Right into warring camps and weaken an already-beleaguered conservative movement.
Besides, to even initiate an effective purge you have to have control over the keys to access and influence, which the conservative movement seems to already be losing a grip over. Exhibit A: Donald Trump dominating the primary without even bending a knee before the movement.
In any case, if Trump were to win the nomination and irate conservatives went third party, the ones likely being purged would those who departed the GOP — not “Trumpkins” who stayed put. Especially if the efforts of the #NeverTrump plotters result in a huge loss for Republicans in 2016.
The choices before anti-Trump conservatives seem hard to swallow, yet there’s better options than trying to start a third party or instigating bitter faction feuds over who should be welcome at the next CPAC. It’s a non-starter for conservatives to try to form a third party. There’s no way a political formation smaller than the GOP can keep all the various factions of the Right together for long.
What platform would unite them besides hatred for all things Trump? What would be the reason for all these disparate groups to stick together in a marginalized party with no elected officials to influence?
It would also mean everyone who jumped on board the third party boat would be excluded from the Republican Party and the wayward conservative intellectuals would lose their access to actual lawmakers.
If the conservative movement is serious about surviving after this election, the best hope for them is to stay Republican, take lessons on how the bombastic billionaire was able to run off with their voters and remodel conservatism into an agenda voters are willing to embrace.
Or they can enjoy their status as a niche ideology that’s quickly sinking into oblivion.