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Wednesday, October 19, 2016
What if There Were a National Conservative Party?
The Battleground Poll published a few weeks before the 2016 presidential election has grim news for Donald Trump, who is predicted to get only around 40% of the popular vote, while Hillary gets about 47% despite having unfavorables almost as high as Trump's. The news for Republicans generally is not much better. The Republican generic congressional ballot runs six points behind Democrats, the weakest showing in a decade.
While the Republican brand and its presidential nominee receive very low marks from voters in this Battleground Poll, there remains a bright spot for those with principled opposition to hyper-federalism, secular humanism, and encroaching socialism. The "conservative" label continues to be, as it has since the question was first asked in public opinion polling in the early 1960s, a clear majority of Americans – larger than all the other ideological groups combined – and self-identified "conservatives" continue to strongly outnumber self-identified "liberals."
The electoral implications are immense. If self-identified conservatives in the Battleground Poll voted for Trump and self-identified liberals voted for Clinton, Trump would win by a landslide. The results are the same in this year's Gallup poll if self-identified moderates broke evenly between liberal and conservative candidates. Gallup also shows that conservatives outnumber liberals in almost every one of the fifty states.
So why are conservatives likely to lose this election? The Republican Party label is inextricably connected with the corrupt Washington Establishment. At the same time, significant numbers of conservatives are not convinced that Trump, the Republican nominee who rails against that Republican Establishment, is truly conservative. (Indeed, Trump avoids even running as a conservative, per se, and has suggested that he is a candidate who will transcend ideology.)
Both Battleground Poll and Gallup surveys this year show that if voters were presented with clear ideological alternatives between conservative and liberal labels, the conservative candidate would get about 57% of the popular vote. Other polling organizations like Survey USA show exactly the same pattern. None of these organizations tilts toward conservatism; Gallup, in fact, does the best it can to hide what its own data show.
Does anyone seriously doubt that the Republican Party, which unlike the Democrat Party is supposed to actually stand for certain principles and values, is grievously and probably terminally broken? Does anyone believe that if Donald Trump loses in November (we all ought to seriously hope he wins, but the prospects look dimmer every day), the Republican Party will have any sort of leadership left?
So why not build a new national party that rejects the Republican label, seeks grassroots leadership, and is firmly committed to conservative values, the values of the clear majority of Americans? Indeed, "conservative" is the most resiliently popular term in American political life, and it has been for well over half a century. Such a party would be a clean break with the discredited "Republican" label and a strong bond with the trusted "conservative" label.
Moreover, the formation out of the debris of the Republican Party of a new National Conservative Party would be the perfect chance to begin with a primary expression of beliefs and values and of guiding principles and specific positions on issues. At a time when Americans are truly desperate for something other than the two major establishment political parties, the keenest ear will be given to those who first come up with a real change from politics as usual. Surely part of the appeal of the third- and fourth-party candidates this year is the nausea many voters feel at having to choose between a Democrat and a Republican this election cycle. Both choices are rightly seen as a continuation of politics as usual.
What is the downside of forming a National Conservative Party? It is hard to see any downside at all if all conservatives who are now Republicans or independent or Democrat are invited to join this new party, and if state election laws are changed to require runoffs to win elections so that no candidate will be elected with less than 50% of the vote. This would eliminate the prospect of liberal candidates splitting conservative votes.
Many millions of Americans feel that our nation is close to a tipping point and that only dramatic change can save our nation. Forming, regardless of how this election turns out, a National Conservative Party is precisely the sort of dramatic change that Americans have been waiting to see.