The Moose and the Elephant: Leaving the GOP

Lean a little more to the right, maybe?

Those who have been reading this blog for some time will notice that we have, once again, undergone a facelift. This time it is for more that aesthetic reasons: it is meant to signal a change.

For a long time, this site and my political activities have been devoted to the fruitless effort to rescue the wagon that is the Republican Party from its accelerating slide down the steep slope to the right. After five years, I have come to terms with the fact that this is a hopeless quest. Long before Donald Trump reared his bilious physiognomy above the political parapet, it was clear that the party was in deep need of change, and that far too few Republicans either acknowledged this or had the faintest inkling of what that change might look like.

But the past few months, culminating with Trump’s nomination at the most shameful political gathering since the last Reichsparteitag in Nuremburg in 1938, have provided sufficient evidence that the GOP is incapable of meaningful, deep reform, even in the face of its most severe existential crisis in a century. The party’s lurch beyond conservatism points our republic toward a dark and terrifying future. We can either get off the wagon and do something, or we will by inaction consign the nation to the darkness.

And while I consider myself to be a conservative, I have found that the term has become so abused as to be almost meaningless, and that I have as little in common with the vast majority of conservative pundits and politicians as I do with those of the left.

Political conservatism to me is a dedication to two things: first, the principles that motivated the Founding Fathers as embodied in their writings and in the Charters of Freedom (The United States Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights); and second, the proposition that even the best system of governance is infinitely perfectible and thus dynamic. Conservatism should not throw itself athwart the road to change, but should embody ongoing reform informed by a wise balance of caution and progress.

Sadly, the most vocal proponents of conservatism seek to twist it into something far more regressive, robbing it of its balance in the name of dogmatic orthodoxy or more nefarious motives. When slavish devotion to free markets leads conservative thinkers like Thomas Sowell to inveigh against Teddy Roosevelt, the right no longer stands for reform but for a backslide into the cauldron of laissez-faire capitalism, robber barons, corporate monopolies, corruption, and vast income inequalities. The future promised by this sort of conservatism is not America: it is decline and dissolution. Christian conservatism would see America declare itself a Christian nation, and impose Christian values in the classroom, the bedroom, and the examination room. A theocracy dominated by plutocrats is the promise, enough nearly to rename the GOP the Banana Republican party.

Either we consign the GOP to the past, or we consign ourselves to the dystopia it promises.

In an effort to be a part of a better future, one informed by a conservatism that captures the promise of the 21st Century while holding true to the enlightened vision forged in the 18th, I am today leaving the Republican Party. I do so with a heavy heart and great reluctance. But to paraphrase my wife when she speaks of her own roots, I love the Republican Party, but the GOP that I love does not exist anymore.

But I also do so with a belief that such changes are good for the country, if for no other reason than they compel us to cast off the fetters of short-termism and special interests and enable us to engage in a more visionary and constructive conversation. This is what motivated Ronald Reagan in 1980, Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and the men and women who put everything on the line 240 years ago to craft a new nation.

 

I will share more about where the Bull Moose is headed in the coming weeks.

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Explaining No Labels

via No Labels National Strategic Agenda – YouTube.

If you are serious about fixing the partisanship problem that is vexing the American political system, and you haven’t heard about the work that No Labels is doing, you need to watch this video.

These guys are not about eliminating the differences between right and left in America, but about establishing common goals and starting the process of reaching them from what unites us, not what divides us.

Dropping the Partisan Mantle

My friend and foil Shannon recently touched on a matter that has been troubling me for some time, and I need to share this with you.

I originally began this blog as a forum to discuss practical ideas that would guide the Republic through one of the most politically tumultuous eras in its short history. The nation’s political bipolarity has begun to eat at the sinews of the fabric holding this nation together, but more important, the political process has been either frozen by this bipolarity or captured by special interests and passionate ideologues. That has left scant room for us.

What I – what we – should be focused on is how to create the kinds of policies and approaches that will unite the nation in an effort of self-betterment. Is this idealistic? I hope not, and I don’t think so.

But that calls into question a direction this blog has taken of late: the salvation of the GOP from the ravages of reactionaries. That effort has put me in the unenviable (if not untenable) position of having to defend individuals and positions that have no place in a common sense discussion about the future of the union. What is more, the effort of defending a party is a distraction from what is really important: the creation of a practical-minded political movement occupying the space vacated by the GOP’s post-1964 abandonment of the Eisenhower/Teddy Roosevelt Republicans, the Democrats’ more recent abandonment of their Blue Dog coalition, and the moderates Ike once called “the silent majority.”

The intention here is not to create a third party, but to establish a framework of ideas and policies that offer these United States a way forward that addresses the design of our founders and the needs of all Americans. It is my hope that the Republican Party, seeing the declining returns on the far right, will move this way. I do not think this will happen in 2016. I hold hopes for 2020. If that is going to happen, we all have to act, and now.

I want this blog to be a discussion about policies and ideas that can fix our problems, not another partisan battle distinguished solely by the fact that I am fighting it from a position closer to the ideological front lines. And as we slide into the 2016 elections, I have no intention of dragging this discussion into a battle over candidates and party loyalties. The discussion will be first, foremost, and hopefully forever about the ideas that define us.

I also want this blog to be a call to action. Words alone will not suffice.

There is a simple reason for this. If given the choice between saving a party or saving the Republic, I choose the latter. If that sounds pompous, I apologize: the point not that I can save the Republic or even incite its salvation. It is, rather, that we must choose our battles, and I would rather spend my limited time arguing for the future of the nation over the future of the GOP. And let us not quibble: we stand at a crossroads. We decide what the future of this country is going to look like. I have no intention of allowing it to slide into a permanent bipolarity that by default would place the future of the nation into the hands of those holding the largest economic levers. After that, we are Europe, and did we not fight a revolution to end that?

In the next few weeks, you are going to see some small but important changes to this forum. The masthead will change, and you are going to see a return to an emphasis on thinkers that offer ideas, not candidates that offer positions or parties that offer platforms.

I am, as always, grateful for your feedback. We are on this journey together.

And, by the way, hello from America: I’m in Boise, en route to Phoenix.