In my previous two posts I discussed a few high-level topics to prepare for an investigation of conservative foundations. First, I argued that character is the primary trait we should look for in our leaders, because character is the font of wisdom, and wisdom is the essential trait leaders need to guide us through difficult and unprecedented situations.
Second, I discussed that Trump’s victory does not justify the egregious sin that was a mainstay of his campaign, and that the appropriate response of conservatives to this sin is to continue to hold Trump to account. Until he repents and moves away from the language and actions of the campaign, we cannot just move on.
And that brings me to this blog. Today I want to elaborate further on why now is the right time for a new conservative party representing social and religious conservatives.
I originally wrote this post trying to tie together a variety of arguments for starting a new party. I wanted to argue that true conservatism could still create a winning coalition after the Trump era. I wanted to argue that Trump’s divisiveness could not sustain itself in a conservative cloak for long, and that the truly conservative voters he won over would not reliably stay with his type of platform.
But in the end I don’t think these arguments are the right ones for this moment in history. There are only two related reasons I really think we need a new party. The first is that Trump simply is not conservative, and having now won the election, the party he heads is also no longer conservative. The GOP has been moving towards angry populism for 20 years now, and it has finally taken the plunge. It has embraced change for change’s sake.
The second reason I believe we need a new party is because the conservative ideals that the Republican party has forsaken are extremely valuable, and deserve to be publicly represented even if they cannot currently win elections. As a Christian I do not think that Christianity needs to be the dominant faith in a country to have a powerful impact. In fact, I think Christians often have the greatest impact when they are a minority. In such situations only those who truly believe call themselves Christians, because there is a cost to doing so, and thus they tend to represent the Christian spirit better than in ages when Christianity is dominant.
In the same way, even if a new conservative party did not win elections, its voice could be heard as a small group of committed citizens calling for the revival of conservative ideas in politics. It may not be immediately pragmatic, but it is the right thing to do in this political moment.
David Brooks described this need for a true conservative party very well in a recent column. He says it better than I could, so I will close with an excerpt from his piece:
Personally I’ve always disdained talk of a third party, mostly because the structural barriers against such parties are so high, no matter how scintillatingly attractive they seem in theory. But it’s becoming clear that the need for a third party outweighs even the very real barriers.
The Republican Party will probably remain the white working-class party, favoring closed trade, closed borders and American withdrawal abroad. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, is increasingly dominated by its left/Sanders wing, which offers its own populism of the left.
There has to be a party for those who are now homeless. There has to be a party as confidently opposed to populism as populists are in favor of it.
There has to be a compassionate globalist party, one that embraces free trade while looking after those who suffer from trade; that embraces continued skilled immigration while listening to those hurt by immigration; that embraces widening ethnic diversity while understanding that diversity can weaken social trust.
There has to be a patriotic party that understands that the world benefits when America serves as the leading and energetic superpower.
There has to be a party that unapologetically emphasizes public character formation. It’s not clear that our political culture is producing individuals capable of exercising freedom wisely. But citizenship is a skill that can be nurtured — by a party that insists on basic standards of decency in its candidates; that practices politics in humble, honest ways; that strengthens trust and institutions by playing by the rules, by confirming appointees and the like.
The problems go deeper than the jobless rate and the threat of ISIS. The underlying social and moral foundations of the nation have been weakened. Today a rancid chapter ends. Tomorrow let’s start with fresh ground and a new party.