Sometimes the things I write come from great conversations I have with people I know who think a lot about the issues and the problems we face and what to do about them. Brass is one of the ones who has kickstarted articles of mine more than once, and so you can blame him for this discussion.
He began with a question about whether Trump is going to cause the split in the GOP that many people have warned is coming.
‘Has the existing leadership so thoroughly destroyed the party? With Trump in the lead, could we be looking at the GOP collapsing and a third party emerging?’
The short answer, whatever one may hope for, is NO. You aren’t going to get the joy of seeing the GOP blow up.
First, let’s look at what the GOP actually is. In one sense, it’s the party proper – I mean the RNC and the state organizations. Those organizations are stocked quite well with non-Trump people. Your typical party operative (who volunteers their time and works their butt off organizing things like candidate events and block walks and informational meetings and running party functions) are very unlikely to support a guy at this stage of the primary process who is as provably unconservative as Trump. Even if he pulled off a miracle and was the best chance to beat the Democrats, should Trump win the nomination, they would be bound to support him, but none of them would trust him.
Second, the liberty people currently ‘invading’ the party structure – the libertarian-leaning Paul and Cruz supporter types who have joined the party as precinct chairs and so on – wouldn’t give Trump the time of day, and are mostly flabbergasted at the Trump phenomenon.
The question becomes what those people do if Trump does NOT get the nomination, and walks with his supporters to create a third-party candidacy.
So who, exactly, would be starting this third party? Trump might gain a following he could take with him, but most of those people are folks who probably have little party experience. The organizers and block walkers and experienced political forces would stay with the GOP, feeling as I do that there’s just one viable horse around to take on Democrats. The ‘third party’ would deny Republicans a win at the White House level, but would be nearly impossible to grow into a viable third party.
Folks who say they’d be happy to let Trump burn down the GOP are going to get exactly this: another Democrat president, and a party that mistrusts them and won’t listen to them thrown into the bargain. They’ll be political orphans. The GOP will still hold the House, possibly the Senate, and many state legislatures. And the folks who made that happen, and keep it happening again and again, will treat the Trump supporters the way they treated those Ron Paul supporters who played ‘take my ball and go home.’
AND THEY SHOULD. If you aren’t in the process for the long haul, the ‘establishment’ is going to wait you out. You won’t be taken seriously, nor should you.
There’s no denying that many people are frustrated with the GOP, as well they should be. Leaders aren’t leading. Fighters aren’t fighting. And many of them seem immune to the lessons of the rapidly changing political realities around us, and deaf to pleas that they wake up and study the game plans of the Left and devote some serious resources to improving technology, messaging, and competing at the presidential and national campaign level.
Here’s where it gets tricky. ‘The Party’ is several things. It’s the RNC, made up of people who have come up through the ranks in state political parties. It’s the Congressional leadership, who are professional politicians and who act like a minority party. And it’s the tens of thousands of people in precincts and local and state party politics. People are angry at the first two groups. But the only thing they can do to change those two groups is to get involved as a part of the third group. And that takes work, and meetings, and slogging through the retail political crap that you do at the lower levels, and it takes time to work your way up in that system.
“THROW THE BUMS OUT” folks are very often unwilling to do the long work it takes to get it done.
So some of the very people who bitch about Boehner and McConnell ‘selling us out’ are the people who won’t take time and energy to get into the party that already exists. I doubt they’d be willing to create a whole new party from scratch, as that would take even MORE work than it would take to just invade and infect the existing GOP.
Reformers who lack the ability to compromise and build consensus and take the long approach are viewed as unstable and undependable in the eyes of the party regulars. Like any voluntary association, you have to earn respect over time, and that comes from a) not being a jerk b) showing up and doing things with and for other people to help the larger party c) embedding oneself into the system permanently and d) taking every opportunity to recruit other people who think and act like you do in order to get your movement taken seriously. It’s a looooooooong game, and if you are a reformer and not 100% committed to that process, you will always fail.
Believe me, I sat through YEARS of crappy leadership in Harris County, putting in the work, making alliances, recruiting and training and nurturing new blood, and I can’t tell you the number of times I wanted to walk away. I never did. And people I trained are now embedded in leadership themselves. I’ve only been at it for sixteen years, though, so I still have a ways to go.
Oh, and I have to add, the effect of a failed reform movement, one in which the reformers take their ball and go home, typically results in a STRONGER old guard. Having ‘defeated’ the insurgency, they tend to move against the embedded insurgents they find, and work out ways to prevent new ones from embedding or gaining ground. If you are going to try to kill the king, you MUST kill the king. By abandoning the long game of more subtly changing the minds of the people in the party and instead pushing for swift change or a walkout, the insurgents solidify their reputation as dangerous, harmful, reckless – and then they lose the potential to sway people who could have been their allies in the fight for change.
Whenever you are tempted towards swift change, remember how well that worked out for us when we had Obamacare dropped on us. In fact, I believe one of the main reasons for the outcry now against the GOP is that they didn’t succeed at stopping the rapid pace of change over the last seven years, or that they didn’t try hard enough to stop it.
Again, I’m all for a GOP that fights to win, all for a GOP that pushes back against the radical remaking of our nation. I want a win. Hell, I NEED a win. But as I’ve said elsewhere, though it is incredibly frustrating, this is the horse we have in front of us at the moment, the only operable vehicle in the motor pool. If we’re going anywhere into battle, this is the only viable way there. If the party isn’t doing what you need it to do, you have to get into the party and do the things it takes to toughen them up. No amount of standing outside it and complaining will yield results.
If you want change, change is up to you. It’s in your hands.
Go get it.