Handful of Nobodies Threatens to Form New Party

Here we go again.

This work is in the Public Domain, CC0

The Republican Party is in the midst of a civil war. Well, more of an insurrection. Er, well, almost all of the national elected members of it are on the same page but a handful of folks disagree. The New York Times (“Over 100 Republicans, including former officials, threaten to split from G.O.P.“) reports on the latest installment of this saga.

More than 100 Republicans, including some former elected officials, are preparing to release a letter this week threatening to form a third party if the Republican Party does not make certain changes, according to an organizer of the effort.

The statement is expected to take aim at former President Donald J. Trump’s stranglehold on Republicans, which signatories to the document have deemed unconscionable.

“When in our democratic republic, forces of conspiracy, division, and despotism arise, it is the patriotic duty of citizens to act collectively in defense of liberty and justice,” reads the preamble to the full statement, which is expected to be released on Thursday.

So, if this were 100 current governors and Members of Congress, it would be a big deal. Alas, not so much.

The effort comes as House Republican leaders are expected on Wednesday to oust Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming from their ranks because of her outspoken criticism of Mr. Trump’s election lies.

The key here is that Cheney will almost certainly be ousted, even though she’s a hard-right Republican, simply because she refuses to go along with one particular lie: that the election was somehow stolen from Trump. Alas, only a handful of Republicans Members of Congress are likely to vote to support her because they fear a base that loves Trump more than they care about Liz Cheney or, well, the truth.

“This is a first step,” said Miles Taylor, an organizer of the effort and a former Trump-era Department of Homeland Security official who anonymously wrote a book condemning the Trump administration. In October, Mr. Taylor acknowledged he was the author of both the book and a 2018 New York Times Op-Ed article.

Taylor was a third-tier figure that we would never have heard of except that the Times decided to allow him to publish an anonymous op-ed that gave the false impression that he was 1) much more powerful than he actually was (most of the speculation centered on the likes of Jim Mattis and Mike Pence) and 2) that he was much more representative than he actually was of senior Trump administration officials (of which, again, he was not one).

“This is us saying that a group of more than 100 prominent Republicans think that the situation has gotten so dire with the Republican Party that it is now time to seriously consider whether an alternative might be the only option,” he said.

So, absent that op-ed and the exposure it created for him after the fact, nobody thinks Taylor is a “prominent Republican.” Even after his name was revealed, prompting me to write a post titled “‘Anonymous’ Still Anonymous,” I promptly forgot his name. Indeed, I had to look it up twice trying to find that post. That he’s a ringleader of this movement shows 1) how marginal it is and 2) how divorced it is from the actual Republican Party.

The list of people signing the statement includes former officials at both the state and national level who once were governors, members of Congress, ambassadors, cabinet secretaries, state legislators and Republican Party chairmen, Mr. Taylor said.

So, on the one hand, these are indeed people who were prominent members of the GOP. But the key word is “was”—past tense.

Mr. Taylor declined to name the signers. Reuters reported earlier that the former governors Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey will sign it, as will former Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters and former Representatives Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Reid Ribble of Wisconsin and Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma.

These people haven’t held power in years. In many cases, decades. And the ones, like Comstock, who held it more recently were ousted in GOP primaries because they no longer fit the party.

And then there’s this:

Mr. Taylor declined on Tuesday to reveal the specific changes that the coalition was planning to demand of the Republican Party in its statement.

“I’m still a Republican, but I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth because how quickly the party has divorced itself from truth and reason,” Mr. Taylor said. “I’m one of those in the group that feels very strongly that if we can’t get the G.O.P. back to a rational party that supports free minds, free markets, and free people, I’m out and a lot of people are coming with me.”

So, first, ain’t nobody going with Taylor. Maybe someone will follow Tom Ridge or Christine Todd Whitman, but certainly not some snot-nosed guy famous for writing an anonymous op-ed who only had an appointed post at all because there were so many #NeverTrump national security officials that they had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get anyone.

But, second, while I hope that there is indeed a significant cohort of professionals in my old party that genuinely reject Trump and Trumpism—including the Big Lie—that itself isn’t the basis for a new party. To the extent the GOP supported “free minds, free markets, and free people,” it was the libertarian wing (and, to a lesser extent, the Chamber of Commerce wing) of the party, not the populist wing that now dominates.

Steven Taylor and I have written oodles of posts over the years about the massive structural barriers to forming a new American party and turning it into a governing one and I won’t belabor that point here. Unless some significant number of current Representatives, Senators, and Governors switch to that banner, it’s not even an interesting discussion.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. You beat me to this 😉

    5
  2. Joe says:

    it’s not even an interesting discussion.

    Not a very promising lead in to the thread, though I agree entirely.

    2
  3. Scott says:

    This is similar to this “open letter” which seemed a freakout in some of the military circles yet in the big picture, these guys are also really old, cranky nobodies.

    ‘Disturbing and reckless’: Retired brass spread election lie in attack on Biden, Democrats

    A day after 124 retired generals and admirals released a letter spreading the lie that President Joe Biden stole the election, current and former military officers are speaking out, calling the missive a dangerous new sign of the military being dragged into the trenches of partisan warfare.

    The open letter on Monday from a group calling itself Flag Officers 4 America advanced the false conspiracy theory that the presidential vote was rigged in Biden’s favor and warned that the nation is “in deep peril” from “a full-blown assault on our Constitutional rights.”

    Outside of some of the more famous (or infamous) stars (Poindexter, Boykin), I recognize exactly two and I’ve been in DoD for 40 years. Those two are in their 80s and have been out of the service for at least 30 years.

    Cranks yelling at clouds.

    8
  4. Christopher says:

    Third party efforts are doomed to fail. Our two-party system makes the co-opting of an existing major party a likelier path for greater political influence. Case in point, Trumpism entered into the void left by the dwindling ranks of thoughtful GOP conservatives. This was accomplished by coalescing the remnants of the “Southern Strategy” practitioners, Tea Party grievance actors, and rising tide of “Fight Club” political groups.

    1
  5. Not the IT Dept. says:

    They may be “cranks yelling at clouds” but how many of those currently serving feel the same way? We got some major problems here.

    2
  6. Kathy says:

    For a third party to obtain any moderate success, either a lot of prominent people from one of the existing parties should leave, or a charismatic leader with national prominence and a huge following should found the new party, bringing along as many others as possible.

    The first option is not what’s happening. The second is the Orange Turd.

    1
  7. Jen says:

    What are the handful of Republicans who are still marginally tethered to reality to do?

    Liz Cheney is absolutely correct that: 1) Biden won–fairly, legitimately; and 2) that Trump and Trumpism is based on a lie and a perversion of conservative policies.

    She’s just been ousted by Republicans, stripped of her leadership post, *for telling the truth.*

    This is an absolutely bonkers position for the country to be in. Whether this is a handful of nobodies or not, at least they are trying to do something, even if it is ill-fated and doomed to fail.

    9
  8. KM says:

    I agree that the third party threat is a huge nothingburger but at the same time, the GOP should be paying attention. They’re trying to force QAnon logic onto their party to keep MAGAts happy at the expense of everyone else, up to and including the disaster of a recount in AZ and publically ousting anyone who won’t state 2+2=749. Following the Big Lie is getting increasing harder for officials as the crazy gets doubled and tripled down on; when you’ve got the local sheriffs complaining the recount team demands sysadmin access and passwords to police database for “reasons”, it’s only going to end in tears.

    The GOP can ignore these nobodies safely…. for now. However, they’re voicing a growing discontent with parasitic Trumpism forcing them to support obvious complete nonsense in public or risk being labeled a RINO. It’s not dying off and it’s not going away the way they thought it would – pledge allegiance to the insanity of QAnon or there’s the door. Treating it like a fad will cost Cheney her chair and it’s cost several low-level party officials their positions as Trumpers have flooded local parties. Being nobody won’t protect them from having to choose.

    4
  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    If this group wants to do anything effective, it needs to run independent candidates in marginally + R congressional districts with the hope that they flip Dem. Otherwise they are a joke.

    2
  10. Kathy says:

    @KM:

    All political systems that ignore reality ultimately collapse. But it may take a big outside push (Germany, Italy) or decades even with a huge outside push (USSR).

    1
  11. Chip Daniels says:

    Much of the talk on the left side of the aisle is how we need to accept alliances with Never Trumpers, in the Roosevelt/ Stalin analogy.

    While this is true, it also means that the Never Trumpers need to accept an alliance with the Democrats in the Stalin/ Roosevelt configuration.

    IOW, people like Mona Charon and Cheney need to openly support and caucus with the Democrats . Standing on the sidelines wanking about a third party just isn’t going to help.

    3
  12. Jim Satterfield says:

    Can a third party win anything meaningful at a national level? No. Can it damage an existing party? Possibly. As Sleeping Dog noted, should they get this off the ground and run candidates in close states that are perennially close in multiple races including the presidential elections they can flip elections. Do this for multiple election cycles and the Republican Party can be seriously damaged.

    4
  13. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Jim Satterfield:

    I endorse this. I think this is what the threat of a third party is in American politics. “We will pull off maybe 10 percent of the votes you’d get and that will tip a lot of elections. If we get 15 percent, that’s even more”

    Are they a credible threat for 10-15% I think they are. What do y’all think?

    3
  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    In early days the rebels don’t need ballot access so much as media access. Will CNN and MSNBC add the spokespeople for a new party, however small and unlikely it may be, to their rosters of Never Trumpers? Will the Never Trumpers like Jennifer Rubin, Max Boot et al, sign on?

    It doesn’t have to have a real shot at winning to become a significant voice in media. If they gain a media following, becoming in effect a media third party, they may attract bigger players, like Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney.

    From there the necessary jump is to electing a handful of people to Congress from purple districts. This may hurt Dems short-term as well as Republicans. As closely divided as Congress is, half a dozen Team Purple (I’m naming them that til they decide on a label) congresspeople can wield real power. Real power attracts more support. Money starts to flow to these new power-brokers. And hey, presto, you have a real party.

    2
  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Since this appears to be a relatively new development in the dog whistle/whistle whistle dispute, I would guess that organizing enough to run candidates is still about 2 to 4 years away, if not longer. Still…

    …Casualties! Casualties!! Rah, rah, rah!!!

    “Nothing but death! Nothing but death! Nothing but death and destruction! Hairy armpits–terminal acne. Nothing but death for meee–eeeeee.”

    1
  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Chip Daniels: “IOW, people like Mona Charon and Cheney need to openly support and caucus with the Democrats.”

    For some reason, I just don’t see this happening–or lasting beyond one election cycle even if it did.

    1
  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: [No edit function, so sad…] Democrats and Trump as the candidate managed to get some number of Republicans to vote for Biden in the last cycle. That may be about as good as it’s going to get.

  18. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Must you bring up Trump? Sheesh.

  19. Mister Bluster says:

    And hey, presto, you have a real party.

    All the definitions of presto and presto chango that I can find indicate a sudden or immediate transformation.
    You are kidding aren’t you.

    1
  20. Kathy says:

    Kurtz’s post yesterday, which I was too late to reply to, does seem applicable here a bit.

    In reference to George W. Bush’s poularity:

    There was more division than you think. The difference was not just near-universal agreement on an issue, but also the salience of that issue. Most of that had dissolved by 2004.

    First, he wasn’t very popular starting out, because many saw the election as illegitimate*, and more as not really settled after the SCOTUS aborted the Florida recounts.

    But when 9/11 happened, he tried to bring the nation together and offer comfort and an appropriate response. He did not maniacally scream and shout about conspiracies against him, or claimed the Democrats were playing a hoax against him.

    The drop in popularity had much to do with the quagmire in Iraq, after receiving considerable support for this ill-advised venture. It didn’t help that his administration botched the occupation, having no real plans or resources for one.

    He survived 2004, and even won the popular vote (the only Republican to do so since 1992). But then further quagmire, the failure to nial bin Laden, and at last the Great Recession finished him off.

    Bush the younger showed incompetence and inability, but not malice and hatred. He was a political rival, not a political enemy.

    That’s all changed.

    The new Republican normal is to obstruct everything the Democrats do when they are in power, to lower taxes for their rich patrons when the GOP holds power, and to stack the judiciary as best they can.

    2
  21. Nightcrawler says:

    I hope they’re successful, because as others have noted, they could siphon off votes from the fascist GOP and keep the fascists out of power. And as Jen said:

    Whether this is a handful of nobodies or not, at least they are trying to do something, even if it is ill-fated and doomed to fail.

    Even if there’s only a 0.00000001% chance that this new party will siphon off enough votes to prevent the GOP from wresting back the White House in 2024, it’s a chance worth taking. It’s better than doing nothing and waiting to die.

  22. Gustopher says:

    Here we go again.

    With the recent death of Tawny Kitaen, I guess I just need to post this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyF8RHM1OCg

    Fun Fact: This is somewhere between a remake and a cover song, as there were a lot of band changes between the albums it was released on. The original can be found here, and the video has no one climbing a pair of Jaguars, which is a shame.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSlSaGcc0QM

    And, yeah, I don’t think a few old guard former office holders are going to create a party.

  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    Not entirely. If things broke just right you could have a Purple Party in two cycles. (Note the ‘if’). It’s not entirely implausible to imagine a House divided 215 D to 215 R with 5 Purple deciding every issue.

    1
  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: My bad. 🙁 🙁 :*(

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: I can’t remember who–maybe J. Geils or Steve Miller–but one of the music industry media outlets a long time ago describe some rock star as a 20-year overnight success story. Same thing here. “but it seems like only yesterday…”

  26. Mister Bluster says:

    @Michael Reynolds:..If things broke just right you could have a Purple Party in two cycles. (Note the ‘if’) (noted)

    Should I assume that support for the Purps would be former Republican voters or others that would not vote for a Democrat but are resistant to Trump?
    I’ll go with that for now as it might just erode support for the Republican Party without diminishing the Democratic vote.

  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    In the early phase the Purples would draw from disaffected Republicans. But they’d attract moderate Dems as well. When two extremes become dominant it creates an opportunity, a power vacuum, which might draw support from both sides. It’s fairly easy to find areas of potential common ground – infrastructure, police reform, voting rights, marijuana legalization, comprehensive immigration reform – where a Romney and a Manchin and even a Cheney could operate comfortably.

    1
  28. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’m surprised we don’t have a Manchin-Romney-Sinema-Collins caucus that is basically controlling the senate. I can only assume that none of them are really there to get anything done.

    If you have no agenda, there’s no point in controlling the agenda.

    3
  29. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    How dare you say they have no agenda? They’re frequently troubled and concerned. Being troubled is hard enough by itself, but also being concerned? That’s a heavy load to carry.

    1
  30. Tyrell says:

    Alan Keyes?

  31. Mister Bluster says:

    @Tyrell:..Alan Keyes?

    Loser

    Keyes ran for President of the United States in 1996, 2000, and 2008. He was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Maryland against Paul Sarbanes in 1988 and Barbara Mikulski in 1992, as well as in Illinois against Barack Obama in 2004. Keyes lost all three elections by wide margins.
    WikiP

    Nutcase

    He is a long time columnist for World Net Daily.
    WikiP

    Just what the Republicans need more of.

    3
  32. gVOR08 says:

    @Mister Bluster: Not only did Keyes lose the IL senate race, he lost by 27%. He was drafted after the serious R candidate crashing and burning when some of his divorce papers got leaked including allegations by his wife, Seven of Nine, about a sex club. Keyes was a carpetbagger with no base of support in the district. He had no advantage of race over Obama. And he’s been widely described as having no real issues, no campaign, and apparently coming off as unhinged. But he got 27% of the vote, demonstrating Dr T’s recurring point about people voting for a party out of habit. And creating the justly famous 27% Crazification Factor meme, which says that 27% of the public will vote for a crazy person if said crazy person has an R after their name.

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “When two extremes become dominant it creates an opportunity, a power vacuum, which might draw support from both sides.”
    I suspect this happens more in fiction than in real life, but I don’t have any particular evidence for arguing it, so I’ll just note my suspicion and leave it at that.

  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: Would running as a Democrat with my name legally changed to “Ignant Cracker (R)” create enough confusion to potentially score the victory?

  35. Mimai says:

    @gVOR08:

    But he was so very articulate!

    1
  36. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: How about “Ignant Q. Cracker (R)”?

  37. Mimai says:

    @Gustopher:

    Middle initials are so haughty. How about Ignant Qwacker (R)?

  38. gVOR08 says:

    @Chip Daniels:

    IOW, people like Mona Charon and Cheney need to openly support and caucus with the Democrats .

    What is Cheney trying to accomplish? Support democracy? Save the Republic? Defeat Trump? Defend the truth? Liz Cheney, really?

    She’s totally unqualified to be president. But on the R side of the aisle that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. There’s a lot of talk that she’s running in 2024. If she does, she can join everyone else in the Trump lane: Cruz, Cotton, Hawley. In FL both senators and the “governor” and maybe even Gaetz. Haley, Noem, Pompeo, Pence, and Trump himself. Or, she can go for the nearly empty non-Trump lane with Mitt Romney.

    Trump got nominated largely because it evolved into Snow White Trump and the seven (twenty?) not Trump dwarfs splitting the rest of the vote. In 2012 it was Snow White Romney and the handful of Tea Party dwarfs. In 08 it was McCain and seven conservative dwarfs. Cheney could reasonably see trying to run as Snow White against the seven, or a dozen, or thirty Trumpy Dwarfs as the main chance. It’s basically a bet that Trump, from incompetence and laziness will fade. Seems a reasonable bet.

    Of course she has to survive her House election in ‘22 in Trumpy Wyoming, but she may feel she has enough backing from her fathers friends and funders to buy the WY primary.

    People like David Brooks and George Will made marketing decisions that crazy was inconsistent with their brands. Cheney may have kind of accidentally found herself in a similar position and held it for too long, while McCarthy, McConnell and the rest quickly bailed on reasonable. But she seems committed to continuing with this.

  39. gVOR08 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I like it, or Ignant Quacker (R), but you’d split 27% with the other guy with an R.

    1
  40. @Jay L Gischer:

    Are they a credible threat for 10-15% I think they are.

    This strikes me as highly, highly unlikely.

  41. @Mimai:

    Middle initials are so haughty.

    Hey!

    2
  42. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Scott: I didn’t recognize any names and frankly, alot of those geezers probably don’t know they are on it. On top of that, they used Army abbreviations for the Air Force and Marine Generals. If the letter weren’t fit to wipe a dog’s ass with already–the abbreviation error made it ready for fido’s bum.

    1
  43. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: 😀 😛

  44. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mimai: Ignant Qracker (R)?

  45. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: But if the Dems vote for be because of the (D) at the end of my name, (Ignint Cracker (R) (D [or Dem.]) doesn’t that mean that I win? 😉