Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A New Liberal Party

A friend wrote to commend to me a serious article by Robert Tracinski in The Federalist suggesting that conservatives create a third party, one that would embody the conservative principles the Republican party has abandoned. The idea has a lot of appeal for me, but a third party is not only quixotic, it undermines what I think to be the most important political priority at this point in our nation's history.

Before I explain let me give you a couple of excerpts from Tracinski's column:
[T]he two major parties are offering us historically unpopular candidates. A two-way contest between them is likely to be pretty close, but only because it’s so hard to tell which candidate is more repulsive. The only person Donald Trump could possibly beat is Hillary Clinton, and the only person Hillary Clinton could possibly beat is Donald Trump. That means a big chunk of voters might be looking for a palatable alternative.

Trump manages to alienate nearly every ideological faction of the Right: serious foreign-policy hawks who realize our allies are vitally important and Vladimir Putin isn’t one of them; religious conservatives who don’t trust Trump on abortion and still hold the quaint notion that a candidate’s personal character matters; free-marketers who don’t like big-government cronyism; pro-business Republicans who like trade and don’t like defaulting on the national debt.

That leaves us with the interesting question of what to call the potential new party. ... I want to make the case for an American right-of-center Liberal Party.

But wait, I hear you shout, the “liberals” in American politics are the Left! Yes, and that has been one of the great historical mistakes we need to correct. There’s nothing “liberal” about today’s Left.

That’s becoming increasingly obvious now that the Left is openly the faction of illiberalism, in favor of cracking down on personal freedom and autonomy in every area of life. They’ve always been the party of government intrusion in our economic lives. Now they’re also the party of feminist neo-Puritanism, repressive speech codes on campus, and “safe spaces” purged of ideological opposition. They’re the party of forcing people to bake cakes or dispense birth control in violation of their conscience and religious liberty.

the word “liberal” comes from the Latin word for “freedom.” To be the Liberal Party is to be the pro-freedom party. That’s how the word was historically understood and what it still means in much of the world.

Calling our new right-of-center party the Liberal Party would have the advantage of bringing a certain amount of confusion and disarray to our opponents on the Left. As I told a left-leaning friend today, part of the purpose of doing this is to make people like her uncertain about what to call themselves — to make them question whether they are truly “liberals” and what the idea even means. More to the point, part of the goal should be to entice centrist Democrats who still believe in freedom of speech and who haven’t quaffed Bernie’s socialist Kool-Aid. We should offer those people a new home as a moderate faction of the Liberal Party.

The point is to seize control of a name the Left has begun to abandon — they prefer to call themselves “progressives” now, despite being conspicuously opposed to most forms of economic and technological progress — and to steal an agenda they have turned against.

Let us openly fly the flag of our pro-freedom agenda by calling ourselves Liberals — and let’s set an agenda that will define the meaning of that word on our own terms. It might work a lot better, in the long run, than trying to rehabilitate the Republican Party after a loud-mouthed real-estate huckster is done running it into the ground.
I have to say that I'm torn. I agree with just about everything Tracinski says, and consider myself a candidate for membership in a new "Liberal" party, but I can't bring myself to concede this election to Hillary Clinton, which is what a third party comprised of conservatives would do. Trump is awful and may do awful things. Hillary is awful and certainly will do awful things.

Trump may do the right thing on Supreme Court appointments, immigration, national defense, Obamacare, and cabinet appointments. Hillary will almost surely give us more Elena Kagans and Sonia Sotomayors, open borders, impulsive foreign adventures like Libya and the Iranian nuclear deal, more government intrusion into our lives, and a cabinet stocked with left-wing ideologues like Van Jones, Loretta Lynch, Eric Holder, Lois Lerner, and John Koskinen. Her foreign and economic policies will be tailored to suit whomever has contributed the most money to her "charitable" Foundation. A Clinton administration will mean higher taxes and crony capitalism on steroids.

Moreover, she may well be abetted by a Democrat-controlled Senate led by Harry Reid or Chuck Schumer.

Given all that, plus the fact that Ms. Clinton may yet be indicted for felonies committed while Secretary of State, I think the more important project at this point in history is to stop Hillary rather than to devote resources to building a third party. Even so, I'd be happy to sign up after the election next November.