It is often stated, perhaps too often without qualification or clarification, that the Republican Party is Donald Trump’s party now.
There is no way to argue against one fundamental fact that supports that statement. Donald Trump has a huge following, certainly comprising a majority and more among those who call themselves Republicans. There are certainly also many who are not Trump enthusiasts but who would probably support him or his political heir in future elections because their doubts about Trump are outweighed by their stronger dislike of Democrats and the kinds of (liberal) things for which Democrats vote and support.
(We’ll skip, for today, another of my rants against the abuse by Trump and Republicans of the word “socialism” to describe liberals and Democrats who do not describe themselves that way. If you want to read one of those old — but heartfelt — rants, try this link.)
But if, as seems likely, Trump or a Trump impersonator will be the likely Republican nominee for president in 2024, it is vital for the future of democratic-republicanism in America that no such person gain the Oval Office, which is why I was intrigued by “A Call for American Renewal.” The letter was published last week by a number of prominent political and governmental personages, including several with longstanding Republican credentials; in it they set out principles that, without mentioning Trump by name, made clear that there will little hope of Trump or any Trump heir or imitator gaining the support of this group.
If you click the link (here’s another shot at it) I guarantee you’ll recognize the names of many of the signatories. They include former Republican elected officials (like former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson and former Sen. Dave Durenberger), former top Republican Party officials (like former RNC Chair Michael Steele), former Trump associates (like Anthony Scaramucci), former governors and Cabinet members (Tom Ridge was both governor of Pennsylvania and George W. Bush’s secretary of Homeland Security) and other names you’ll recognize.
It’s an impressive list, although few of them haven’t previously made clear their distaste for Trumpism. It sets out 13 “principles,” (the first of which is titled “Democracy”). The principles are mostly pretty unsubtle rejections of Trumpism — of which the second to last, titled “WHAT’S THE CALL?” answers:
“A Call for American Renewal is a rallying cry for pragmatists everywhere. Our nation’s future should not be dictated by a single person but by principles that bind us together. That’s why we believe in pushing for the Republican Party to rededicate itself to founding ideals — or else hasten the creation of an alternative.”
That last “hasten the creation of an alternative” is intriguing. It appears to be a not very veiled threat that, if the Republican Party continues to be a party of Trumpism, the signatories, representing pre-Trump and anti-Trump conservatism, will start a new party to serve as a moderately-right-of-center alternative to what the Democratic Party offers. But that party, apparently, would be rooted in several principles that, while not explicitly labeled as a repudiation of Trump and Trumpism, clearly reject that agenda and offer a home to old-fashioned Republicans who feel no longer willing to plight their troth to the GOP if it continues down the Trumpist path.
Third parties don’t generally have much luck winning American elections. And I certainly don’t claim to know how far this effort will go or how many votes it might siphon from a Trump or Trumpist Republican ticket in 2024.
But providing sane, moderate Republicans with an alternative way to express their feelings about Trump without having to go all the way into the Democratic camp could – I have no idea how likely – be a factor in rendering Trumpism unelectable, or at least less electable, for the foreseeable future.
Or not. The future is a dark forest.