The Case for a National Conservative Party
By Bruce Walker
February 9, 2009
Conservatives today are debating whether to remain loyal Republicans or to found a new political party. We should go with what we believe in and form a Conservative Party of America. This new party could oppose global warming as a sick hoax. It could oppose government spending and government waste at every level. It could advocate a simple and a less confiscatory tax structure. It could defend the Judeo-Christian traditions of our nation. A Conservative Party would not need to "balance" its principles so that the two liberal Republican senators from Maine could get reelected.
Sixty percent of Americans routinely identify themselves as conservatives. This is a much bigger percentage than the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Republicans. The Conservative Party of America would have a "brand" that was not tarred like the Republican Party brand. Democrats long since stopped calling themselves "liberals." Why? Conservatives outnumber liberals in every relevant poll by a wide margin. Ideological branding favors conservatives, but partisan branding favors Democrats. We ought to use our advantages and drop our liabilities.
Would the Conservative Party try to replace the Republican Party? There would be no need to do that. The Conservative Party could endorse the Republican Party candidate whenever the Republican Party candidate was a conservative. In 2008, if Republicans had nominated Fred Thompson with Sarah Palin as his running mate, the Conservative Party would have happily made that ticket its national ticket as well. If Republicans had nominated John McCain with Joe Lieberman as his running mate, the Conservative Party could have run its own separate ticket.
Obama would have won in both scenarios, but a strong independent Conservative Party ticket might well have denied him a majority of the popular vote - and America would have heard a principled voice of opposition during the campaign. At least as importantly, conservative turnout in the general election would probably have been much higher if conservatives had a reason to turn out and vote. This would have meant that conservatives up and down the ticket might have won because of increased conservative turnout: Elizabeth Dole and Norm Coleman, for example, might have won reelection comfortably if conservative turnout had been higher in North Carolina and Minnesota.
The Conservative Party would generally endorse Republican candidates, but in those races in which a liberal Republican was running against a Leftist Democrat a robust Conservative Party should run as a third party candidate. We would actually elect some conservatives in elections where Republicans would have lost (the election of Jim Buckley to the Senate from New York was a perfect example of that.) At least as importantly, individual Republicans would be less likely to flirt with the Left if conservatives always picked a candidate for every significant election. Very few Republicans could win election without the conservative vote.
Aside from adopting the Republican nominee (most of the time) and running a separate nominee (some of the time), the Conservative Party could adopt the Democrat nominee (on a few, rare occasions.) Indeed, it would be important to pick a handful of Democrats, particularly in conservative congressional districts or in state elections to affirmatively adopt.
Congressman Boren, for example, declined to endorse fellow Democrat Obama. NARAL gave Boren a zero voting rating while the National Right to Life Committee gave Boren an eighty-two percent rating. The American Conservative Union gave Boren a fifty-seven percent approval rating, and the Family Research Council also gave him high ratings. Adopting conservative Democrats, like Boren, as Conservative Party nominees would show that conservatives were not married to party labels and it would also strengthen the hand of those brave Democrats within their caucuses. Moving Democrats more toward conservatism ought to be one of the most important objectives of American conservatives.
State government is often more naturally conservative than the federal government. State governments cannot print money. They are often the victims of federal judicial bullying. People and businesses leave states that ignore their interests-Californians become Arizonans-while the only escape from the federal government is emigration.
The Conservative Party could champion the rights of state governments and so win state elections in places where Republicans could not win. Governor Freudenthal of Wyoming won reelection with endorsement of the NRA. He is, generally speaking, a conservative. Why not endorse a conservative state governor like him, even if he is a Democrat? Political careers start in state politics. It is in the interest of conservatives to pull as many of America's future political leaders to the conservative position and to hold them there.
The Conservative Party would provide a very comfortable haven for miserable conservative Republicans who want their financial support to be used for what they want - the advancement of conservatism. The Conservative Party would be a carrot and a stick to establishment Republicans. The Conservative Party would use the highly popular "conservative" label instead of the highly malodorous "Republican" label.
The goal should not be to supplant the Republican Party with a Conservative Party. The goal should be to insure that conservatives-that silent majority of Americans-never risk again having their support held hostage to party establishments. We are sixty percent of America, yet Washington ignores our view. Ronald Reagan said it best: "If they can't see the light, let them feel the heat." Amen.
Bruce Walker is a long-time conservative writer whose work is published regularly at popular conservative sites such as American Thinker.