Writing on the Wall for the GOP? Part II: A Post-GOP Future?

Principled conservatives such as Franklin Graham are acknowledging that increasingly, they have more chance of success outside the Republican Party than inside.  GOP leaders by and large do not respect them.  So, increasingly, they are leaving and taking their chances elsewhere.  Their ranks grow every day.

By Andrew Thomas | January 25, 2016


As internal disputes over illegal immigration, trade, abortion and marriage threaten the survival of the Republican Party, our nation’s political history provides some helpful points of reference.  The tectonic shifts undermining the Republican Party and reshaping the political landscape are not without precedent. They are, in fact, reminiscent of an era when another great and overarching social issue rent the nation.

A severe split occurred over the issue of slavery.  This division destroyed the Whig Party and created a four-way contest for president in the elections of 1860.  The Whigs splintered into the Republican Party, which attracted the lion’s share of former Whigs, and the Constitutional Union Party, a lesser faction that, like the GOP establishment today, tried to ignore the pivotal issue leading to the breakup (slavery then, illegal immigration and other social issues now).  Another group split off from the Democratic Party to appeal without apology to Southerners.

This four-way race allowed Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln to win the presidency with what is still the smallest plurality in U.S. history:  less than 40 percent of the popular vote.  As recently as 2000, Ralph Nader proved that even small slivers of the popular vote, redistributed from the two major parties to a third candidate, can prove decisive.

As the Republican Party’s troubles signal weakness to the political marketplace, other parties and independent movements are challenging it. The Libertarian Party is a growing force.  In Arizona, for example, Libertarian candidates routinely pull significant slices of the vote – mostly from the right, jeopardizing Republican candidacies. A Republican attempt to break this dynamic with stricter ballot-access legislation was beaten back by Democrats and the liberal media in 2014.

As in 1860, the 2016 elections may well feature multiple, well-funded independent or third-party candidates for president. Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, is explicitly testing the waters for what would be a well-funded independent campaign.  John McAfee, the mercurial computer anti-virus mogul and the subject of a forthcoming TV series, is running to be the Libertarian Party candidate.  Should he run as an independent, as he is telegraphing, Jim Webb, former Democratic senator from Virginia and Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan, may well take from both Republicans and Democrats.  Trump himself presumably would run an independent campaign, if he loses the GOP nomination.  And, at some point, a Christian leader such as Franklin Graham may emerge, if not in 2016 then in some future contest.  The Republican Party that would remain would be the party establishment:  a rump group that essentially supports the Democratic agenda save for tax cuts.

From this chaos, a new conservative party may well emerge.  Unlike the current Republican Party, this group potentially could attract minority voters concerned about the loss of jobs through trade deals and immigration, as well as family-values issues.  Eventually, that party may compete with the Democrats, who would undoubtedly hold sway until such a realignment took place.  Democrats have shrewdly cobbled together an enduring coalition founded on iron-clad commitments to race-based policies and higher education, where liberal bias and indoctrination steadily produce college graduates who vote Democratic.

The Republican leaders who for years have looked the other way at these trends finally would pay a price, as would conservatives for a time.  The phrase “no pain, no gain” would become the mantra for conservatives during this period of transition, as Democrats would likely do well in the short run.  Eventually, though, Democrats would be blamed for the continued decline in the state of the nation, as would surely follow. A new, genuinely conservative party could arise, draw and retain supporters, and lead the nation forward.

It is, of course, quite possible that someone such as Donald Trump will actually change the GOP.  However, for this transformed party to survive, moderate Republicans and the donor class would have to accept this new reality, salute and remain loyal.  That outcome is far from certain, and overall seems unlikely, as the rumblings from anti-Trump Republicans already make clear.  Indeed, recent history at the state level has shown moderates have a habit of melting away from conservative candidates, when those nominees face the full brunt of the liberal media firestorm right before an election.  In contrast, the GOP establishment counts on conservative voters to do the opposite, holding their collective nose to vote for the “lesser of two evils” and support Republican nominees, whoever they may be, in general elections.  Establishment and moderate Republicans tend not to return the favor.

Principled conservatives such as Franklin Graham are acknowledging that increasingly, they have more chance of success outside the Republican Party than inside.  GOP leaders by and large do not respect them.  So, increasingly, they are leaving and taking their chances elsewhere.  Their ranks grow every day.

Andrew Thomas is a graduate of the University of Missouri and Harvard Law School. Twice elected as Maricopa County Attorney, the district attorney for metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona, Thomas served a county of four million residents and ran one of the largest prosecutor’s offices in the nation. He established a national reputation for fighting violent crime, identity theft, drug abuse and illegal immigration. He is the author of four books, including Clarence Thomas: A Biography and the The People v. Harvard Law: How America’s Oldest Law School Turned Its Back on Free Speech. Mr. Thomas ran for governor of Arizona in 2014, receiving endorsements from many conservative leaders. He is a fellow with the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research and a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.