Federalist, Libertarian, Conservative, Republican, or Insensate?

Make America Grate

Make America Grate

Paul David Miller wants to resurrect the Federalist Party:

[T]he new movement should take the name of The Federalists. The Democrats and Republicans have both taken as their name political principles important to the American system of government—and we all believe in both of them. But there is another principle that was equally vital at the founding and has been gradually discarded over the past century: federalism.

A federal system is one in which power is divided between levels of government. This was an important part of the American experiment because the Founders intended the checks and balances to operate not only among the branches of government, but between the levels of government, as well. The states were to check the federal government and vice versa. In the multitude of centers of power, there was freedom.

At least the new party would have its own ready-made party organ – that is, the on-line magazine in which Miller’s article appears. However, there remains something of a conceptual problem here, one that appears within the body of the piece as well as within its precis, which latter reads as follows: “We need a new political party that restrains the federal government in favor of more local solutions. Call it the Federalist Party.”

In short, the Federalists would adopt in their name the very thing they hope to restrain or reduce: the “federal” government, aka “the feds.” The historical root of the problem is that those very “architects” of the republic whose names Miller goes on to invoke, Washington and Hamilton, were seeking greater centralization of state power than were their main adversaries, first the Anti-Federalists, later the Democratic-Republicans of Jefferson and Madison. That in recent decades small-government and “constitutional” conservatives have adopted the term that once stood for greater concentration of power, but now stands or is meant to stand for de-centralization and devolution of power, also created the possibility of a magazine that embraces the spirit of the Anti-Federalists and Democratic-Republicans adopting the name of their shared nemesis.

Or maybe no one who matters cares about such lexical niceties. If anyone actually does, then another, possibly more practical as well as more historically and logically consistent alternative is also examined in the Federalist today by Ben Domenech: Takeover of the Libertarian Party:

If the #NeverTrump people want a protest vote, their best path is a Libertarian takeover, with someone who is Libertarianish on some issues – pot, prostitution, marriage – and yet pro-life and pro-religion enough to win over the votes of the holdouts to the Trump machine: churchgoing evangelicals, avowed social and fiscal conservatives, and those who just find his presence on the national scene to be a vulgar and demeaning one. (It’s no accident that Trump’s worst numbers come in states with heavy Mormon populations.)

Whoever the #NeverTrump folks settle on, they’d be wiser to choose someone with the ability to win a few key states, not just to make a generalized protest vote case against Clintonism and Trumpism. They should be focused on making a difference in the outcome, not just providing a better vehicle for throwing your vote away.

Meanwhile, conservatives being rallied by Erick Erickson are keeping their powder dry – but well within reach – according to today’s “Statement from Conservatives Against Trump”:

We call for a unity ticket that unites the Republican Party. If that unity ticket is unable to get 1,237 delegates prior to the convention, we recognize that it took Abraham Lincoln three ballots at the Republican convention in 1860 to become the party’s nominee and if it is good enough for Lincoln, that process should be good enough for all the candidates without threats of riots.

We encourage all former Republican candidates not currently supporting Trump to unite against him and encourage all candidates to hold their delegates on the first ballot.

Lastly, we intend to keep our options open as to other avenues to oppose Donald Trump. Our multiple decades of work in the conservative movement for free markets, limited government, national defense, religious liberty, life, and marriage are about ideas, not necessarily parties.

Opinions may differ as to whether “keep[-ing] options open” is not already the classic strategic sin of dividing one’s forces in the face of the enemy. On the other hand, if the conservative moment already possessed the unity of command necessary to make and implement any singular and exclusive decision, or a single general or general-in-waiting head and shoulders above all peers, then it would not be in so much trouble.

These and other initiatives all are occurring, obviously, in the shadow of a primary campaign approaching its final phase. A fourth alternative has been proposed by Christopher J Regan, writing in the Washington Examiner: Expulsion of Trump from the Republican Party. The proposal is too reasonable, coherent, and principled to succeed, since it relies on the notion that the Republican Party actually is or has been or might soon be something reasonable, coherent, and principled, or anything other than a vehicle for the promotion of whoever cares to attach the word “Republican” to their movement. It is perhaps indicative that the proposal itself, including a compellingly wistful reflection on the three yes’s of Detroit, comes from a nominal Democrat:

The Republican Party itself must show it is capable of leadership. Trump should be expelled, immediately, from the GOP nominating contest. None of the other candidates need to debate him further — they are not required to do so and should never again appear with him, anywhere. The RNC rules committee should announce that his candidacy will not be considered at the Republican convention in Cleveland, period. It is within their power to do this.

Regan’s main grounds for expulsion:

Trump’s campaign has descended into violence and it has to stop now… People are being slugged at speeches. Rallies are turning into riots. Donald Trump calls for violence directly from the podium at his events, over and over again. Trump encourages, and provides cover for, violent, dangerous, and indeed terroristic organizations that formerly festered on the fringes of our society.

To the dismay of many Republicans, the Party missed its chances, or repeated chances to choose principle over tactics – assuming that there are “Republican principles.”

Meanwhile, in a masterpiece of polemical false equivalence – in which, for instance, candidate Trump’s repeated, open calls for violence, or thinly veiled threats of same, are equated with once upon a time candidate Obama’s highly atypical occasional use of campaign-as-combat rhetoric – Victor Davis Hanson asks us all, implicitly his colleagues at National Review especially, to calm down:

So let us all take a deep breath…

I would not vote for Donald Trump in the primary, given that I have no idea what he would do as president and thus most certainly hope he does not get the nomination. But he seems about on par with the current president, in terms of reckless speeches, inexperience, crudity, and cluelessness. Yet I don’t recall hearing that many in the Democratic party ever felt that Obama’s provocative and ignorant campaign utterances, along with his past associations with the likes of Tony Rezko, Reverend Wright, Bill Ayers, and Father Pfleger, had driven them to vote for a far more sober and judicious John McCain or Mitt Romney.

To put it in terms that Hanson might understand: A more morally as well as politically insensate, as well as ill-timed and unwelcome, utterance, offered in the name of σωφροσύνη, but in abject service to its opposite, would be hard for any nevertrumpist, to imagine. For them, it’s ἀνερρίφθω κύβος fast approaching, or already here.


One comment on “Federalist, Libertarian, Conservative, Republican, or Insensate?

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  1. I think the adoption and inversion of the Federalist brand is a grave mistake. Unless the goal is friendly fire.

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