Ted Cruz posted a link to this article under the headline “Why Conservatives will need a new party if/when Hillary wins.” Before proceeding, you should read, but it in the context of “Ted Cruz thought this was something worth sharing”, not “this article is factually correct and worth reading on its own merits.”
There are a lot of elements at play here. First, the author trashes John Cornyn, the other Senator from Texas. It’s weird that Cruz would share this just for that reason. Then the article continues to promote the vast right-wing conspiracy that somehow, because Republicans have held the House for six years, they are to blame for everything Liberals have ever done. That is a lot of bologna, for sure, but it’s not anything unusual, and it’s certainly the type of thing one would expect from Cruz.
The interesting part is the idea that the GOP is too far gone, and Cruz-type, tea party conservatives should start their own party to counteract. One “interesting” thing about this article is it never really relies on Trump to suggest the party is beyond salvageable. It, again, bases this assertion on the myth that Republicans in Congress are spineless and as responsible for liberal policies as President Obama. I don’t think the GOP is beyond salvageable, but I’m also not a tea-partier, and I certainly disagree with this reasoning as to why the GOP would be gone. If the GOP is gone, it is because the white nationalists have won, with help from tea-party extremists such as Cruz. As individual parts of the GOP determine how to move on from 2016, I have no doubt that some elements will ultimately decide to leave the party altogether. I disagree with this approach, but I think the ones who leave under “the white nationalists have won” theory will be infinitely more justified in their decision than those who do so under the “Congressional Republicans should pretend there isn’t a thing called a veto” theory.
This leads us to why Cruz would want to promote the idea that we need a conservative third-party defection from the GOP. Presumably, Cruz would see himself as leading such a movement, and is calculating that he needs to get out in front of this idea. One of the initial problems I see with this is that such a third-party movement, or at least wide-swathes of it, might not want to be led by Cruz. If 2016 were to lead to a conservative 3rd-party movement, despite what this article says, it would be a response to Trump as opposed to the “establishment.” Since Cruz will be on the wrong-side of the Trump issue, this would cause problems.
That being said, if Cruz were to lead a 3rd-party exodus from the GOP, this would easily be the worst-case scenario for Conservatives from a political perspective. While I think it would also be a disaster in terms of Cruz’s policy ideas, I’ll save that for another time. Politically, there would then be three major forces in American politics. With the GOP split, the Dems would easily be leading on a national level. Then, with the Cruz wing out of the GOP, there would probably not be enough resistance to keep the party from falling to the nationalists in future election cycles (for all the problems with the tea party, and there are many, if you are team #NeverTrump like I am, some of them are on the same side in this fight, and we need everyone we can get). There would then be an anti-immigration, anti-trade white nationalist party caring little of conservative ideals operating under the Republican Party name. This party would be demographically dying.
Then you would have a “tea party” party. This party would be the one closest to conservative ideals. It would also be too far from the mainstream to accomplish anything and, if Cruz is the leader, would have little interest in accomplishing anything. In fact, it would also be demographically dying at not much slower a rate than the white-nationalist party, and would probably be almost as anti-immigration reform. For this reason, it would contribute almost zilch to solving the current problem of many Americans feeling out-of-place in either party. As much as they whine and gripe, the tea party still fits somewhat ideologically consistently within the pre-Trump Republican party (ironically enough, it fits less well with Trump and yet some of them complain a lot less loudly about him, but that is for another day), or at least as much as one can expect in a system that can only naturally sustain two parties. Many of the people who would be abandoned by the white nationalist party are groups such as millennials, somewhat conservative minorities, and some people of religious-orientation. Many of these groups support policies such as refugee assistance, comprehensive immigration reform, and criminal justice reform that the mostly older, whiter Cruz demographic would fight tooth and nail on. Thus, all this Cruzian party will have accomplished is giving Cruz an elevated position atop a short-lived political movement that would ensure Democrats easily maintained control at a national level and that many Conservatives would have no political home.
Personally, I am of the opinion that the proper Conservative response to Trumpism is to stay in the GOP, create better messaging to convey to the white working-class why Conservative solutions will fix problems while anti-immigration, anti-trade ideas won’t, and then fight till the bitter end to ensure the GOP doesn’t fall to the nationalists. There are several reasons for this. First, time is on the Conservatives’ side in this intraparty civil war. As the country becomes more millennial and less white, there will naturally be less support for Trumpism. Second is the practical reason that in the United States, it is simply incredibly difficult to sustain more than two parties. Thus, if it is reasonable to believe that necessary reforms can come from inside the current parties, that should always be the first option. Third is simply the consequences of letting one of the two major parties in our country be dominated by white-nationalists in the short-term and the damage this would do to our political system. At that point, there is no real competition of ideas, and that isn’t healthy for democracy.
Let me add one addendum to that, though. While I am of the belief that it is better to be preparing for intraparty civil war than it is to be preparing to exit the GOP, if there is a credible case for a GOP exodus, it’s more of the Evan McMullin route than the Ted Cruz route. The McMullin route is pro-immigration reform, pro-refugee, and less pushy on marriage at the federal level, but it is pro-life, pro-free markets, very pro-10th amendment, and pro-trade. I would argue that all of those things, including the first three, can easily be conveyed as Conservative, but regardless of your views on these issues, it is a Conservatism packaged in a way to reach a wider audience and (gasp) win elections. The Cruz option doesn’t do any of this. It just indulges some Republicans’ addiction to minority status and complaining without offering ideas for how to expand their brand of Conservatism’s reach (beyond the Cruz myth of “evangelicals who didn’t show up to vote for McCain/Romney would vote for this”). I’m not sure creating a new political party is the best response to the mess of 2016, but the McMullin path is at least coherent and has an end goal.