Dan Phillips: #NeverTrump’s Third Party Dilemma

The following article was originally published on LewRockwell.com on May 18th, 2016 by Dan Phillips, MD:

Ever since Sen. Ted Cruz suspended his campaign and Donald Trump essentially secured the Republican nomination, certain elements of Conservative Inc. have been flailing about attempting to promote the idea of a third party challenge to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton that would more precisely reflect movement conservative pieties. So far, their efforts have not exactly caught fire.

There are many reasons for this that I don’t have time to cover in a short essay, but one of them is clearly logistics. It is incredibly difficult and expensive to run nationally as a third party or independent candidate. Some important state deadlines have already passed and some states have extremely difficult barriers to overcome to get on the ballot as an independent or third party candidate. The crucial state of Texas is an example of both of these problems. You almost have to use paid professional signature collectors in some states and at a couple of dollars a signature that’s not cheap. The #NeverTrump third party advocates have also indicated that they are prepared to mount expensive legal challenges in states were deadlines have already passed, and there is no guarantee that these challenges would even succeed.

It’s ironic that difficult ballot access laws have historically been a tool of the Establishment to force most voters into one of the two party boxes and quell opposition to the reigning paradigm. Now that a non-traditional candidate has managed to secure the nomination of a major party, perhaps the Powers That Be will rethink the wisdom of that strategy, but for now I will admit to taking a bit of perverse pleasure in watching many of the same people who told me third party voting was futile, and, therefore, I had to vote for Romney, McCain, Bush II, Dole, Bush I, etc. struggle with the same barriers us outsiders have always struggled with.

With the logistical difficulty of running a de novo independent or third party candidate, it has been suggested that the #NeverTrumpers should consider working within an existing third party that already has an infrastructure and ballot access in some states, but herein lies the real dilemma for #NeverTrump. There are no movement conservative, neoconish third parties to speak of. That sentiment resides entirely within the GOP and to a much lesser degree than they previously thought as the success of Donald Trump clearly indicates.

While many #NeverTrumpers insist that they can’t support Trump because of his demeanor or temperament or fitness for office, and I don’t doubt that some are sincere about this, don’t let the bulk of them kid you that their motivation is not ultimately about a certain set of issues. The leaders of #NeverTrump will pretend that they are standing up for the long-established conservative “principles” of budget and tax cutting, social issues like abortion and gender segregated bathrooms and foreign policy hawkishness, and again, I don’t doubt that some #NeverTrump foot soldiers are actually sincere about this, but this is a virtually transparent ruse for what is really going on.

Indeed, Trump doesn’t mouth the typical budget cutting and tax cutting pieties that movement conservative functionaries so love, but when was the last time these clowns significantly cut a budget? Paul Ryan just handed Obama everything he wanted on a silver platter in the omnibus budget bill, and yet he wants us to believe that he can’t support Trump because Trump isn’t a budget hawk? And while I have never seen a tax cut I don’t like, it’s funny how the kind of tax cuts that Con Inc. types favors, like cuts to the marginal rate or the capital gains rate, always seem to help the wealthy donor class the most. When was the last time you heard a #NeverTrump type advocate for cutting broad-based taxes like the federal gas tax or the FICA tax that would actually help the majority of people who vote for their party? And on social issues, the same people who wanted us to accept Romney’s and Bush I’s conversions on abortion at face value now tell us Trump can’t be trusted on the issue.

Give me a break. The opposition of the leadership of #NeverTrump is based on Trump’s explicit nationalism and economic populism and his more America First foreign policy. They just can’t say that in so many words because Trump’s position on immigration and opposition to international trade deals are popular with the base, and have long been the modal position of average Republican voters in Flyover Country. #NeverTrump seeks to maintain the globalist, transnationalist elite consensus favored by the donor class, but speaks of conservative “principles” and “ideals” to fool sincere but misled activists and voters.

If #NeverTrump were to look to an existing third party, the Constitution Party would be the most natural and obvious choice. It is the “more” conservative third-party alternative with by far the largest national footprint. Its nominee, Tennessee lawyer Darrell Castle, is not a “big name” outside CP circles, but he is a long time CP activist who the conservative box checkers, like many of those who supported Ted Cruz, would have a hard time finding fault with. The big name problem could also be dealt with easily with concerted #NeverTrump effort. A few strategic endorsements and well-placed mainstream and conservative media articles and editorials and Castle would be a big name overnight.

The problem for #NeverTrump, however, is that the CP is a paleoish party. The CP was initially formed in 1992 partially as a coalition of existing state conservative parties, primarily as a potential vehicle for a Pat Buchanan third party run after his unsuccessful primary challenge to George H. W. Bush. The CP is restrictionist on immigration, opposed to international trade deals and non-interventionist on foreign policy. While there has sometimes been some confusion among outsiders who apparently assume the party is just the GOP on steroids, and some internal contention within the party especially on foreign policy, the CP has always maintained, by and large, it paleo character. This makes it a problematic vehicle for the globalist, transnationalism leading #NeverTrump.

Then there is, of course, the Libertarian Party whose likely nominee is Gary Johnson. The Libertarian Party is the most well establish of all the third parties. It will likely be on the ballot in all 50 states in November. Gary Johnson is a former Republican Governor and a serious and credible guy for those who believe they are too sophisticated to vote for a “no-name” candidate or an “insignificant” party. The Libertarian Party is, for the most part, pro-open borders on immigration and pro-free trade which is acceptable to the #NeverTrump globalists. (There is some debate within the LP on immigration and whether trade deals, as opposed to free trade in theory, are a good thing, but Gary Johnson represents neither of those factions.) But the LP is even more doctrinaire non-interventionist on foreign policy than is the CP which still maintains some vestiges of movement conservative “peace through strength” and “strong military” rhetoric. This is wholly unacceptable to most #NeverTrumpers because the universalist rhetoric that is used to justify America’s outsized role in the world is what the support for open borders and trade deals rides in on.  Without it, the rationale for an “outward looking” internationalist party rather than an inward-looking and self-interested nationalist party is lost.

And there you have the “major” “rightish” third party options unless #NeverTrump plans to hijack the Green Party. See what your Establishment efforts to quash third parties have wrought? There are some state level conservative parties, such as the American Independent Party in California, but they do not have a national presence. There are also some alternative conservative parties that exist mostly as internet websites, but they are almost always non-interventionist as well. Since foreign policy interventionism so dominates the Republican Party, it makes sense that outsiders who are dissatisfied with what the GOP has to offer would disproportionately be non-interventionists. There just isn’t any movement conservative but more so party out there for #NeverTrump to latch onto. Movement conservatives have generally been happy with the Republican Party because the Republican Party has more or less, at least rhetorically, supported their agenda.

Given this existing third party dynamic, #NeverTrump appears to be left with attempting to initiate a de novo third party or independent campaign as their only viable option. Perhaps they could call this new party the Phone Booth Party, because, from the looks of things, that’s where they’ll be able to hold their convention. And good luck with that “big name” candidate recruitment.

14 thoughts on “Dan Phillips: #NeverTrump’s Third Party Dilemma

  1. Cody Quirk

    Another factor is the CP’s poor organizational strength and lack of ballot access in the majority of states, plus their baggage on the issue of religion and religious bigotry is quite extensive and problematic.

    That’s not including how some state affiliates that are ballot-qualified, like the Idaho CP, do not like Darrell Castle and have placed other presidential candidates on their ballot instead.

  2. Jay Wildwood

    “While many #NeverTrumpers insist that they can’t support Trump because of his demeanor or temperament or fitness for office, and I don’t doubt that some are sincere about this, don’t let the bulk of them kid you that their motivation is not ultimately about a certain set of issues. ”

    It’s about both. While there are many issues to dislike Trump on, his complete lack of fiscal conservatism is the biggest one for me, since that is what made Republicans the lesser evil for me at all.

  3. Jay Wildwood

    “The leaders of #NeverTrump will pretend that they are standing up for the long-established conservative “principles” of budget and tax cutting, social issues like abortion and gender segregated bathrooms and foreign policy hawkishness, and again, I don’t doubt that some #NeverTrump foot soldiers are actually sincere about this, but this is a virtually transparent ruse for what is really going on.”

    Out of these budget and tax cutting are the only ones that appeal to me. The rest are issues I’ve always disagreed with the GOP on, and barely tolerated because the Democrats were even worse on fiscal sanity.

  4. Jay Wildwood

    “Indeed, Trump doesn’t mouth the typical budget cutting and tax cutting pieties that movement conservative functionaries so love, but when was the last time these clowns significantly cut a budget? Paul Ryan just handed Obama everything he wanted on a silver platter in the omnibus budget bill, and yet he wants us to believe that he can’t support Trump because Trump isn’t a budget hawk? ”

    Fair point. Then again, practical politics is all about compromise and settling for less than what you want but more than the other side wants. If those who at least mouth support for some semblance of fiscal sanity can’t deliver, how much worse can we expect from a candidate who doesn’t even try to pay lip service to the idea, if he gets elected and teams up with the Democrats in Congress to elevate our fiscal lunacy to Zimbabwe-like levels and beyond?

  5. Jay Wildwood

    “And while I have never seen a tax cut I don’t like, it’s funny how the kind of tax cuts that Con Inc. types favors, like cuts to the marginal rate or the capital gains rate, always seem to help the wealthy donor class the most. When was the last time you heard a #NeverTrump type advocate for cutting broad-based taxes like the federal gas tax or the FICA tax that would actually help the majority of people who vote for their party?”

    I’m with you there. I have never seen a tax cut I don’t like. This #NeverTrump type is all for cutting FICA and gas taxes!

  6. Jay Wildwood

    “Give me a break. The opposition of the leadership of #NeverTrump is based on Trump’s explicit nationalism and economic populism and his more America First foreign policy.”

    I share my strong opposition to Trump on those issues with them. As Greg Jones explained yesterday on another thread:

    “Trump:

    Supports mass roundups and deportations of an eight-figure population of immigrants and their American citizen children, which along with his protectionist trade policy would wreck the economy.

    Wants to monitor Muslim Americans, ban Muslims from immigrating to or visiting the US, thinks waterboarding doesn’t go nearly far enough, and would “bomb the shit out of” parts of the middle east and “take their oil.”

    Thinks the Patriot Act and domestic surveillance didn’t go far enough. Wants more control of dissenting journalists, a la Putin.

    Isn’t a fiscal conservative. Shows no sincerity at the times he calls for any kind of tax or spending cuts. From one minute to the next, he is or isn’t calling for minimum wage hikes and supports higher taxes on job creators. Definitely supports penalties on companies that maximize efficiency and lower prices for consumers by outsourcing. Says he wants a bigger and more expensive military than ever before. Opposes entitlement reforms or cuts. Will probably end up calling for massive infrastructure “investments,” “free” college, nationalized healthcare, and/or other policies aimed at peeling Sanders voters away from Clinton, if I’m charting the course of the fall campaign correctly.

    His immigration, trade and domestic surveillance policies will destroy the economy and balloon the debt. They will also lead to increasing tensions with foreign nations. In an effort to raise his sinking popularity and give the economy a quick boost he will almost certainly turn to war. Perhaps his policies towards Muslim Americans and Muslims traveling to America will increase terrorism, which he will use as a pretext for war. Maybe the leaders of Russia, China or some Latin American nation will insult him. The man has the temperament of a tantrum throwing toddler combined with a middle school bully on the playground. How long before he gets into some fights?

    These are the reasons this heretofore “small l libertarian” is considering the Big L Libertarian option this year.

    It’s true that *some* of the Never Trump Republicans also take him at his word, mistakenly by my estimate, that he is a non-interventionist on foreign policy, and oppose him for that reason. Some of them also find his alleged conversion on social issues such as abortion to be insincere, which it may well be. However, I’m far from the only NeverTrumper who was never a social conservative or a foreign interventionist to begin with. My guess would be that his social conservatism is indeed insincere, which would be perfectly fine with me, and that his non-interventionism is likewise insincere or wouldn’t last very long once he is in office, which I find to be worrisome for the reasons stated above.”

  7. Jay Wildwood

    As Greg Jones also explained:

    “… don’t want trade wars that will cripple the economy, forced roundup and deportations of millions of hard working employees, a ban on Muslims moving to or visiting the US and monitoring of the millions of Muslims already here, torture methods that are much worse than waterboarding, preserving and (perhaps massively) expanding the entire ballooning entitlement state with no reforms, higher taxes on job creators and higher minimum wages that cut the bottom rungs off the ladder of economic opportunity for the poor, nationalized healthcare, etc, etc. Such policies would make the US a pariah nation on the world stage, and plunge the world into economic depression and war.

    At his core, Trump is an opportunist. Right past that, he is an authoritarian-populist nationalist with a strong appeal to dog whistle racism, which is the exact polar opposite of a libertarian. You may disagree, but I think it’s entirely fair to characterize Trump as a fascist in the 20th century European tradition. We already know how such demagogues fare when they assume office and the course that their holds on power tend to take. First come the public works programs, military parades, and soft authoritarian domestic police measures along with plenty of rousing patriotic speeches. Next, rising tensions with foreign powers, escalation in domestic anti-foreign propaganda and cranking up of war industries to give the economy a “sugar high,” followed by war, collapse and ruin. Along the way, the populist demagogue neutralizes opposition in the legislature and courts, among journalists and at the local level by going on radio, or these days TV, to appeal directly to the people, and gradually centralizes power in his own hands. We’ve seen all this before, although never yet with nuclear weapons, but this time we will.

    It’s true that some NeverTrump Republicans are also very far from being libertarians, but Trump is even worse. And many NeverTrumpers are more libertarian than the people you mentioned. We voted Republican up til now because of the fiscal insanity of the Democrats, and despite, not because of, the social conservatives and war hawks in the GOP. Now, with the remaining choices offered by the major parties being a socialist, a fascist, and a corrupt centrist, we’re honestly not sure which is the lesser evil, and considering the LP seriously for the first time, even though it is still too extreme for us.

    I guess some allegedly purist Libertarians find that they have more in common with a populist authoritarian nationalist, i.e. fascist, than they do with moderate libertarians who used to vote Republican out of pragmatic reasons? That seems both counterintuitive and sad, but perhaps not surprisingly, given the sad and ugly history of flirting with and sometimes downright wallowing in racism by so-called “paleo-libertarians,” along with immigrant-bashing xenophobia among some conspiracy-obsessed “anti-globalists” which sometimes gets conflated with libertarianism for reasons that escape me completely.”

  8. Jay Wildwood

    And as I wrote yesterday:

    The real bottom line with Trump is that he is as far as you can possibly get from being a fiscal conservative, as well as being a dangerous authoritarian demagogue and a thin skinned bully…exactly the kind of person least suited for the powers of the presidency. I’m not sure how you conflate purist libertarianism with a domestic police state, mass deportations and travel bans, and wrecking the economy with trade wars, but if that really does seem more libertarian than the status quo, I propose a trade:

    Send the Alex Jones and Lew Rockwell crowds to join the Reagan Democrats, Pat Buchananites, David Duke and the neo-confederates and white nationalists in the Trumped Republican Party, and let them stay there permanently. In exchange, let the reasonable fiscal conservative/socially liberal pragmatic libertarians such as Weld, Johnson, Reason, Cato, and the “Kochtopus” have the Libertarian Party. I think that would be a great trade if we could make it. Can our resident Libertarian extremists accept such a deal? Come on guys…you get to be in a major party for a change…what do you say?

  9. Jay Wildwood

    “And on social issues, the same people who wanted us to accept Romney’s and Bush I’s conversions on abortion at face value now tell us Trump can’t be trusted on the issue.”

    I don’t trust any of their conversions on the issue, but that’s OK with me, as I am a moderate on the issue myself – opposed to late term abortions, pro-choice on the early pregnancy abortions that make up the vast majority of abortions overall.

  10. Jay Wildwood

    “They just can’t say that in so many words because Trump’s position on immigration and opposition to international trade deals are popular with the base, and have long been the modal position of average Republican voters in Flyover Country.”

    Let me say it for them, then, as I find Trump’s positions on immigration and trade to be absolute deal breakers, as do many libertarian and fiscally conservative Republicans. Appealing to the worst instincts of lynch mobs and economic ignoramuses because it is popular is a bad idea as well. If you live by the mob, don’t be surprised if you die by the mob. It’s the same type of popularity that propelled demagogues and populist dictators to power for many decades.

  11. Jay Wildwood

    “The problem for #NeverTrump, however, is that the CP is a paleoish party. The CP was initially formed in 1992 partially as a coalition of existing state conservative parties, primarily as a potential vehicle for a Pat Buchanan third party run after his unsuccessful primary challenge to George H. W. Bush. The CP is restrictionist on immigration, opposed to international trade deals and non-interventionist on foreign policy.”

    Yeah, no thanks. Non-interventionist is the only redeeming feature there. It doesn’t make up for the rest.

  12. George Dance

    I notice that, while the LRC mentions the LPs “open borders” policy, and that some libertarians (ie, themselves) disagree, they don’t mention the Constitution Party’s stand on the issue. For the record, the CP stands for a closed border, with no immigration, period: zero tolerance for illegal immigration, of course, and also a ‘moratorium’ on legal immigration.

  13. Jay Wildwood

    “Then there is, of course, the Libertarian Party whose likely nominee is Gary Johnson. The Libertarian Party is the most well establish of all the third parties. It will likely be on the ballot in all 50 states in November. Gary Johnson is a former Republican Governor and a serious and credible guy for those who believe they are too sophisticated to vote for a “no-name” candidate or an “insignificant” party. The Libertarian Party is, for the most part, pro-open borders on immigration and pro-free trade which is acceptable to the #NeverTrump globalists. (There is some debate within the LP on immigration and whether trade deals, as opposed to free trade in theory, are a good thing, but Gary Johnson represents neither of those factions.) But the LP is even more doctrinaire non-interventionist on foreign policy than is the CP which still maintains some vestiges of movement conservative “peace through strength” and “strong military” rhetoric. This is wholly unacceptable to most #NeverTrumpers because the universalist rhetoric that is used to justify America’s outsized role in the world is what the support for open borders and trade deals rides in on. Without it, the rationale for an “outward looking” internationalist party rather than an inward-looking and self-interested nationalist party is lost.”

    I’m largely in the non-interventionist camp, so this sounds like a great argument for the Libertarians. The only problem I see with Libertarians is the presence of what I hope is a small faction, albeit quite vocal here, that simultaneously claims to be no-compromise purist yet somehow sees a lot of redeeming value in the insanely authoritarian Trump, as they proclaim him to be less bad than other Republicans. I get accused by these people of not being a libertarian, of being an usurper and government agent and on and one in that vein.

  14. Jim Polichak from Long Island

    I JUST SENT THIS TO THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR>>>
    How about more coverage of the two minor parties that will probably be on the ballot in all fifty states?
    The two major parties are about to nominate the two most disliked candidates in polling history. Many people will go to the polls in November trying to chose between the lesser of two evils.
    A Libertarian ticket of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld {two former GOP governors} has more executive experience than Trump and Clinton has together and Jill Stein of the Green Party speaks to the most important issue of this century. What good is a tax cut if your home is underwater {Literally, not figuratively}.
    The American vote has a right to know more about how their presidential options extend beyond the two major parties.
    The presidential debate commission run by the two parties since the League of Woman Voters gave up trying to run fair debates have set an almost impossible standard for minor party candidates to achieve for a podium at the debates – 15% in five different national polls to be chosen by the debate commission.
    Most news organizations have gone along with this standard as an excuse not to give a reasonable amount of coverage to minor party candidate thereby assuring that it is all but impossible to achieve that polling number.
    Two former governors challenging a reality TV star for the presidency is certainly a story that should be covered by the media on at least a weekly basis.
    And a champion of the environment and foe of global warming has to be at least as newsworthy as the obstructionist and naysayers who declare that the jury is still out on global warming.
    I URGE EVERY READER OF IPR TO SEND SIMILAR NOTES TO EVERY MEDIA SITE THAT THEY FREQUENT.

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