The Slatest

Disaffected Republicans Threaten Breakaway Third Party to Kneecap Trump’s GOP

A woman brandishes a "Trump Forever" sign from the back of a military truck.
The Never Trumpers have a long way to go. Apu Gomes/Getty Images

The Republican Party, you may have noticed, is in a bit of a tizzy. As most of the party trudges zombielike toward the magical thinking of Donald Trump’s GOP, a smattering of Never Trumpers in the party, are activating a breakaway plan. It’s not exactly clear how far along in the organizing process these disaffected Republicans are, but since the New York Times reported Tuesday this loose assemblage of rebels is currently “preparing to release a letter this week” threatening to leave the party if it doesn’t disavow Trump, let’s assume the rebels haven’t gotten much past the angry conference call stage. One of the group’s leaders, Miles Taylor, says the letter—titled “A Call for American Renewal”—has garnered support from more than 100 Republicans and will be released Thursday. It will presumably be “strongly worded.”

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The names that are being floated as signatories to the letter are a throwback to the turn of the century George W. days: Republican governors like Tom Ridge, Christine Todd Whitman, former Bush Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, along with a slew of former House members including Charlie Dent, Barbara Comstock, Reid Ribble, and Mickey Edwards. The letter is timed to drop shortly after Rep. Liz Cheney is expected to be ousted from the Republican leadership for her unwillingness to go along with the grand Trump election lie. “The Republican Party is broken. It’s time for a resistance of the ‘rationals’ against the ‘radicals,’ ” Taylor said of the members of potential breakaway party.

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Another way to describe these rational asteroids threatening to decamp is: voters. So far it doesn’t appear that any sitting member of Congress intends to sign on to the effort, including Cheney herself, such that the disgruntled band of former officials doesn’t have much official sway other than they’re outraged voters. It seems pretty unlikely that a threat to leave the Republican Party is going to affect the actual party’s thinking because this isn’t the first time disenchanted Republicans, individually and collectively, have made such rumblings or, in some cases, done exactly that. Actually starting a third party, however, could be effective in getting the GOP’s attention, but only insofar as it could accumulate leverage by siphoning off votes from the current GOP vote bank. Starting a party, even a notional one, would require a substantial mobilization and significant infrastructure to field candidates, presumably not nationwide but rather in targeted races. Those candidates surely won’t actually win elections, but if they were high profile enough, they will likely raise enough cash to be effective as a GOP spoiler.

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“I’m still a Republican, but I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth because how quickly the party has divorced itself from truth and reason,” Taylor, the group organizer, told the Times. “I’m one of those in the group that feels very strongly that if we can’t get the G.O.P. back to a rational party that supports free minds, free markets, and free people, I’m out and a lot of people are coming with me.” Such a sweeping principled stand is a nice thought, but given what we’ve seen over the past five or six years, a GOP kneecapping is probably the most anyone can hope for.

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