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OPINION | EDITORIAL: The 150

Not exactly ‘300’, but who’s counting? May 15, 2021 at 8:15 a.m.

LBJ once said he'd rather have his opposition inside the tent spitting out, than outside the tent spitting in. Or something. He used a different phraseology, and you could look it up on Google. We'd rather keep things above Lyndon B. Johnson's salty language. But the leadership of the GOP in Washington, D.C., should learn the lesson anyway.

In response to Liz Cheney's ouster from her leadership position in the House GOP ranks, something like 150 Republican officials--or former Republicans, or former officials--have signed a letter threatening to leave the party if those inside the party don't return to "founding American principles." They call their statement a Call For American Renewal.

What a country, what a First Amendment, what a liberty! What better way to show your all-American bona fides than to protest against The Man, even if you were once hired by The Man, and even might still get to be The Man one day. It warms an inky heart to think that it's still okay in this country to go against the grain and buck the system. Even if the system has worked for 245 years.

"We, therefore, declare our intent to catalyze an American renewal, and to either re-imagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals or else hasten the creation of such an alternative," the writers of the letter say.

They didn't mention a more perfect union, but we get the drift.

But we wonder, as far as their principles are concerned, if leaving the (sometimes) conservative party would do more harm than good to the conservative points of view.

From the preamble of the statement, and yes, there was a preamble: "We call for a rebirth of the American cause and do so in partnership and loyal competition with others committed to the preservation of our Union. With abiding belief in the value and potential of every soul and with goodwill for all, we hereby dedicate ourselves to these principles and make common cause in the flourishing of this great nation and its diverse states, communities, and citizens."

That's some good writin'. The principles include democracy, founding ideals, constitutional order, truth, rule of law, ethical government, pluralism, civic responsibility, opportunity, free speech, conservation, common defense & welfare, and leadership. Thirteen is a lucky number. At least it was for the first colonies on these shores.

We understand the effort. Oh, we do. Many conservative writers (Cal Thomas, George Will, the late Charles Krauthammer, the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal) have lamented what MAGA has done to their party, and have advised one particular former public servant to act more like one. Instead of a social media bully.

But from a purely political point of view, it seems strengthening the Republican Party with better ideas would be better than splitting it. We can't think of a nicer present to our friends on the left than a third Renewal Party to siphon off voters who are turned off by the personality and character of Donald Trump but can't find a home in the Democratic Party.

The two-party system has worked fine in this country, mostly, even before the parties were named. Even before parties were organized. Even when the country just had federalists and . . . what should we name the anti-federalists? . . . anti-federalists.

Those Americans who organize third parties only help the party they agree with the least. See Ralph Nader in 2000. See Ross Perot in 1992. It would be better to change things from the inside.

We are reminded of those scary judicial ads that appear every few years during an Arkansas campaign season. Some people say the state should ban them completely. There are those of us who argue that the ads should be allowed, but challenged with other ads. Because good information can drive out bad information.

Good ideas can also drive out bad ideas in a political party. Instead of giving up, the 150 signees should make better arguments for their positions. And if the intra-party faction on the other side won't listen, then make better arguments. And come up with better ideas and solutions.

These things happen in a family. The Democrats have so many factions that Will Rogers joked about not being a member of an organized party; that he was a Democrat. The Call For American Renewal could be helpful for a country, and a party, so deeply split. It seems well-intended and worthwhile. All except the threat to create another party.

That would only be advantageous to the signatories' ideological opposites.

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