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Leopold: Create a party of pragmatic GOP conservatives | READER COMMENTARY

Might there be a future for a third political party populated by conservative Republicans not under the influence of Donald Trump such as Rep. Liz Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, members of the House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol? Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite).
Might there be a future for a third political party populated by conservative Republicans not under the influence of Donald Trump such as Rep. Liz Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, members of the House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol? Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite). (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Jonah Goldberg’s recent column suggesting the creation of a third political party is spot on. It should not, however, be a party limited only to “Reaganite conservatives,” but one that is inclusive of all common sense, pragmatic conservatives (”Jonah Goldberg: To avoid a Trump resurgence, we need a third party or a Reaganite Republican,” Oct. 13).

Some Republicans believe that the path to achieving a majority in Congress is to defend Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the results of the 2020 presidential election and accuse President Joe Biden of dividing the country with a “radical socialist agenda.” Ironically, in years gone by, Republicans supported governmental activism that was considered “radical” by opponents. These initiatives included the establishment of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the enactment of the Clean Air Act, equal rights for women embodied in an amendment to the Constitution and other transformative proposals that were relevant to the needs of most Americans.

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Today, some GOP lawmakers appear to be out of step with the majority of their constituents who support President Biden’s infrastructure and family empowerment plans. Are proposals to subsidize supercomputers, advanced semiconductors and other technologies linked to national security radical ideas? Is investing $100 billion dollars to extend high-speed broadband coverage for the 30 million Americans who still lack access a radical idea? Is treating child care as an essential service so parents can get back to work and boost the post-pandemic economy a radical proposal? Recent polling suggest many Republicans don’t think so.

Unfortunately, some Republicans officeholders seem to be paralyzed from supporting these initiatives because of their fear of rejection in a hard-right primary election.

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This dilemma is well known. But how do we resolve it when 70% of Republicans believe the pernicious voter fraud narrative that Mr. Biden is not our legitimately elected president? Common sense Republicans have three choices:

  • They can work within the party, as a handful of centrist lawmakers have tried to do, only to find their efforts met with derision.
  • They can support the suggestion offered recently in The New York Times by former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman that the Republicans should help elect certain Democratic candidates in order to prevent Republicans from regaining control of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. This strategy is unrealistic. Asking conservative Republicans to support abortion rights, pro-gun, tax and spend Democratic candidates is a bridge too far, even to save democracy.
  • The third option is to create a new political party, which is discouraged by Gov. Whitman, who points to “failed attempts at breaking the two-party system.”

While creating a new party presents a daunting challenge, it’s been done before. Although President William Taft accused former Republican President Theodore Roosevelt of running for president against him and the GOP establishment in 1912 “merely to gratify personal ambition and vengeance,” Mr. Roosevelt’s Progressive (Bull Moose) Party candidacy garnered 4.1 million votes to Mr. Taft’s 3.5 million votes and Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s 6.3 million. Near the end of the 18th century, Thomas Jefferson created the Democratic Party and was twice elected president as the standard-bearer of the Democratic-Republican Party. And in 1854, a stalwart group of Wisconsin citizens established a new Republican Party that nominated its first presidential candidate, John Fremont, in 1856.

It is important to note that in all three cases, the new parties were assailed as taking the country in a “radical” direction.

We have seen the arc of our political pendulum swing back and forth over time, and we can hope that new generations will produce common sense, pragmatic GOP leadership. But with the existential threats of climate change, population press, diminishing natural resources, increasing gun violence and the looming threat of an emergent China, the U.S. can no longer wait decades for change. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated in 1932, the times “demand bold, persistent experimentation.”

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It is not sufficient for a fiscally responsible, center-right party to exist simply to win elections. It is time to create a new political party that protects the Constitution, democracy and the planet.

John R. Leopold, Pasadena

The writer, a Republican, served as Anne Arundel County executive and in the Maryland House of Delegates.

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