Monday, 30 November -0001 00:00

Dear Paul Ryan

Well, Paul Ryan, it's been fun, hasn't it? Congratulations on deciding that your family is more important than presiding over the Trump-infested swamp.

Of course, we both know that someone at your age and with your ambition isn't done with politics. My sincere hope is that you and what honorable Republicans remain have realized that the only hope for your party, and possibly the United States itself, is outright rebellion against the Trumpists who have taken over the GOP.

Look, I know the game has to be played, and you can't openly declare against Trump, at least not yet. But you and your compatriots have got to be able to see the writing on the wall. In 2020, we're set for a truly vicious electoral struggle. Unable to reform itself and attract younger voters, the GOP is sliding over an electoral cliff. Trump and his people infested the GOP, abused it to gain power, and are doubling down on the GOP as the party of white America. This isn't sustainable, and will most likely lead to another electoral college - popular vote split in 2020, with suppression of non-white voters in key swing states giving the Trumpists their only real chance of remaining in power.

It doesn't take a genius to see that this raises a genuine risk of tearing America apart. And unlike many of my generational and regional cohort, I don't believe that the democrats can offer meaningful resistance when it counts. I mean, come on: they are fixing to run yet another out-of-touch, 70-something twit (Joe Biden), and unlike the GOP, the DNC is damned capable of making sure the candidate favored by party elites has all the advantages in the primary. Just like in 2004, they will try to rally Americans around a message of resisting the incumbent, and will lose, partly by running a bad candidate, partly through their total inability to understand what the American voter actually wants.

Something has got to happen, and happen soon, if we want to collectively avoid a destructive 2020 election. At least some segment of the GOP has got to demonstrate that it is willing and able to oppose Trump and the sychophants he's surrounded himself with. Frankly, the GOP should have found some reason, any reason, to impeach both Trump and Pence in 2017, and install you as President. Sure, that would foment an intra-party civil war. But the thing is, that's already underway. That's what Trump and his people exploited to hijack your party in 2016, aided and abetted by the media's slavish devotion to headlines and the democrats' complete electoral incompetence.

Since starting in 2019 you'll have some time on your hands, here's what needs to happen. You, and anyone you can rally, have to start an honest-to-god movement of "true" republicans. You have to redefine what republican means, and you have to go into the 2020 primaries ready and able to both challenge Trump's nomination and to launch an independent 3rd party candidacy if you lose.

Electoral suicide? No. Here's why: As the non-partisan Pew Research Center shows, this idea that the US is split into red/blue, right/left, conservative/liberal blocs is wrong. It is a frame imposed by the media, which needs easy narratives to sell to the public (and promote ad buys). Most Americans are neither strong supporters of Trump or whatever democratic party hack gets put up for the presidency.

Americans are desperate for leadership in a world that seems to be spinning out of control. In this they're little different than voters in Europe, where 3rd parties have leapt to prominence in France and Italy. The trick is to realize how diverse the US is, and find a set of clear and coherent principles that appeal to people who are fed up with politics. Who don't care about the ideological struggles of left and right, who simply want stability and opportunity.

The achilles heel of both the GOP and DNC is that each is trying to front as if they are willing to appeal to the concerns of centrists and swing voters, even while not actually delivering on their promises. Both are big tent parties, coalitions of distinct interest groups whose strengths and interests vary regionally. Something that few media commentators have noted, that is particularly relevant on this front, is that in 2016 the democrats and republicans both struggled to turn out voters in the states west of the Rocky Mountains. 3rd parties received far more votes than normal, especially in normally hard-right places like Utah.

If you are serious about saving the republican party and opposing Trump, then the single most important objective for you and any allies you have is to guarantee that, come November 2020, Trump cannot muster 270 electoral votes and win re-election. You do this by, in the primaries and if necessary in the general election, taking as many states out of GOP hands as possible.

Now, the immediate objection to this argument is pretty obvious: if you do that, don't the democrats win handily in 2020?

No. Here's why. If you win the primaries, the issue is moot: you restore control of the GOP, and can compete in the swing states as usual. BUT, you will also have added credibility, having led a resistance to Trump. And, even better, the political platform you'll have to build to successfully motivate non-Trumpists on the right and in the center will by necessity eschew the policies that democrats will run against in 2020. A successful primary challenge will wrong-foot the democrats, and give you the initiative when it comes to the media coverage.

And even if you fail in the primaries (rigged as they might be), you are then set up to make an independent run in 2020 that, by securing enough states in the west, prevents Trump from reaching 270 electoral votes unless he can somehow win states like Virginia and Minnesota. But here's an interesting flip side: such a movement would be well-placed to take several blue states, particularly Nevada, New Mexico, and Colorado, out of the DNC column. In a close election, that might well end up producing this map:

Under this scenario, the President in 2020 will end up being chosen by the House of Representatives. This might trigger a Constitutional crisis, but one (or several) of those is coming soon anyway.

How does this benefit you? First, you might win out in the primaries, and be able to run a traditional campaign. But even if not, a president selected by the House of Representatives would be incredibly vulnerable in 2024. And you would have gone into 2020 demonstrating that there are republicans who are willing to reform the party, and who do stand on principle. The map above is, in point of fact, a worse-case-scenario for an independent western candidacy that eschews 'politics as usual' and lays a moral claim to future leadership. You'd actually stand a tremendous chance of expanding your support into other blue states, and forcing a major realignment of the two parties' coalitions.

At some point in the near-future, a political movement has to form that is willing to defend the democratic norms and institutions of the United States on principle, and not for short-term political gain. I wonder, Paul Ryan, if you have the necessary ambition and skill to set aside normal party politics and do something new and ambitious?