The End is Nigh for America’s Two-Party System
Over 150 prominent Republicans issue “A Call for American Renewal”
Wow, if you had told me twenty years ago, as Dubya and Dr. Evil orchestrated the First Big Lie — that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq — that it would be a Cheney who started the great exodus from the Republican Party, I would have thought you mad. But welcome to the alternate universe of a post-Trump, almost-post-COVID world. What is up is down; what is down is sideways. This week’s speech by Congresswoman Liz Cheney — a rebuttal to her being ousted from a leadership position in the GOP for refusing to pander to Trump’s election-fraud narrative — very well may go down in history as a major turning point for America: the death of its centuries-old two-party system.
We are watching history unfold, my friends. On Thursday morning, an opinion piece in The Washington Post — penned by Charlie Dent, Mary Peters, Denver Riggleman, Michael Steele and Christine Todd Whitman — formally launched “A Call for American Renewal,” a Declaration of Independence, of sorts, from the MAGA-infested Republican Party. Representing over 150 local, state, and national leaders (all of whom have signed on to the declaration), the group’s “call” is simple: get your shit together or we’re out. The official language:
That’s why we believe in pushing for the Republican Party to rededicate itself to founding ideals — or else hasten the creation of an alternative.
Yes, “an alternative” means a new party.
Personally, I thought it would be the Democrats who split first, and I always imagined a cranky rallying cry from Sanders or AOC would be the moment the left split in two. But the left seems to have (somewhat) united — at least for now — under Biden. Winning the presidency will do that. The president’s address to a joint session of Congress in late April showed a normally centrist Joe calling for many of the progressive programs and investments that his former debate-stage foes were calling for during the 2020 race. It is the right, now, that is coming apart at the seams. Apparently, people get upset when you storm the nation’s Capitol under their banner.
It is about time someone called for the GOP to get it together. The Republican Party stood by and watched Donald Trump rise — some holding their nose at the stench and others applauding, twisting into pretzels to justify what the “former guy” has said and done since the day he mocked a disabled reporter on national television. Let’s not forget that before Trump came onto the scene — or, descended onto it from that escalator — the party presided over a major financial collapse, launched what many would say were unjustified wars, and dictated social policies that kept Dick Cheney’s own daughter from marrying, prevented women from accessing critical healthcare, and blocked affirmative action for Black Americans. Also, Katrina. They were not exactly doing a stellar job before the MAGA invasion.
Which is why it is particularly interesting that from the list of 13 principles that the “Call for American Renewal” champions (democracy, founding ideals, constitutional order, truth, rule of law, ethical government, pluralism, civic responsibility, opportunity, free speech, conservation, common defense and welfare, and leadership) noticeably absent is anything related to foreign policy or social policy. No mention of abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, or China. Yes, the list is meant to be top-line and a direct repudiation of what got us here: lies and megalomania. But should a new party be afoot, that new party is angling for the middle, its platform the common-denominator issues that unite much of the bell curve. No “America First.” No identity politics. No extremes. The new party will be a home, as the declaration states, for those who feel “politically homeless.”
What the “Call” means — or will mean — is still a work-in-progress. History is writing itself as I type and you read. But this week’s series of events confirms one hunch we all had in 2016: Donald Trump is a bull in a china shop, and he will destroy democracy. Thankfully, Biden’s election re-balanced us a bit, or at least stemmed the bleeding. Now, as Newton told us, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” The reaction from this group of “pragmatists” is clear: you come for democracy, and democracy will come for you. What remains unclear is just how many political parties America will have when this Republican Civil War is over.