Republican dissidents have a mailing list problem

The Republican Party cannot divide, no matter how divided it is on politics, no matter how big the chasm Forever-Trump vs. Ever-Trump, no matter how badly some factions want a coup to the Burmese and how close other factions are. at apoplexy on suggestion. GOP politicians cannot leave because they cannot abandon the mailing list.

It’s not just the mailing list, of course. It’s all data – emails, phone numbers, donation history – on lists built, bought, and borrowed. It is access to wealthy donors, the party’s collective war chest, and the support of partisan PACs. It’s reliable, friendly coverage from media like Fox and One America News. These are ties to the local party organization, all the little people knocking on doors and handing out leaflets and showing up at local and state offices and sometimes proving to be valuable enough to be promoted from the farm team and in the big leagues. These are connections to contractors and consultants, professional spammers, list brokers, pollsters and repairers who often only work with one-party campaigns, lest their mercenary loyalty is not questioned. It is the control of presidential debates, the possibility to select the moderator, to orient the thematic choices and (generally) to exclude all the other candidates except one in the general elections. And it is access to ballots, an arduous and costly process that favors large established parties over newer and smaller ones – and also an absolute necessity for any viable campaign.

All this infrastructure and more is the indivisible asset ruling out Republican divorce. You can’t divide that stuff into a geographically demarcated politics, where the winner takes over just like our current electoral system; and you can’t win national races without it.

It might be possible to replicate all that infrastructure in a new party, make a clean break, and rebuild from scratch. But “possible” here is So far from being “plausible”. There are three huge obstacles to this idea which I suspect make it fail.

Timeline is first and foremost. Forget about the mid-term 2022 – a party infrastructure on this scale cannot be created from scratch in the semester before these races start. It also cannot be assembled within 18 months of January 2023, when the 2024 presidential candidates are likely to start announcing their campaigns. How long the whole process could take, I’m not sure, but something like eight or 10 years wouldn’t surprise me. Data collection can be done relatively quickly, especially if you have the huge financial resources that this project would require. But much of this infrastructure is much more human in nature.

Our hypothetical new supporters should convince people that the team change is not only ideologically interesting, but politically pragmatic. It’s a huge elevator, and the new party would constantly fight the clock. The longer it takes to gain momentum, the more the pragmatic angle looks like a lie. “If it’s so popular,” these wealthy donors would ask, “why isn’t it more popular? Without rapid progress, money and enthusiasm would dwindle, making rapid progress even more inaccessible.

The rules for access to ballot papers also present a unique hurdle, as the procedures of some states require the same qualifying work in each electoral cycle, while others lay the groundwork for what a party must do in a given election cycle. cycle on its performance during the previous cycle. If you fail in 2024, you’ll have to work harder to get there in 2026. It’s a vicious cycle that existing third parties are all too familiar with.

Closely related to the timing issue is the opportunity cost. All those years of collecting data and keeping GOP voters and donors away would almost certainly be years of Democratic triumph. With the center-right vote split between the Republican Party and those who left it, the Democratic candidates would likely win several consecutive elections in a landslide. It would be intolerable for the GOP as for the ex-GOP. It would also give Democrats the ability to legislate structural changes to consolidate their own power and keep the right divided into two ineffective, possibly regional, parties. Democrats could redesign ridings in their favor, for example, or make access to ballots more expensive and complicated.

This brings me to the third hurdle, which is another kind of party infrastructure: majority power in Congress. Even if Democrats were in the minority at the time of the split and won no seats (both unlikely), they would become the plurality in Congress. Unless the two conservative parties could form a governing coalition immediately after their bitter split, Democrats would control committee assignments and voting schedules in Congress. This comes at a price in our increasingly oligarchic Congress, as demonstrated by the recent GOP ousting Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) From the pecking order and the entire career of the Minority Leader. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) demonstrated it.

Within the GOP political class, all of this is far too much to give in, as furious as the fighting within the party is. They are locked together inside the big tent because the tent is where the infrastructure is. They are stuck, unhappy, under the same brand because no one can abandon the lists.

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