Mr. Kristol, if your candidate is not a conservative, you’re not helping

Bill Kristol

The possibility that a conservative third candidate could rise and challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is arguably the only thing keeping my fight or flight instinct at bay for the moment. It’s encouraging to see Weekly Standard publisher Bill Kristol promising to put up a third candidate. That encouragement comes with a very important warning.

Mr. Kristol, if the third candidate you or anyone else helps to launch is not a true conservative, you will not receive the support you’ll need to succeed.

Those of us who recognize the existential threat that both Trump and Clinton pose for the country are unwilling to vote for either of them, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll support a candidate who is “safe.” The Republican Establishment, the NeoCons, the moderates, or anyone else within the party that actively or passively opposes true conservative ideas will not be able to mount a serious challenge.

The other day I wrote about how I would begrudgingly support Mitt Romney. I did this because I do not believe that Romney is an “evil” in the ways represented by Trump or Clinton. However, I’m retracting my stated willingness. After further review, it’s clear that the only path forward is to have a strong candidate with Judeo-Christian values firmly intact, who embraces the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as the guidance to governance, and who believes in small government. Anyone with credentials that fall short of these marks must be pushed into the pile as being the third “evil” in the race.

Ted Cruz. Ben Sasse. Tom Coburn. Scott Walker. Jim DeMint. Mike Lee. Jim Bridenstine. Other than Sasse, there are no names on this list who have expressed a true interest in considering a run, so I’m not all that hopeful. With that said, It’s important to note for Kristol and anyone else proposing a third candidate that your only real hope is to appeal to the conservative side of the party. Why? There’s one logical reason that transcends my own personal desires for a conservative candidate.

Appeal to Trump’s Natural Tendency

Donald Trump is a liberal. He’s not a moderate. He’s not a Reagan Democrat. He’s a liberal. He has a conservative stance as it pertains to immigration, but otherwise he’s a big government, totalitarian, nanny state liberal who believes in his own decision-making abilities above any concepts of conservatism or reality.

If you run a moderate against him, Trump will appeal to both the right and the center. If you run a true conservative against him, you’ll force him to do what he wants to do already: shift left. This shift is the key to his defeat.

There are two things that can happen that would yield a third-party victory. The first is relying on the hope that Clinton will be indicted and Trump will be revealed as the amateur and charlatan that he is. The second thing that could lead to a country-saving victory is for the candidate to be a Reaganesque conservative who inspires Republicans and Independents willing to fight corruption. The names on the list above all fall into that category. There are others. Find one.

This cannot be stated enough: if the third candidate is a moderate (like Mitt Romney) or lukewarm conservative (like Jim Inhofe), we will not be able to mount a serious challenge.

Get us a conservative who can inspire us and we’ll happily get on board. Give us a moderate or Establishment favorite and we’re likely to go back to plan C: preparing for 2020.

JD Rucker

JD Rucker is Editor of this site as well as Soshable, a Federalist Christian Blog. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and co-founder of the Federalist Party. Find him on Twitter or Facebook.

  1. I don’t understand where the obsession with Ben Sasse comes from. He’s another #NeverTrump, but weak-tea Cruz support guy. He wrote that huge never Trump post on his Facebook but didn’t even endorse the only conservative candidate in the race. Why? Because he’s spineless and wants to stay on McConnell’s good side. He never campaigned for Cruz, never stood up and defended him when attacks came from every direction. Instead he posted a tweet about how he and his wife voted for Cruz in Nebraska. And now he’s supposed to be the savior of conservatism? Give me break.

    1. I think a lot of people misunderstand Sasse. He is playing for the long game and his approach is intentionally less confrontational than Cruz or Lee.

      Sasse is a specialist at turning around organizations. That involves changing cultures. As a consultant, I’ve seen a little of this from a much more narrow perspective. Regardless of your own positions, you have to try to stay above the fray and establish credibility with both sides. Otherwise, whatever you propose will be undermined and opposed by those who paint you as just another member of the opposition.

      In the presidential race, he was very strongly against Drumpf. While I am not privy to his internal thinking, I think he wanted to be objectively anti-Drumpf. That is, he had more credibility attacking Drumpf as a neutral than as a partisan for Rubio or Cruz. Nobody could dismiss him as a hack for Cruz.

      He campaigned with Cruz, and did eventually say he was voting for Cruz.

      His strategy is very different, but if you look at it in the context of his background, I think it makes sense and is necessary if we are going to fix things like the broken senate.

      Cruz has a different style and approach. For Cruz, and as a constituent, I am grateful Cruz does what he does in the way he does it.

      The approaches are different, not mutually exclusive.

  2. While I think somebody like Ben Sasse, Jim Bridenstine, or Tom Coburn would be far better, I’d still support Mitt over what we have.

    If I prioritize the traits for president, agreeing on policy is a distant third.
    1) qualified, capable, and fit to serve – that means they’ve shown the ability to make tough decisions and lead large organizations, and fit means they have the temperament, judgement, and character to serve.
    2) protect and defend the Constitution – without the Constitution, we have nothing to protect from foreign or domestic threats; once it is gone, we aren’t getting it back.
    3) Policy positions – right to life, right to keep and bear arms, foreign policy, religious liberty, limited government, federalism, etc.

    As of today, I’ll actively support and donate to Gary Johnson. However I strongly disagree with him on many policies, he is qualified, capable, and fit to serve – HRC and Drumpf are not even close.

    Johnson will protect and defend the Constitution. HRC will continue the overreach of Zero tearing the edges and corners, Drumpf is a caudillo in waiting and will simply walk over the Constitution.

    I don’t hide the fact Johnson is horrible on immigration, foreign policy, abortion, or religious liberty, but the Constitution takes priority.

    …so, I would welcome a Mitt Romney over Johnson in a heartbeat, and I am *not* a fan of Romney.

  3. Since Cruz said he wouldn’t go third party … What about Mike Lee? I know … I’m just … just hoping for a conservative too.

    Your points are well made. If it isn’t a conservative, then Trump won’t be forced to move to where he really wants to go anyway … to the left. Great article.

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