So this is how it feels to be water-boarded. Allegations, accusations, and revelations come at us so hot and heavy that we choke on the vile mixture. Democrats hang tough because they already knew about Hillary’s corruption and, well heck, she fits right in. Republicans, on the other hand, are panicked because they knew about Trump’s vulgarity but hoped he could wear a civilized costume until a few days past Halloween. Unfortunately for the bumbling Republicans, Trump choose to go through October as himself.
So, Democrats are thriving and the Republican Party has a terminal case of spinal degenerative disease. Many Republicans do not fully accept this dreadful diagnosis, but the party’s demise is as inevitable as Hillary Clinton telling a lie tomorrow. Debating about how we got here or who’s to blame is fruitless. There’s only one question that matters: How do conservatives recover?
There are two choices: start a third party movement or make a hostile takeover of the Republican National Committee (RNC). For many reasons, the second choice makes more sense.
The national Republican organizations are in tatters, but there is still an enormous infrastructure that can and will be used. These vast resources will remain in the hands of Donald Trump and his acolytes, or be commandeered by traditional conservatives. I vote for the second option.
There’s one huge problem. Where are the leaders who have the wherewithal to mount an assault? We need winners. Experienced politicians. Leaders with a proven track record—with legions of followers. People with assets coveted by Republicans inside the beltway. People with leverage on Republican donors. People who understand corrupt Democrats and how to defeat them.
In other words, where the heck can we find responsible adults to get us out of this mess and save the party from extinction?
Only one place: The Republican Governors Association. Standing at the ready are thirty-one proven executive officers untainted by the ineptitude in Washington D. C. The popular Susana Martinez, governor of New Mexico, is chairwoman of the association. This experienced group of Republicans have political organizations, sources of funding, and allies like the Republican Attorneys General Association. This is a diverse group of individuals that epitomize the concept of a big tent. Most important, these are people who have beaten Democrats, sometimes in blue states.
Are a bunch of state executives a match for the Republican National Committee? A governor cannot singlehandedly take on the national party establishment, but thirty-one governors can be an overwhelming force. The brand is crumpling before our eyes, so speed is imperative. The prerequisite is that the governors recognize that the illness that infects the RNC is terminal … and highly contagious.
Make no mistake, this will be an epic revolt, fought without gentleman’s rules. War must be declared. A formal statement “should declare the causes which impel them” and outline specific objectives. The goal should not be the mere replacement of Reince Priebus, but a new charter that deeds governors increased power over how the organization is run. Even if successful, this revolt cannot end there. Once the governors have won the RNC, the power of this organization should be used to restructure the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and other inside the beltway Republican apparatus. The goal must be the wholesale takeover of national Republican organizations by states graced with Republican leadership. This is the only way to resurrect a moribund Republican Party.
Can it be done? The governors have three vital weapons at their disposal: public opinion, party funding, and grass root organizations. Governors have a stronger influence on public opinion than members of Congress. They also grasp the nuances of public opinion in a way that eludes party members inside the beltway. The second two weapons are the lifeblood of a political party. Granted, the national party has significant assets in these areas, but they depend on the states to supplement their own efforts and governors are in a unique position to syphon off nationally committed resources and shift them to state organizations. A threat will not be enough. Once committed, governors must get on the phone and harvest every resource within reach. They must follow the philosophy of Collis Huntington, who said, “Whatever is not nailed down is mine. What I can pry loose is not nailed down.”
Is a revolt of this order ethical? Is it treasonous? Yes and yes. So were the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. It’s time for conservatives to quit talking about federalism and do something about it. If the principle of states’ rights is valid for government, then it is equally valid for the political mechanisms that determine our government.
Before we can take our country back, we must take our party back.
James D. Best is the author of numerous books, including Tempest at Dawn, a novel about the Constitutional Convention, and Principled Action, Lessons from the Origins of the American Republic.