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How Moderate Conservatives Can Ditch the GOP.

There’s a lot of desire by a lot of formerly-mainline conservatives to find a new vehicle for their politics without emboldening extremists or being left out in the cold.

America needs to retire the worst of the Republican party. The case for why writes itself. The case for how is what’s needed. The basic structures of politics, established over the decades and centuries, makes a third-party bid hard to work in US politics. The parties don’t like dealing with outsiders, and three-way races make for messy elections that typically help their former opponents. (For simplicity, references to a theoretical new party will be using the name BNP for Brand New Party.)

How in the world do you split from the GOP?

The key is a surprising place: die-hard GOP districts. The places where Democrats seldom bother to run anyone, because they know they won’t win. Those are the most vulnerable places to run a BNP candidate. Why? You can easily pull in all those liberal voters who haven’t had a choice. You don’t risk enabling Democrats, who often don’t run candidates there anyway.

You can also pick off a sizable chunk of the GOP vote because plenty of the people who turn out and vote for the only game in town would like to see some competition or better candidates, but they are deprived of it by the lack of primaries and no general election opponents.

They key to the first wave of a BNP is in those “safe Republican” districts.

How do you deal with the hurdles in the House?

Let’s say you run that strategy, you pick off some seats. Depending how many, you may easily caucus with the GOP on most issues, give them enough loyalty to be treated fairly (though probably not well) on committee assignments. But you’ve still won with some Democratic votes. You have to have some policy bridges to the Democrats or you’ll not last too long.

On some key issues, you have to break from the GOP. That means on things like guns, immigration, abortion, and most clearly climate change, you have to have policies that move things forward, even if it means you can’t caucus with Republicans on those issues.

On climate, it means having a policy. You must be willing to spend more federal money to continue the development and deployment of science and technology to reduce carbon pollution.

On immigration and guns, it’s not so rough. You simply support reasonable reforms that have been stalled for decades by extremist members of the GOP while being broadly supported by America, by Democrats, and even by most Republicans.

The abortion issue is trickier, but mostly boils down to focusing on prevention. Ensuring sufficient federal assistance against poverty and increasing access to birth control are two of the ways to help reduce abortions without getting stuck in an absolutist position over banning an essential medical practice.

These policy shifts are absolutely necessary, as they provide the meat of the stew: a real difference from the GOP. While some conservatives will balk, moderates will not, and some Democrats will support moderate conservatives if it means choking out the violent, vile GOP.

Nobody will be asking BNP members to vote against the Hyde amendment or for repeal of the arms amendment. But pushing forward reasonable policies? Those are yes votes. Every time.

By focusing on the districts that the Democrats can’t reach, a new moderate-conservative party in the House is entirely possible. It’s up to those who want to see the extremists of the GOP either reform or retire to push for a new party to take those seats.

Alternatives to “Defund the Police.”

With lots of folks down on the slogan, some considering alternatives might be useful.

Given the reasonable goal of real change in how policing functions and fits in the larger basket of public services, and the utility of slogans, this post contemplates alternatives to the one that stuck (“Defund the police”).

First, what are the goals that are included in that phrase? In picking an alternative, it will be shaped both by what the people who adopt the slogan want and what the larger public wants to do with policing. As I’ve said before, my personal views include changing the job of policing because it’s a fucked up job full of high stress, danger, and temptations. But I haven’t seen publicized whether the defund-callers or the people who self-describe as abolitionists are interested in that aspect or not. Some of the possible goals follow.

Demilitarization of police. Police are not a replacement for the national guard. The police should not be close to a military. It should be a professional service primarily for the work of investigating crimes and assisting victims of crimes. While one of the current tasks of the police is to meet violence with violence, and under certain emergency circumstances some level of police violence might be necessary, it should be restricted to protecting people and otherwise isolating threats of violence.

Reapportioning funding. Some of the funding of police should be moved to mental health services. Other funding increases should go to eliminating poverty and breaking up pockets of extreme poverty in order to remove the circumstances that allow chronic violence, chronic crime, and chronic misery to exist.

Reworking criminal justice. The manner of trials, the lengths of sentences, and the conditions in jails and prisons all need to be improved.

Reallocating police labor. The community policing movement previously tried to improve community relations, but more can and should be done, both for the benefit of society and for the mental health and benefit of those who work in policing. The job of policing should primarily be activities that focus on community improvement through positive activities and less about negative interventions in peoples’ lives.

It strikes me as interesting that the very problem of policing is reflected in the problems with the slogan, defund the police. That the phrase is doing harm, that it should be retargeted, exactly as police and criminal justice spending are doing harm and should be retargeted. There’s a certain irony there. But there’s also inspiration.

If you do a search for fund alternatives to police, many defund articles already talk about funding alternatives. The idea is already out there. It hasn’t been sloganized, but it’s right there: Fund alternatives.

That’s what it’s all about, right? Policing hasn’t worked in many ways we wanted it to. Recidivists go through the same system and come back out and recommit. Lots of first-timers and innocent people, poor people, get regularly chewed on. Cops themselves have a shitty job and feel lots of hostility because their job is shitty. Most police aren’t bad at policing. They’re just in a job that, for the average police officer, there isn’t a good version of it.

Alternatives give people options, for all three groups: authorities, victims, and perpetrators. They say that a different dynamic is possible for many of the situations we currently resort to a very narrow framework of arrest, prosecute, incarcerate.

There are other options, including focusing on specific subproblems, talking about transformation, talking about improving the labor of policing to become something else. But the main thing sought is alternative labors. That’s what’s wanted and it seems likely what’s needed. Fund alternatives to police.

What is Our Government?

On the gap between the plan of America and its reality.

It’s a hard question, because history requires a lot of context and it often contradicts itself because mankind has been long confused and remains so. And I don’t write very long pieces on here.

Suffice it to say our government, under any president, any congress, and any judiciary, is imperfect. At times it has been less imperfect, and others, more. It has been a government ignorant of many problems, working according to a set of mostly amoral principles in opposition to the rhetoric and design of its founding. And when a problem came to light, it was promised it would be solved, with mixed results and a pattern of amnesia. In other words, a nation of humans behaving as humans.

The American government was founded on two basic ideas:

  1. Inalienable rights to enshrine individual (and therefore collective) liberty.
  2. Government designed with an immune system to defend itself against the corrupting spirits of power. (Commonly called separation of powers.)

But per expectations, the corrupting spirits ever since have tried to undermine good governance, and often they have succeeded. But they have never succeeded in demolishing that foundational belief that such corruptions should be beat back, wherever they arise. And so, despite evil’s triumphs, it remains an endangered species in the halls of true democracy.

Which brings us to now, with something larger-than-reasonable portion of the country inviting evil to nest in Liberty’s bosom, for various reasons. The reasons are varied. Some are outright corrupt, but many are merely misled, putting some pet issue ahead of their common sense.

And the rest is most of us, determined that liberty shall give no quarter to corruption. But this majority of us, we know that the wicked do lurk in lobbying lunches, in contract bids, in packed courts. We know that the tarnish on the foundation is hard to scrub, that anti-labor actors and anti-suffrage politicians ever do try to build that nest.

So America is both things at once. There is America, the plan. The plan to build a nation inhospitable to the corrupt. A plan that flexible government responsive to the people would make good choices and learn from its mistakes. And there is America, the reality. The reality that corruption has festered, allowing all of us to be inundated with robo-calls from scammers, with bum deals where taxes aren’t balanced, all these petty problems that trip us up. And those small problems bring bigger ones, like our inability to deal with people being abused and even killed by the justice system, or our failures to act swiftly to stop climate change.

And every election, we must vote against reality. We must vote for the plan. To make America an eyesore to the corrupt. To make the enemies of liberty, those who feed off of neglect and indifference, feel unwelcome and foreign in our lands. Those who would apply pricing formulae to suck as much money out of diabetic persons, or who would take for a ride the family of the incarcerated, who just want to say “Merry Christmas” pay through the nose for that luxury.

All around these forces work against us. In many cases, we ourselves are enlisted by them in one industry as we curse them in every other. But it’s no way to live. The plan rejects it. The plan says to hell with it and fuck that noise. There’s a better way. To elect those who will regulate, who will watch and act to stop pollution, to educate children, to mend those who commit crimes so they will make our nation stronger. People who will help us all extinguish our prejudices and bad ideas, while raising up our moments of humanity and our smart thoughts.

We have the plan, we just have to keep rehearsing, working out the kinks, and be mindful of the gap between the plan and the reality, and make sure we remember which is which. We have to remember the one we want to see happen.