The Mid-terms: An NCM Review
Two years ago, Evan McMullin stood up to run for president to give principled conservatives a choice. He called for a New Conservative Movement that would be everything the Republican Party had failed to be: inclusive, true to itself, forward-looking. Conservatives across the country caught the vision, and the movement began from the grassroots. This website, built by NCM volunteers, is a great example of the movement’s efforts.
Reflecting on Tuesday’s election, how did it affect our movement? I’ll talk about what I see as some of the good and the bad.
The good: The Republican Party lost its majority in the House of Representatives.
Since 2016, the GOP has systematically folded to Donald Trump. It started with whispers, which got louder and louder until the spectacle at the convention in Cleveland. That was the last gasp of the Republican resistance. One after another, prominent Republicans from Paul Ryan to Mitt Romney to Lindsey Graham started marching to a different tune. Here in the NCM, we’re still marching to our own. As Pres. Trump continues to disrespect the rule of law and American values, his party will no longer have full ability to enable him.
The bad: We’re probably in for 2 years of even more partisanship and gridlock.
One of the main goals of our movement is to reduce the polarization that is hurting our country. A divided government will probably give us more drama, more divisiveness, and more gridlock than we’ve seen in the last 2 years. Think about this: early this year, there was a shutdown of the federal government even though Republicans held the presidency and both chambers of Congress. Imagine what we’ll see going forward. Polarization is cause by both parties, and New Conservatives need to keep forging a higher path.
The good: More independents ran for office this year than ever before.
As the 2 parties continued in their vicious cycle, independents had a banner year. Serious organizations like Unite America and the Serve America Movement got to work in early 2017 to recruit and support candidates across the country. Of the 24 candidates Unite America endorsed for state legislatures, 15 had only one opponent, meaning that if it weren’t for them running, their communities would have had no choice. I’ve spoken with over 50 indie candidates from Alaska to Alabama to Maine, running for everything from city council to U.S. Senate. Many of them quit their jobs to run. Many of them wrestled with the decision. I’ve been uplifted by their efforts.
The bad: Few independents won their races.
Tuesday night was also tough for many indie candidates. Winning as an independent is hard. The 2-party duopoly has controlled our politics for over 150 years, and it’s not easy to break through when factors like money, debates, and gerrymandering are working against you. Another big hurdle: as election day approaches, most Americans retreat into their Republican or Democratic corners. Often, they’re voting against the other candidate instead of for their own. We must continue our work to break the duopoly and put principle over party.
The good: Over 5 million Americans voted independent.
Independent candidates broke new ground across the country, even many of the ones who lost. Greg Orman and Terry Hayes, running for governors of Kansas and Maine respectively, both got about 6% of the vote. Neal Simon got about 4% of the vote for US Senate in Maryland, after running a serious and well-funded campaign. Many candidates qualified for televised debates, adding a new voice to the competition of ideas. Many of the candidates for smaller offices lost by less than 10%, while a few lost narrowly in heart-breakers, like Steve Poizner, who ran for Insurance Commissioner in California.
The bad: Extremists are still winning.
Defending a nativist party in Austria founded by a former Nazi, Steve King, a Republican congressman from Iowa, said, “If they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans.” He got re-elected on Tuesday. And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who describes herself as a socialist and whose platform includes single-payer healthcare and a job guarantee for all, won by a landslide. In the New Conservative Movement, we must continue to raise a new generation of American leadership.
The good: Americans took important steps against partisanship.
Gerrymandering is one of the reasons we’re so polarized. Parties draw ridiculously shaped districts so that they can get themselves re-elected. Four states—Michigan, Missouri, Colorado, and Utah—had proposals to end gerrymandering on their ballots on Tuesday. The measures passed in 3 of those states, and Utah’s is ahead in the vote count. Alternative voting systems were also used across the country. Maine became the first state to use Ranked Choice Voting, in which voters were able to rank their candidates instead of picking just one. This system allows people to cast a vote for their Republican or Democrat candidate as well as an alternative candidate, reducing their fears of voting for a “spoiler”.
The bad: Where were the NCM candidates?
The loss of John McCain this year seemed to be symbolic of the loss of the principled conservatism and American leadership that we hold dear. Republicans who defend our values are a dying breed. Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are resigning, scorned by their party. There were never many Republicans in office who defied Trumpism, but they’re getting even harder to find. At the beginning of 2017, we rallied behind David Abroms, who ran for Congress in a special election in Georgia. We called him “the first NCM candidate”, and although we tried recruiting more candidates, we didn’t have much success. A new generation of leadership based on respect for all people, conservative ideas, and American values has never been more needed.
When Ronald Reagan became president, Iran had 52 American hostages, inflation was out of control, and the Cold War seemed to never end. By the end of the decade, the economy was transformed, the Berlin Wall had fallen, and the Cold War was won. “Once you begin a great movement,” he said as he left office, “there’s no telling where it will end.” As we look ahead to 2020, we should persevere with this important work. It’s time for a New Conservative Movement!
Brad is a national organizer for the New Conservative Movement who currently lives in Grand Rapids, MI. After volunteering with Evan McMullin’s independent campaign for president in 2016, he joined with other McMullin supporters to organize the movement from the grassroots and raise a new generation of conservative leadership.