Political ideologies are like gas prices – everybody has an idea of what they should be, but in reality they are constantly moving to reflect the priorities of the surrounding marketplace.
In today’s hyperpartisan culture, trying to pinpoint someone’s ideological niche seems of utmost importance. Most folks act like their property value depends on whether the new neighbors’ car sports a “coexist” bumper sticker or an NRA decal.
But as Trump’s brand of moderate populism permeates the GOP and Bernie Sanders takes the reins of the Democrat rebuild, it’s apparent that the goalposts are moving again.
Beyond the parties themselves, the ideological definitions are changing. As I wrote a couple months ago, terms like “conservative” and “progressive” completely miss the mark when applied to modern political persuasions. New-wave conservatives, generally market-friendly, noninterventionist civil libertarians, look radically progressive compared to a generation of Democrats fighting to conserve century-old socialist ideas hatched in the era of steam engines.
Among the minor parties attempting to make inroads during the ideological reshuffle is the newly-resurrected Federalist Party, with which (full disclosure) I’m directly involved.
People are in a hurry to define the Federalist push, and I frequently get asked whether the FP is going to be a haven for disillusioned conservatives retreating from the GOP, or if it’s going to adopt libertarian views, or if it will be able to appeal to moderate independents or even true-blue liberals.
The answer is yes.
Many of us interested in modernizing America’s party system and ending the Democratic-Republican domination of American politics have watched well-intentioned efforts go to waste with Constitution and Green parties, at least in part because these parties opted to try to wrest ideological niches away from major parties who have held them in a chokehold for well over a century.
True Liberals may be disappointed with Hillary Clinton’s messaging failure and her deliberate backstabbing of rising socialist star Bernie Sanders, but they don’t have a reason to abandon the Democratic Party for one that looks just like it, but lacks the political clout to compete against their counterparts on the right.
Likewise, Republicans disgusted with Trump’s leftward tug on the GOP are looking for a new political home, but the Constitution Party is hardly an appealing alternative, given that its platform and messaging are nearly identical to the Republican Party’s, but without the national recognition or sense of conservative community the GOP at its worst still provides.
Copycat parties, as a rule, ask a lot from their activists and offer almost nothing in return, and that’s a path that Federalists aren’t interested in following.
We don’t need another conservative party.
We don’t need another liberal party.
We need a Federalist Party.
The principle of Federalism carries with it an identity, present in decentralization movements from the American Revolution to the Brexit vote: the principles of self-governance and local policy control, which have long been abandoned by both the Democrat and Republican parties.
The Federalist identity was present in the battle for ratification of the US Constitution, in which both the Federalists and Anti-Federalists tried to grab the mantle in their various plays to influence the nature of the new federal government. Both sides agreed on the Federal principle, but disagreed sharply on application – which is perhaps a lesson in itself.
Today a federalist identity means working to restore the innovative – and extremely progressive – notion of decentralized, compartmental government that the founders introduced, through a radical push for object-oriented, appified state and local governments.
In the technology age, we – particularly my fellow millennials – are accustomed to a million choices at the touch of a button, and the market has accommodated us in all ways but one: government. With government, we get two parties and one massive bureaucracy that has proven nearly immune to modernization.
A quick visit to your local government’s website (if they even have one) will prove my point.
Sure, Federalists care about life, liberty and property. Sure we value civil rights and want to see sensibility return to foreign policy.
But we aren’t interested in rehashing the same talking points on the same five or ten issues that national media regularly beats to death. We are looking to strip away the layers of bureaucracy that have been piling up for a century and flip the American system of government on its head.
There’s a way to connect normal people with state and local governments that are closest to them, break out of the cyclical red/blue social media wars, and let the 10th Amendment empower a broad band of unheard independents and freethinkers whose individual states ceded power to Washington years ago.
Republicans sickened by President Obama’s trampling of states’ rights should consider whether their best hope lies in Trumpian populism or a full-throated embrace of federalism – a principle already buried in many GOP platforms but routinely ignored by Republican officials.
Democrats afraid of power grabs by the Trump administration will find little help from a Democrat Party that has spent decades working to nationalize every minor issue through either executive orders or Supreme Court decisions. Those who want to pursue liberal policies in states like California and New York would do well to consider insulating their states by adopting federalist principles.
Independents tired of hearing about transgender bathrooms, Obamacare, and Syria can take ownership of the issues that the two major parties tend to ignore – like modernizing election law or disentangling the states from federal tax-and-subsidize strings.
Those who feel represented by the Democrat and Republican parties are welcome to continue their deadlocked duel, but the last two presidential cycles have seen more and more people opt out of that binary choice, in search of a new ideological foundation and a new party.
And that’s a wave the new Federalist Party can capitalize on.