What the PRL Stands For

Luke Phillips


The Progressive Republican League’s good friend and fellow exiled GOP blogger Chris Ladd just announced his official resignation from the GOP, in light of its Trumpian transformation into a white nationalist party. You should read the whole piece, but here’s Chris at length:

With Trump as the nominee, and my local party supporting him, I will resign my position and renounce any ties to the party… 

…Trump is challenging the basic legitimacy of our representative government. He is not so much a Presidential candidate as the leader of a violent political faction attempting to replace the organizing principles of our republic with a personality cult led by a TV celebrity. We have never faced a threat like this in our history.

If we make him our nominee, we will be supporting a leader who has clearly signaled his intention to disregard legitimate institutions and use violence and intimidation against his opponents. Never mind that he’ll lose. Once the institution absorbs that ethos it cannot be made whole…. 

…Donald Trump is presenting us with a conflict that extends far beyond the kind of policy differences that have traditionally defined our elections. Trump is challenging the civilized norms that sustain representative government and protect basic civility. With Trump as the nominee this November, this won’t be a conventional contest between competing policy platforms. We have invaded foreign countries to depose leaders less reprehensible than Trump. Our 2016 Election will be a referendum on representative government… 

…For me there is no possibility of compromise with the party of Trump. The fact that he can’t win offers no shelter from the impact he will have on the party and on our politics at large. There are no “good Nazis.” As the party’s nominee, Donald Trump changes what it means to be a Republican in a manner that carries inescapable moral culpability….

…I can’t stop Donald Trump, but I won’t be culpable for offering him support in any manner.”

Amen, brother.

We share Chris’s revulsion and disgust at the Trump effect in all its ugly social forms- the anti-immigrant nativism, the anti-minority populism, the anti-foreigner xenophobia- and will similarly not be voting for or supporting Trump in any way at all between now and November.

We have a slightly different position on how to move forward, however. Here is a rough outline of some of the basic principles outlining PRL’s approach to building a reformist voice for a new, anti-Ryanite, anti-Trumpist Establishment in the GOP-

First- though the GOP Establishment may be shredded, it is still, like all reactionary forces, hot to the touch. The Ryanites certainly aren’t racist populists the way the Trumpistas are, and represent an ideologically misguided but still very real bulwark against a complete Trumpian transformation for the next two or three years at least. That means that although the Trump forces will dominate the ground game for the foreseeable future, the Establishment forces will still dominate the money game, and both will compete in the messaging game. The “state of warre” (as Hobbes might have called it) thus engendered means there’ll be room for other factions to maneuver and fight for ground against the two main leviathans.

Second- we have all seen what happens when talented politicos seek to influence the political process through non-party or third-party extrapolitical means: absolutely nothing. What you need is the idealism and fire of a third-party streak, with the tough-nosed pragmatism and moral cynicism of a traditional party hack. You need to work through the system if you want to put real pressure on the system. I suspect that though Chris is formally resigning his GOP post in his home state, his quiet political activity will be aimed at setting up a new establishment in the GOP rather than setting up an establishment outside of it. That’s what we in the PRL will be doing, too.

Third, the Trump voters- racist and xenophobic and nativist though they are, and in all ways not to be touched- are a social force whose concerns ought to be a warning call for all establishmentarians and reformers alike. Neoliberal economics- emphasizing as it does open borders immigration and globalized free trade and tax cuts for the wealthy- is neither popular nor good for working people. Post-1960s “political correctness” and multiculturalism is a poor substitute for WWII-era healthy patriotism. Jacksonians, terrifying as they are, have been the base coalition of all successful coalitions in American politics since at least Franklin Roosevelt, if not since Abraham Lincoln, and when their bellies are empty and their honor is tarnished, their passions come unleashed. Trump’s racist pandering comes after that group has been ignored for three or four decades- and now the elite reaps what it sows. Though they are our opponents, we must not forget that they are also Americans.

Fourth, once the Jacksonians’ passions calm down, it will be observed that their economic interests are actually not too far removed from those of the Latino working class of the Sunbelt and the black working class of the inner cities. Protectionism and restriction of low-skilled immigration, along with industrial policy and cheap energy, would provide working and middle class people of all races with a higher standard and lower cost of living, abet mobility and entrepreneurship, and generally make for prosperous times that, perhaps, could allay the anxiety that awakens racial distrust. Under such an environment, perhaps the latent racism of the white working class would at the very least fall asleep, if not be expunged from the next generation.

Fifth, all this policy reform and big-tent inclusive messaging must be done in a constitutional sense, rather than in the rabid populist sense Donald Trump and his supporters revel in. If we are to preserve what is best about the civilized habits of the Republic and the Nation, we must do so in a way that is compatible with our noblest constitutional and party-based traditions. The Republican Party has always been the party of good government, not the party of the people or the party of interest groups- time to return to that.

So there’s a brief outline of PRL’s strategy and philosophy moving forward. We won’t fall in line behind the efforts of Bill Kristol and Mitt Romney to recruit a “true conservative” to wave the fallen flag in November, nor will we stand quietly behind the raging Trumpistas in their populist crusades against any number of imagined enemies, nor will we acquiesce to Hillary Clinton’s centralizing, neoliberal, multiculturalist globalism. We stand for something else, and will fight to plant its seeds in the ashes of a dying party.

The American people deserve better than the dysfunctional blue state fueled by high finance that Hillary Clinton offers. They deserve better than the ideological corpse of Reaganism that Paul Ryan- and quite likely, Gary Johnson- offers. They deserve far, far better than the angry, idea-less nativism, xenophobia, and racism the Trumpista movement hopes to bring to the White House.

They deserve something better.

We at the PRL hope to deliver it.


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