It's Time to Split Up the GOP | Opinion

I'm a Republican of 40 years' standing, a former official in a Republican administration and a consistent supporter of Republican ideals. Like many others with such credentials, I had hoped that when Donald Trump was elected in 2016, the new president and his party would revert to responsibility and follow the principles and policies that have guided Republicans for the past 166 years. Boy, was I wrong.

The post-election period has been even worse than the previous three years and ten months. Before the final Electoral College vote count was announced this week, a Washington Post survey on Dec. 6 found only 11 Republican senators willing to say that Biden, who received seven million more popular votes, won the election. The clownish Texas suit that the Supreme Court tossed out on Dec. 11 was the last straw. It was backed by the majority of Republican attorneys general and U.S. House members, including three-quarters of the leadership. Republicans I used to respect, like Rob Portman and Lindsay Graham, are only encouraging Donald Trump in his fantasies and threats.

Trying to bring the Republican Party to its senses is futile. Its elected officials are more scared of Trump than they are attached to American ideals, and that won't change over the next four years – and probably beyond. So, instead of trying to fix the Republican Party, the heirs of Lincoln should start a new one. It should be rooted in the ideals of free minds, free markets, and respect for individuals. Its foundation must be a healthy understanding of what has made this country exceptional—a patriotism that embraces new blood and engages the world.

But that's not all. In contrast to the current Republican party, the new one has to be built on honesty, social duty, and the norms that conservatives are supposed to venerate. The new party must insist that officials place the public's interest above their own and respect the law and consider seriously the views of others. For that reason, I'd call it the Integrity Party.

That may sound sanctimonious, but the name highlights the chasm between the new party and the current Republican Party, which is characterized not just by forsaking a set of traditional policies, which, after all, can evolve, but by forsaking standards of conduct, which cannot. The current leader of the Republican Party has little interest in telling the truth, avoiding conflicts of interest or cherishing laws and standards, and much of the rest of the party is a flock of enablers. You can't fix this sick dynamic. You have to leave it behind and move on.

Launching a new party won't be easy, but the time is ripe, and conversations I've had recently indicate the appetite is strong. There is no doubt Americans want another choice. A Gallup survey in 2018 found that "a majority of Americans, 57 percent, say there is a need for a third, major political party." Only 38 percent believe the "current two-party system does an adequate job of representing the people." Those views, says Gallup, have been consistent since 2013, across both Democratic and Republican administrations.

For starters, the Integrity Party should be able to attract the estimated three and a half million Republicans who voted for Biden, the millions more in the party who sat the election out, and many of the one-quarter of Americans who call themselves independents. The new party should even be able to draw Trump voters who held their noses as well as Democrats looking for a modern, centrist, and pragmatic approach to the problems of America. The Integrity Party can build from an initial base of about 20 million committed voters—enough to elect state and national officials and to affect the outcomes of nearly every important race.

The Integrity Party will need to collect signatures to get on the ballot in 50 states, an arduous and expensive process but one that offers an opportunity to educate Americans on why an alternative is desperately needed. The party will recruit congressional and even local candidates, hold a convention and eventually nominate a president. Is the money there? I think so—from small-dollar donors and, I suspect, from entrepreneurs in places like Silicon Valley who believe in both personal and economic freedom and want to put democracy back on the rails.

Disaffected Republicans like me might vote for Joe Biden, but we won't become Democrats. Our disagreements on important issues of policy run deep, and we would be kidding ourselves to think we can change the Democratic party. Earlier this year, I became one of more than 100 former Republican national security officials who signed a letter supporting Biden for president. The letter said the election was our chance to "stop Trump's assault on our nation's values and institutions and reinstate the moral foundations of our democracy." We had policy differences with Biden and his party, but the time to debate them was later.

That time has now come, and it requires a new institution to be effective—not a morally bankrupt party in thrall to a wannabe authoritarian but an Integrity Party that embraces America's history and values and wants to make a better world.

James K. Glassman served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the George W. Bush Administration.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.