Republican ‘Pragmatists’ Call on Party to Move Past Trump

A group of Republicans who are threatening to start a third party if the GOP continues its embrace of Donald Trump offered a traditional conservative vision statement as a “rallying cry for pragmatists” with a provision for “evidence-based policy making and honest discourse.”

More than 150 former Republican governors, members of Congress, cabinet officials and others who have been talking since February about a new direction for the GOP released “a call for American renewal” statement of principles for the party and U.S. leadership on Thursday.

The 13 principles include a commitment to democracy that opposes disenfranchisement of voters; constitutional order; ethical government; rule of law; opportunity recognizing “open, market based economies” and “sensible and limited” regulation; and truth -- opposing “the employment of fear-mongering, conspiracism, and falsehoods.”

The statement is part of the group’s plans to encourage the GOP to change course or create an alternative party for Republicans who don’t support Trump’s free-wheeling approach to policy and his continued false claim that the 2020 election was rigged against him.

Republican party officials are betting that voters still back Trump even if he is not on the ballot and will vote for congressional candidates who pledge their loyalty to him and his brand of politics. On Wednesday, House GOP leaders ousted their No. 3 leader, Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, for speaking out against Trump’s actions that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The group plans to raise tens of millions of dollars to recruit and support candidates in competitive 2022 midterm races that will determine control of Congress, said Evan McMullin, one of the group’s organizers who challenged Trump as an independent in 2016 and is a former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference. The statement released Thursday also says there will be an upcoming nationwide town hall “on renewing America.”

“When in our democratic Republic, forces of conspiracy, division, and despotism arise, it is the patriotic duty of citizens to act collectively in defense of liberty and justice,” the statement says. “We, therefore, declare our intent to catalyze an American renewal, and to either re-imagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals or else hasten the creation of such an alternative.”

Among those signing the statement were Christine Todd Whitman, a former New Jersey Governor and Environmental Protection Agency administrator under George W. Bush; Tom Ridge, a former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security secretary; former Pennsylvania Representative Charlie Dent; former Representative Barbara Comstock of Virginia; Anthony Scaramucci, who briefly served as Trump’s communications chief; former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff; and former CIA Director Michael Hayden.

The statement calls for a “rebirth of the American cause” after Trump’s tumultuous term as president.

McMullin conceded that Republicans who want to see the party move on from Trump are in the minority but said his group wants to accommodate the tens of millions of Republicans and others who aren’t happy with the current GOP and don’t believe they are being adequately represented.

“In articulating this new vision for Republican and national leadership, we are creating a new home and identity for Republicans who are committed to truth and to American democracy,” McMullin said in a telephone interview. “And we’re inviting Americans of other party affiliations and backgrounds to join us in this effort.”

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