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Could a new, center-right political party realistically take shape?

If the United States no longer has a center-right party, perhaps some folks ought to create one? A group of disaffected Republicans apparently thinks so.
A voter drops an election ballot off at the Pitkin County Administration box in Aspen, Colorado, on Nov. 6, 2018.Anna Stonehouse / The Aspen Times via AP

Every Western democracy has a center-right political party -- except the United States. By international standards, American voters have a choice between a center-left Democratic Party and a Republican Party that's further to the right than almost any competitive party in the Western world.

As a New York Times analysis explained in June 2019, "The Republican Party leans much farther right than most traditional conservative parties in Western Europe and Canada, according to an analysis of their election manifestos. It is more extreme than Britain's Independence Party and France's National Rally (formerly the National Front), which some consider far-right populist parties."

All of which suggests to some that there's a vacuum to be filled: if the United States no longer has a center-right party, perhaps some folks ought to create one? Reuters reported yesterday that dozens of former Republican officials, "who view the party as unwilling to stand up to former President Donald Trump and his attempts to undermine U.S. democracy," have held preliminary discussions about creating a new center-right party.

More than 120 of them held a Zoom call last Friday to discuss the breakaway group, which would run on a platform of "principled conservatism," including adherence to the Constitution and the rule of law - ideas those involved say have been trashed by Trump. The plan would be to run candidates in some races but also to endorse center-right candidates in others, be they Republicans, independents or Democrats, the people say.

The talks reportedly included former officials from Republican administrations, party strategists, and even some former GOP elected officials, including former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who's made little effort to express his discomfort with the direction of his party.

Co-hosting the discussion was Evan McMullin, the former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference, perhaps best known for running an independent presidential campaign in 2016. (McMullin received about 0.5% of the popular vote nationwide, though he topped 20% in his native Utah.)

"Large portions of the Republican Party are radicalizing and threatening American democracy," McMullin told Reuters. "The party needs to recommit to truth, reason and founding ideals or there clearly needs to be something new."

McMullin and his allies are hardly the only ones thinking along these lines. In late December, former Defense Secretary William Cohen and lifelong Republican who spent a quarter-century in Congress, told CNN, "Maybe it's time for a new party. One that abides by the rule of law, abides by balanced budget opportunities, fiscal responsibility, but also faithful to the people of this country who vote to elect them."

Ironically, this comes on the heels of multiple recent reports that Donald Trump is himself considering the formation of a new political party -- which he'd apparently call the Patriot Party -- because he's not fully satisfied that the pro-Trump GOP is sufficiently appreciative of how awesome his awesomeness is.

While it's unlikely the former president will follow through on this, the initiative from McMullin and his compatriots seems more serious -- at least in their intentions.

Plenty of new political parties have tried to get off the ground over the generations, and some have managed to get some candidates elected. But successful ventures require an enormous amount of money, organizing strength, and most importantly, electoral demand.

Reuters' report quoted one unnamed Republican, interested in creating a new center-right party, acknowledging that the landscape is littered with the remains of previous failed attempts at national third parties, "but there is a far greater hunger for a new political party out there than I have ever experienced in my lifetime."

There may be at least some truth to this, which we'll kick around further in a follow-up item this afternoon.