After Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) was ousted from GOP House leadership Wednesday, more than 150 prominent conservatives signed a letter threatening to leave the party if it did not reform and return to “founding American principles.”
Former Republican policy strategist and 2016 independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin spearheaded the letter, first published by the Deseret News on Thursday. The statement of principles outlines 13 precepts to guide a “rebirth of the American cause.” It is signed by co-organizer Miles Taylor and 150 other Republicans or former Republicans.
“We, therefore, declare our intent to catalyze an American renewal, and to either reimagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals or else hasten the creation of such an alternative,” the statement says. “We call for a rebirth of the American cause and do so in partnership and loyal competition with others committed to the preservation of our Union.”
Among the signers are four former governors, including Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford; 27 former members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Barbara Comstock, Charlie Dent and Paul Mitchell; and one former senator, David Durenberger. Other prominent names included attorney George Conway, husband of senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway; former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci; former Department of Homeland Security official Elizabeth Neumann; and former DHS general counsel John Mitnick.
The 13 principles spelled out in the statement are democracy, founding ideals, constitutional order, truth, rule of law, ethical government, pluralism, civic responsibility, opportunity, free speech, conservation, common defense and welfare, and leadership.
Tomorrow, we’ll release a new vision for American leadership, a first step in creating a new political identity and home for a common-sense coalition in America that will push back against the extremes, decide competitive elections, and shape the direction of our nation.
— Evan McMullin (@EvanMcMullin) May 12, 2021
McMullin and other dissatisfied conservatives have discussed forming an alternative to today’s Republican Party for months. In early February, weeks after the Capitol insurrection, McMullin, Taylor and over 100 others gathered in a virtual meeting to explore a new political party or a unified bloc within the party. Attendees included Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., Dent and former officials from the Trump administration.
A straw poll in that meeting revealed a split between forming a new party and creating a faction within the GOP — 43% supported a new movement, while 40% backed the formation of a new party.
“We need to provide a home for Republicans who are either leaving the party or choosing to stay in the party, but who want to associate with something that’s more principles-based and more optimistic about America and its future,” McMullin told the Deseret News last month. “Whether they’re inside the party or outside of the party, we need to create a ‘super identity’ that they can associate with.”
Both McMullin and Taylor view the Jan. 6 attack as a tipping point for them. “It took (the events of) Jan. 6 to really wake people up, that there were certain anti-democratic forces and movements within our own country that needed to be considered,” Taylor said.
McMullin concurred: “It was a violent insurrection led by a sitting president, who sought to overturn a free and fair election, in order to retain power unto himself illegally and illegitimately. And that is as direct a threat to our republic as I could possibly imagine.”
The newly released statement of principles emphasizes truth and a rejection of conspiracism. “We oppose the employment of fear-mongering, conspiracism, and falsehoods and instead support evidence-based policymaking and honest discourse,” it reads.
Whether or not McMullin’s movement will have sway in today’s GOP is yet to be seen. While Taylor said in April that Trump’s “influence (on the GOP) is wilting by the day,” the vote against Cheney shows a continuing loyalty to the former president and his movement. And McMullin’s commitment to accuracy may also face roadblocks — as former Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., wrote in The Washington Post this week, “(T)his is your contemporary Republican Party, where today there is no greater offense than honesty.”
Though the Thursday statement shows openness to ongoing cooperation with the current Republican Party, if certain reforms are not made, the group says it will explore “an alternative” party.
Evan McMullin and over 150 other conservatives threaten to leave GOP without reform /p>