In 1970 and in 1990, something strange happened in New York State elections. Conservatives revolted. Before going any further, let me give you a quick explanation of New York State ballot law.
New York State allows candidates to be cross-endorsed by various political parties. Meaning? If you earn the nomination of say the Republican, Reform, and Joe’s Pizza parties – you could conceivably be on the ballot for all three of those parties. This has led to some stronger than normal third parties including the Working Families Party, Independence Party, and, most importantly for this discussion, the Conservative Party of New York. Traditionally, so long as the Republican nominee for office is a conservative running for office, they generally are able to garner the Conservative Party line as well as the Republican Party line. Since its inception, no Republican has been elected Governor without that second ballot line.
In 1970, the Republican nominee for US Senate was the incumbent US Senator Charles E. Goodell. Goodell first entered the Senate after the death of Robert Kennedy (D) and was appointed by Governor Rockefeller (R), a man so known for his liberalism that the phrase Rockefeller Republican was coined based on him. When running for his own full term in 1970, Goodell was cross-endorsed by the Liberal Party of New York in addition to the Republican Party. The Conservative Party revolted, instead nominating their own candidate – lawyer and conservative activist James Buckley, the brother of conservative activist and National Review founder William F. Buckley. In a contested, powerful three way election something strange happened – Buckley won with a plurality being the only member of the Conservative Party ever elected to Congress. He served for one term before being beaten for reelection, but this revolt was an important one to note.
20 years later in 1990, the Republican nominee for Governor was millionaire businessman Pete Rinfret. He served as an economic advisor for Presidents Kennedy (D), Johnson (D), and Nixon (R) – not exactly scions of fiscal conservatism. He was also a squish on abortion. It was that year that the Conservative Party stepped in and refused to endorse Rinfret for the Gubernatorial nod. Instead, they endorsed college Professor Herbert London, well known in conservative circles for his consistent conservative stances on the issues. The election did not go as well as the 1970 election, but the Conservative Party came close to knocking the GOP out of “second party” status. Meaning? With a few thousand more votes the Conservative Party would have become the default second party monitoring polls instead of Republicans going forward.
Conservatives revolting due to liberal nominees from the Republican Party have a rich history in New York. It was way less successful in 2006 when Howard Mills was the GOP nominee for US Senate. I was a member of the CP at the time and voted for Marilyn O’Grady on the Conservative Party line. The pro-choice Mills was later caught keeping his political accounts open, fundraising, and using it for personal gain. But, that’s another story.
In 2016, we are battling for the soul of the Republican Party on a national level. Donald Trump’s brand of Republicanism isn’t conservative. It’s big government, Executive branch heavy, and opposes free trade with massive tariffs on foreign competitors. He supports universal healthcare, has only recently claimed to be pro-life because he met someone who was, and the perpetual bitterness/unrealistic attitude on immigration issues is turning away potential swing voters (and coming off as overtly racist). Conservative voters need a real choice. They need an alternative to Donald Trump if he were to receive the nomination. If he gets the nomination, conservatives will need to revolt and hopefully we’ll put up our own Herbert London or James Buckley on a national stage. We may need to draft a bold conservative leader to go third party. If we do not, we will have ceded control of the nation to liberalism as well given up the best vehicle to get conservative policy accomplished to a narcissistic liberal who defrauded people with Trump University and who’s donated to the Clintons, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi in the past.
Conservatives can do better. Let’s hope they do.