The American, British and Canadian conservative parties are in crisis.
Donald Trump’s behavior during the events of January 6th has led to public rifts at the Republican National Committee and with his former vice president, Mike Pence. Elsewhere in the English-speaking world, the British and Canadian Conservative Parties’ slow-moving leadership crises exploded this week.
- Ex-Vice President Mike Pence (R) condemned Donald Trump’s comments that Pence “could have overturned the election.” Pence said, “President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election.”
- Pence continued, “Frankly there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president. Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election. And Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024.”
- The Republican National Committee formally censured Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) for their work on the House January 6th Committee. One dissenting RNC member called the move “cancel culture at its worst.”
- UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “partygate” woes grew worse with the publication of the Sue Gray report on Monday. Sue Gray, a British civil servant charged with investigating Government violations of lockdown rules, outlined “serious leadership failures” on Johnson’s watch. The rest of her report is being held until the conclusion of a police inquiry into the matter.
- Johnson’s crisis deepened on Thursday. Five senior aides to Boris Johnson resigned, including his chief of staff and a longtime aide nicknamed “Boris’s brain.” Seventeen out of the required 54 MPs have already submitted letters calling for a vote of no confidence in Johnson’s leadership.
- Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O’Toole lost a vote of no confidence Wednesday after less than two years as leader. His successor will be the CPC’s fifth leader since Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister in 2015.
- Conservatives blamed O’Toole for losing the 2021 general election to Trudeau and resented his chameleon-like tenure.
- O’Toole ran for leader as a “True Blue” conservative but flip-flopped on several positions to move left including waffling over his support for the trucker convoy this week.
- The Washington Post covered the RNC’s censure motion in more detail. The resolution described the January 6 Committee as a “Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse.” This resolution’s drafter may want to take Sterling Archer’s advice.
- Politico assessed the possible successors to Canada’s Erin O’Toole after 73 of 119 Conservative MPs voted him out. They include several provincial premiers, legislators with a penchant for going viral and former leadership contenders.
- The Globe and Mail took readers inside the caucus room where 62% of O’Toole’s MPs kicked him to the curb.
- National Review writes, “good for Mike Pence.” NR praises Pence for calling out Trump by name and expresses gratitude for his service as vice president.
- The Washington Examiner rounded up the statements of the relatively few elected Republicans who condemned the RNC’s censure, including Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD).
- “Boris stopped listening” is The Telegraph‘s diagnosis of why Boris Johnson’s premiership has entered a death spiral.
Mike Pence’s remarks calling Trump “wrong” and his actions “un-American” mark Pence’s sharpest break from his former boss. Trump of course has attacked Mike Pence repeatedly for over a year, including defending the rioters who chanted “hang Mike Pence” and erected gallows at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Pence has generally declined to respond, until now. If (or perhaps when) Mike Pence launches his 2024 presidential campaign, this moment will probably be viewed as its unofficial launch.
It’s remarkable that both the British and Canadian Conservatives are going through simultaneous crises given their different positions. The UK Tories are in government and won a massive 80-seat majority just over two years ago. The Canadian Conservatives have lost three consecutive general elections – in 2015, 2019 and 2021. They’ve gone through leaders like Jerry Seinfeld’s character cycled through girlfriends on Seinfeld.
Both Johnson and O’Toole have taken fire for moving leftward after taking over their parties. Moving too far left to appeal to the media or swing voters comes with a cost. Of course, winning conservative politicians need to balance both their base and swing voters. To paraphrase Canadian icon Shania Twain, they just can’t forget to dance with the one that brought them.
© Dominic Moore, 2022