“I decided that somebody’s got to do it, if nobody else will, then I must.”
I had the pleasure of speaking at length with head of the Federalist Party, political activist JD Rucker. I became intrigued by Rucker after I learned of the Federalist Party’s existence and their fundamentally different approach to challenging the two-party system. In our current climate of political mayhem, could a third-party be a feasible alternative for the somewhat ideologically homeless conservative? I thought speaking with Rucker would be a good place to begin.
From start to finish, the conversation with Rucker was both enlightening and heartening. Rucker’s understanding of what fundamentally plagues our political system is in congruence with many disillusioned conservatives—the Right’s disappointing failure to fight “big government” has morphed into a growing fondness for bloated bureaucracy. And therein, Rucker defines what he believes to be the purpose of the Federalist Party: “Our third party is designed in particular to essentially pull them [GOP] back to the Right, if that’s even possible. And if not, then we are prepared to take over.”
He sees the Federalist Party as a “reminder” that the GOP can no longer take the conservative vote for granted. But Rucker isn’t obtuse on how we got here—he’s direct and forthright when he flatly states, “We have allowed the government to do this to us.”
He’s also not naïve about the abysmal success rate to which third parties typically fall privy. However, he does identify the Federalist Party strategy as decidedly different, proclaiming “the primary difference for us is that we are going to build this from the local level, up.” He coins the Federalist Party’s approach as “bottom-up” in nature, focused on creating an initial footprint in everything from sheriff elections to city council elections to state legislative elections. And indeed, for a party focused on returning power to communities, this approach is refreshingly organic.
Rucker wrote a piece several weeks ago discussing how federalism isn’t about protecting states but rather about protecting the individual. When I asked him about this particular message, he expounded in detail on the government’s general failure to serve the “primacy” of the individual, who has now been belittled by the ever-expanding state. Rucker then admits that Americans now are looking for “leaders to save them,” and this desire is fundamentally flawed: “Government should enable the people to find a solution—government was never designed to be the solution.”
In Rucker’s eyes, “the individual can solve problems for him or herself better than any government action.” And Rucker believes the Federalist Party is geared towards reintroducing the long-lost individual back into the political sphere, specifically by enabling and encouraging people to take more active roles in their communities.
The Federalist Party’s main goal is to demonstrate how genuinely small government—manifested as the “localization of efforts”—can benefit people’s causes more than a larger federal apparatus can. From Rucker’s point of view, federalism or “taking care of your own local area” is much more impactful than tackling a wide range of issues on a global scale. Given this metric holds true for both the conservative and the liberal, he envisions the Federalist Party as appealing to a variety of figures from across the political spectrum.
And baked into this understanding of federalism’s appeal is Rucker’s conception of what the party’s approach should be. Indeed, his vision for the Federalist Party is one prudently defined by longevity, rather than by capturing a few seats in 2018. In fact, he could not have emphasized to me more strongly the importance of 2032 over the impending midterm elections.
But perhaps the most interesting part of my interview with JD revolved around his entrance into politics. It wasn’t a foray marked by a prestigious law degree or longish stint at a private equity firm. Rucker described himself as simply a politically engaged person who realized about fifteen years ago that the Republican Party had approached a stage beyond saving and that it would be far better to structure a new party around a truly conservative perspective. Rucker succinctly explained his own involvement by stating, “Nobody else was doing it and I felt somebody needed to.”
What struck me as most impressive about Rucker, beyond his assessment of the current political climate and his prescription for reform, was his depthless humility. I am ending with his own words because I don’t believe I could do them quite justice. Needless to say, my interview with JD Rucker gives me hope that the citizenry is still capable of producing selfless and thoughtful leaders. In a time of an ever-expanding federal apparatus, made fat by unabated spending, I am encouraged by thinkers like JD who not only diagnose problems with poise but also have the drive to tackle them. In the words of JD Rucker:
“I want to be clear. People like to put me down as ‘cofounder’ of the Federalist Party. I look at myself as specifically just a caretaker. Just to get this up and running until more people—better people, smarter people—can get involved. That is all.”
If you are interested in learning more about the Federalist Party and what Rucker and others are doing on behalf of conservatism, feel free to visit thefederalistparty.org. You can follow JD Rucker on Twitter at @JDRucker.