February 19, 2021

Is It Finally Time for a Real Third Party?

Rampant dissatisfaction with both political parties has more Americans than ever interested in another option.

When the U.S. Senate acquitted Donald Trump for the second time last week, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell just about broke his leg rushing to the podium to bash the former president. Never one to back down, Trump fired back with his usual zeal.

Even when Republicans win, they lose.

In a moment when McConnell could have brought the party together, he drove it apart. And his message was crystal clear to the 74 million people who voted for Donald Trump: We’re taking the party back.

(Admittedly, Mark Alexander had the opposite take on this spat yesterday — that Trump is the one who betrayed his voters.)

McConnell’s might have been the shot heard ‘round the world for Trump fans, and now there’s something of a civil war within the Grand Old Party. In fact, there are already rumblings about creating a third political party in response to establishment Republicans who’ll do whatever it takes to keep diehard Trump supporters out of the Republican tent.

But Republicans aren’t alone in their frustration with party leaders.

A recent Gallup poll revealed that 62% of Americans support a third party, the highest number since Gallup began surveying the question since 2003. An even more surprising discovery in the poll is that half of those surveyed identified as independents.

It should be noted that millions of people could answer “yes” to the question of a third party but mean very different things. Tea Party? Communist Party? Something in the middle?

But the larger point is that it makes sense that Americans are clamoring for a third party. There’s a widespread impression that both Republicans and Democrats have turned their backs on Middle America for far too long, and that they’ll pay lip service during a campaign and then kowtow to China, Big Tech, or just about any other group willing to sell out their country.

No wonder Donald Trump was a magnet for millions of Americans. And at least for the foreseeable future, just about any candidate that’s willing to put American interests first will get the support of millions.

As Stacey Lennox writes at PJ Media, “Our politics would be less toxic if our party leaders and the corporate media understood that we are a vast nation with varying perspectives on many policy issues.”

The inability of leaders on both sides of the aisle to grasp this point has kindled third-party interest among both conservatives and liberals. And, not surprisingly, even anti-Trump Republicans are thinking about a third-party option.

Lennox adds, “It is not abundantly clear what the terms 'liberal’ and ‘conservative’ mean anymore. However, since the election, I have been asserting that if the country’s vast economic middle could settle on critical priorities, they could form an overwhelming coalition in electoral politics.”

The problem is that Americans are so entrenched in either of two political camps that the likelihood of a left-right third-party alliance seems slim.

A conservative, pro-America party is certainly appealing, but we need to be realistic. George W. Bush in 2004 was the only Republican presidential candidate to win the popular vote since 1988, and demographic trends are making it less likely the GOP can win the popular vote any time soon. A truly conservative party might generate millions of votes, but it won’t be enough to win.

In the near term, we can expect a fierce battle within the Republican Party leading up to the 2022 midterms, with the Trump wing vying to win seats in the face of an emboldened establishment pushback. Only by broadening the conservative base within Congress and across the country can we move to the next step of electing a viable national candidate.

Should we lose this battle to the establishment Republicans, then and only then will it be time to start seriously talking about a third party.

For now, though, any short-term satisfaction derived by creating a third party that punishes the Republican Party would soon be overshadowed by another losing presidential campaign in 2024.

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