There has been a great deal of talk about the possibility of a third party led by former President Trump. A fringe element of Trump voters – among the most ardent of his supporters – are clamoring for a third party to be led by Trump.
I met a couple of them at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida. I can only describe them as extremely emotional and hostile to both the Democratic and Republican Parties. They considered themselves as the most loyal of the Trump supporters – and assumed that he would be announcing his plans to launch a third party – already named as the Patriots Party.
In offering up my unsolicited advice to Trump in terms of his CPAC speech, I advised that he kill off the notion of a third party. He did that in unmistakable terms.
One can only imagine the disappointment of his rabid fans when Trump used his speech to the conservative audience to strongly reject the idea of a third party. It was not a vague repudiation of the idea, but a full-throated rejection.
Trump said that such a third-party effort is exactly what Democrats and those on the left would like to see because they know it would divide the Republican Party and assure victory for Democrats all across the country.
The idea for a third-party split in the GOP is not only encouraged by the left. A number of conservative Republican apostates – who abandoned the entire Republican Party and the conservative movement allegedly over opposition to Trump – have been talking about a third party. Their motivation is the same as the Democrats – to destroy the Republican Party – not just defeat Trump, as they dishonestly claim.
Trump well understands the problem based on logic and history. The effort to launch a third party would be a disastrous failure for the GOP. In this evenly divided nation, it would not take an enormous number of votes to switch to a doomed third party to siphon off enough votes to bring down Republican candidates at virtually every level.
President Teddy Roosevelt was a lot like Trump – a charismatic leader with a large faithful following. When he was denied the nomination for a second term by the GOP, Teddy launched the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party. He not only failed, but he handed the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
The most racist element of the Democratic Party broke away to form the Dixiecrat Party with South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond as the standard bearer. They almost cost President Truman reelection in 1948. Following their defeat, the racist Dixiecrats returned to the Democratic Party where they successfully defeated Republican civil rights legislation for another 20 years.
It is not just a matter of switching votes. Major third-party efforts had discouraged voting. Individuals who are likely to support Republican candidates may not be willing to switch parties – but they may decide to stay home on election day or skip voting for candidates in a serious three-way struggle.
Many political observers believe that is what happened to President George H.W. Bush in 1992. The millions of votes garnered by Independent candidate Ross Perot would not have been sufficient to give Bush a clear victory, but the lower GOP turn-out added to the Perot vote would have.
Third parties inevitably hurt the party closest to their own ideology. The presence of left-wing Green Party candidate Ralph Nader cost former Democrat Vice President Al Gore the state of Florida in 2000 – and with it, the presidency.
Whatever Trump’s personal ambitions may be for 2024, he understands that upon logic and history, the idea of a third party is – or at least should be – dead on arrival.
So, there ‘tis.