All the buzz today is focused on the idea that someone might jump into the race as an independent in response to the Hobson’s Choice between two monumentally unqualified and sociopathic candidates the two major parties have decided to nominate. Via Mike Allen’s Playbook:
COMING ATTRACTIONS: Members of the conservative intelligentsia aching for a Republican to run independent against Trump have concluded that there is “a difficult but viable path” for an independent, based largely on the unusual unpopularity of the two nominees. A well-known conservative told us the final three possibilities are Sen. Ben Sasse, age 44, of Nebraska; former Sen. Tom Coburn, 68, of Oklahoma; and Mitt Romney, 69.
This conservative told us to expect renewed buzz around this possibility over the next week, and sees “a 50-50 chance that one of the three will do it.”
(My colleague, Jay Caruso, handicaps the candidates here.)
And it is gaining credence
Just because a third-party movement is likely ill-fated doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Quite the opposite, I should think.
— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) May 18, 2016
To be clear, I’m not opposed to fighting just for the hell of it. For Heaven’s sake, my parents come from Appalachia. I’m definitely not opposed to sucking up an occasional tactical defeat in the service of a strategic victory. But I have a lot of objections to the idea of a third party candidacy that has no real objective beyond #NeverTrump, no hopes of success, and is linked to conservatism.
The whole idea of a third party, at least at this juncture, has no animating force beyond #NeverTrump. I’m not disagreeing that this is both a worthy and noble goal but it doesn’t require a third party. All it takes is #NeverTrump voters either undervoting the presidential election, or voting for Hillary, or write in another candidate (Ted Cruz, in my case). This serves exactly the same function as the current purpose of a third party and without the sturm und drang of a third party exercise.
If a move is made to a third party, it needs to be a clear-eyed breach from the status quo and it needs to accept that such a third party will forever be a local party because conservatives are minority within the GOP which means they are a definite minority among general election voters. Maybe we should accept being the party of state legislators and county commissioners and elected judges with an occasional governor or member of congress. But the place to build an actual party is not with one man running for the presidency whose only compelling feature is “I’m neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton.”
A third party built around #NeverTrump will end up as being as ridiculous as Ross Perot’s Reform Party.
No Hope Of Success
We are very late in the day to be contemplating a third party candidacy. Texas, for instance, closed its ballot on May 9. Any third party candidate there will have to run as a write-in. The fact that there is no candidate and no organization as deadlines are cascading during June and July indicates that it will be virtually impossible for a third party candidate to gain access to ballots in more than a trivial number of states.
Where is the money going to come from to run this campaign? Why wouldn’t it make more sense for people who might contribute to a third party to, instead, send money directly to #NeverTrump candidates running down ballot so that a core of resistance to a potential President Trump would be in place? What major fundraiser, or donor, is going to want to be associated with putting Hillary Clinton in the White House by donating when they can simply not give to anyone?
Assuming away the difficulties of competing as a write-in with no money, the only chance a third party candidate has of being relevant is by winning enough electoral votes to prevent either Clinton or Trump from achieving the 270 electoral votes to be elected president. This doesn’t merely require a third party to do well, it requires it actually to win states. It is difficult to look at a map and identify a single state where a third party is likely to win. The best it can do is allow Democrats to win otherwise solid GOP states but you don’t need a third party to do that.
A #NeverTrump Third Party Should Not Be Conservative
Mostly because a conservative third party wading into the election this late is only going to beclown itself. It will carry zero states. It will not throw the election into the House. The best it can hope for is denying Trump the White House by visibly throwing GOP states to Hillary. This is not going to be the basis for either a third party or conservatives succeeding. In fact, conservatives visibly throwing the election to Hillary will create a stench that we will never erase and will make it virtually impossible for conservatives to operate within the GOP.
Mitt Romney?? Are You F***ing Kidding Me?
If Mitt Romney is the third party candidate, what point are we making?
We Are Thoroughly Screwed And A Third Party Isn’t Going To Make the Experience More Pleasant
I see a third party as a monumentally bad idea. In November the nation is going to elect a dangerously incompetent, liberal, elderly, narcissistic sociopath as president. A third party is not going to change that. This is not taking a short term loss for a long term win. If Trump wins, we are shown to be ineffectual. If Clinton wins, we own no small part of what she inflicts on the nation. The only win is via the House of Representatives and the odds of a GOP House electing a non-Trump candidate approach zero.