September 29, 2022

The idea of ​​a third political party has its appeal. But maybe now is not the time. – Chicago Tribune

A group of former Democrats, former Republicans and former Independents have come together to launch a third party. Called Forward, it is meant to appeal to all Americans who are so above both major parties.

If there was ever a time when a third party could gain subscribers, you might think this would be it. The two most likely candidates for president in 2024, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, have low approval ratings. The bitter political polarization that angers most Americans is a product of our two-party system, which gives outsized power to ideological fanatics who run for primary elections.

The striker will not dazzle with star power. Its biggest names are Andrew Yang, who ran for president in the 2020 Democratic primaries, and Christine Todd Whitman, who was head of the Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush.

Who the party might run for president is up in the air, but one possibility is someone who finds herself without a party: Liz Cheney. Although she lost her House re-election primary, she has no plans to leave. “I will do whatever it takes to ensure Donald Trump is never near the Oval Office again,” she said in her concession speech.

Veteran progressive Texas politician and pundit Jim Hightower said the only thing in the middle of the road was yellow stripes and dead armadillos. In fact, that’s where all the traffic goes.

In 2020, according to the American National Election Study, 59% of voters identified themselves as moderate, mildly conservative, or mildly liberal — centrists, in short. But this majority somehow manages to be a minority in one or other of the major parties. This helps explain why 62% of Americans agree on the need for another vehicle.

If these voters were to unite to challenge the status quo, they could be a powerful force. But the chances of that happening are slim.

We have recent experience with third parties that have actually made a difference in presidential elections. They suggest that the middle is not the most fertile ground for insurgencies.

George Wallace won five Southern states in 1968 by exploiting racial and cultural resentments. Ross Perot, who garnered 19% of the popular vote in 1992, sounded a lot like Trump in his calls for nativism, poking fun at elites and denigrating free trade.

John Anderson, a liberal Republican in the days before this species became extinct, took the leftist path in 1980, winning 7% of the vote against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Ralph Nader, nominated in 2000 by the Green Party, ran as the progressive alternative and may have won enough votes from Democrat Al Gore to elect George W. Bush.

“Third parties need a hot cause or a charismatic leader,” presidential historian Richard Norton Smith told me. “It is difficult to motivate potential majorities to overwhelm the polls in the name of moderation, good government or civility.”

Cheney may not quite fill the bill for a charismatic leader. And if she hopes to block Trump, the GOP primaries are the best avenue. Even with no chance of winning a dogfight, she could punch enough holes in her fuselage to bring him down in the general election — like Patrick Buchanan did to George HW Bush in the 1992 GOP race.

If Cheney were to run as a third-party candidate, she would pose a greater threat to Biden or his successor than to Trump. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll found that 16% of Republicans said they would not vote for Trump in 2024.

In a two-candidate race, many if not most of them would cringe and vote for Biden. However, if given another option, they could overwhelmingly opt for Cheney – and some independents and moderate Democrats could join them. Trump would stand a good chance of winning with an even smaller share of the popular vote than in his previous campaigns.

Given the capture of the GOP by people who revere Trump, condone insurrection, reject the rule of law, and only accept election results when they win, a third party is a dangerous proposition. The critical task is to defeat Trump and his confederates.

In a campaign speech Wednesday, Gov. JB Pritzker called on “the coalition of the sane” to unite against Trumpian extremism. In the 2024 elections, this coalition will only have one option, and it is not a third party.

Steve Chapman writes for Creators Syndicate. He can be reached at [email protected].

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