Day 49: The People Without A Party

The national struggle to defeat Donald Trump in November is going forward amid an exodus from the Republican Party and a paradoxical crisis in the two-party system.  The paradox is that, even as the parties and their candidates raise more and more money and draw the battle lines between one another more sharply, they excite more animus and aversion in the population at large.  It’s hard to be mindful of the huge swath of the American population that is withdrawn and disenchanted, unaffiliated and uncertain, especially given the hype that keeps Democrats and Republicans ever before our eyes.

This hype inadvertently sustains Trump’s power, a president whose popularity ratings are shockingly low relative to every other modern president.  Trump’s “base”– the amoral and low-information voters who continue to approve of him–lacks the geographic spread to prevail.  Meanwhile, legions of prominent and rank-and-file Republicans have either left the party, gone silent, or endorsed Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.

The pool of voters available to put Biden in the White House is unusually large.  Let’s remember this as we work to get out the vote against Trump.  Innumerable voters besides those who are Democrat want Trump to go.

The millions of people currently without a party are something like “a silent majority.”  They do not need to be convinced to join a party: they only need to be persuaded to vote once for Biden and, by ending Trump’s disastrous presidency, save what’s left of our Constitutional system.  For that matter, the Senate Republicans (with the exception of the noble Mitt Romney) have so failed in their duties to the Constitution and the nation that the voters must try to depose them, too.

Image: Albert Levering’s “Republican Voters Revolt” (1910),
from this source.

What We Know About American Third Parties

We’ve had many third-party movements over the last century, but none has achieved national dominance; few have proved lasting.  In fact, third-party candidates do not win elections.  As Peter Kiernan observes in his book, Becoming China’s Bitch (poorly written but interesting), whenever third-party candidates or their ideas begin to gain traction, the major parties co-opt them.  Individuals who run as third-party candidates without having a true national party organization behind them are doomed to be remembered as irritating spoilers.  The so-called independent candidate—whether wealthy or quixotic—is wasting our time.

Creating a lasting third party in the US could be accomplished, but it would take at least a decade.  The new party would have to be ideologically distinct from the existing parties—perhaps even inimical to them—, yet moderate enough in its outlook to gain traction in the mainstream.  In addition, the viability of such a party would have to be proved at the state level first.  A new party solidly established in several of the largest, wealthiest, and most diverse states—say Florida, New York, Texas, and California—might have a hope of success nationally.

A President Without a Party? Americans Elect