At George Washington’s funeral, his close friend General Henry Lee reminded everyone that Washington was “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Washington’s words on the danger of political parties are worth remembering.
Last week, a friend sent a link to a YouTube video that I found fascinating. If you are like me, you are already tired of politics now that the race has begun. I am tired of the negativity, polarization, giveaways, and the Woke nonsense. I am tired of the strongarm tactics of both parties to be sure that party “elites” predetermine my choices for office. If a Trump/Biden rematch exists, a new group, the “No Labels Movement,” will appear and could change the election stage.
Their Common Sense booklet is available online and is worth reading. In their own words, “We are a national movement of commonsense Americans pushing our leaders together to solve our country’s problems.”
Will History Repeat?
After the 2016 election, a friend who is a “Yellow Dog Democrat” and I talked about President Trump’s victory. He knew I voted for Trump because I liked his policies but considered Trump to be morally bankrupt. He was right! After the 2020 election, my friend was convinced that President Biden would be merely a placeholder and that little could or would be done during his four years. Wow, was he wrong!
Going into the 2024 election, we are again faced with a predetermined Democrat or a Republican. Barring health or legal issues for Biden or Trump, they will be our candidates. Both Parties now have the money and power to block the addition of anyone to their party’s ticket. The Democrats have so far blocked Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. from running. The Republicans are trying to stop Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, and Vivek Ramaswamy from their ticket.
Breaking the Stalemate
The politicians on both sides in Washington like things the way they are. Without a considerable effort by ordinary citizens, this is a deadlock that cannot be broken. The entrenched bureaucrats view elected officials, and you and me, as an inconvenient bump in the road to their running of the Country. Preservation of power and control is their primary goal.
Our existing parties also ensure that they stay in power by creating a system they say helps voters by keeping frivolous candidates off the ballot. They know the system is so complex and expensive that no ordinary citizen can run. It takes knowledgeable election attorneys, independent politicians, and donors with “deep pockets” to even think about running. Special interest groups, lobbyists, and foreign governments know this, and they attack us at weak points in our political system.
Historical Third-Party Attempts
The most recognizable third-party race in the twentieth century was in 1912. Teddy Roosevelt and his Bull Moose Party garnered 27% of the popular vote and 17% of the Electoral votes.
In my lifetime, there has only been one serious third-party attempt in a Presidential Election. In 1992 and again in 1996, Texas billionaire Ross Perot sensed voters’ broad dissatisfaction with Washington. In 1992, Perot focused on a balanced budget, domestic economic strength, fighting drugs, and more significant voter input to Washington affairs through electronic town hall meetings. This should all sound familiar since these are still the key issues today. Perot received over 19 million votes and pulled disillusioned voters from both parties. He was the most successful third-party candidate in recent history, and since then, more voters have declared themselves independent.
Today, with elections so close in the Electoral College, just a handful of votes from Pledged Electors in crucial states could change the outcome of any Presidential race.
Poller Frank Luntz reported last week that if the election comes down to a Trump/Biden rematch, 77% of voters want an alternative. This is a record high and far eclipses the level of voter frustration in 1912 and 1992.
The New York Post reported that in a recent survey by Yahoo News/Yougov, U. S. voters responded in a way we can all understand. 55% believe President Biden is unfit to serve, while 53% say the same for President Trump. For both Presidents, the reasons cited are too old, corrupt, incompetent, lousy job performance, or dangerous. None of these adjectives describe the leadership we deserve or need. To understand how pervasive this sentiment is, 47% of voters said they would consider a third-party candidate, regardless of their party affiliation.
Today, Independents hold the key to all elections, so both parties are on high alert. In a strange quirk of fate, the one thing Democrats and Republicans might unite over is keeping a third alternative off the ballot. Both parties have a real problem they cannot ignore. With so many disillusioned voters and Independents, a third party must only carry a handful of states to throw the Electoral College decision into the House of Representatives. The harder they work to subvert a practical third-party candidate, the more they bolster outside support.
A Third Alternative
The “No Labels Movement” aims to bring together reasonable and qualified representatives from both parties to build an electable ticket. According to NPR, they have already raised tens of millions of dollars to support their efforts.
The group’s core includes members of both parties who know the severity of the national situation and are willing to work together to find solutions. They understand the obstacles the two-party system placed in front of them to keep them off ballots, but they also know how to deal with them. Centrists like Joe Manchin and Jon Huntsman, Jr. are among the founding members.
I have thought about this long and hard and discovered I must ask myself two key questions to go this route.
Is a third-party highly qualified candidate electable, or is this like all other failed attempts?
If my party blocks my favorite choice’s nomination, am I a defector for voting for them, or am I just following through on my original party commitment?
Is a third-party candidate electable?
I would have said no if anyone had asked me this question a month ago. But my opinion has turned almost 180 degrees because today, the number of voters identifying as Independents has grown significantly or have no party affiliation. When Teddy Roosevelt and Ross Perot ran under the two-party system, they could only count on defections from one or both parties.
As Frank Luntz pointed out, 77% of the voters want another choice in a Trump/Biden rematch. With both parties indicating this is their direction, the third choice seems more likely than not. Voters are tired of the same old fighting, corruption, and broken promises, making outcomes unpredictable.
Perot and Roosevelt did not have to deal with electronic interference or social media, which could swing masses of younger voters. Party-centric, older party officials are less swayed by social media but do not know how to counteract its influence on new and younger voters.
Am I a defector if I vote for a third alternative?
As in recent elections, voters may say one thing to pollsters, get in the voting booth, and do something entirely different. Each voter will wrestle with this question independently, which cannot be analyzed by pollsters. I believe this is an unpredictable wild card.
Let us assume that the Republicans decide not to nominate Nikki Haley, and I am a die-hard Haley supporter. She then decides to run as the No Labels nominee. As a die-hard Republican, do I vote for a third-party candidate that may throw the election into the House, or do I remain true to my Republican roots?
Do the Democratic voters have the same issue as Joe Manchin or Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., if they choose to be a No Labels candidate? I must answer the same questions and reconcile whether I am a Democratic supporter holding the line or a defector.
The situation becomes even more complex if the No Labels Movement can nominate a bi-partisan ticket, those rare people who are intelligent and willing to compromise on significant issues. What if they nominate a complete outsider who is competent and has the same compromise capacity?
I can see at least five candidates with great appeal and appear more pliable on compromise issues. Combining them on a ticket in any order would almost ensure throwing the race into the House of Representatives for a vote. Joe Manchin, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Jon Huntsman, Jr., Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy all fit this description.
We should remember that in the original design of the Constitution, the framers intended for the President and Vice President to be the top two vote-getters, ensuring a compromise on many issues. If the President were removed from office, the Vice President would come from the opposing party, guaranteeing a movement toward the center in our politics. The Vice President is the President of the Senate, which ensured a more moderate government since his leaning might oppose the President’s. A No Labels split ticket is a step in the direction intended by the framers of the Constitution.
Into The Unknown
The one thing we know about the coming election is that it will be different than any in our lifetime, no matter your age. No one can predict the path or the outcome, and I guess that is what makes our Presidential elections so interesting. I believe the Democrats and Republicans are “dug in” on Biden and Trump, and if so, there will be a third alternative.
For the first time in decades, we must ask ourselves: “Am I a Democrat, a Republican, or an American.”
This article is part of a series on the 2024 Election. You can see others by clicking here.
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About half of voters would consider voting for a third-party candidate, by Dr. Frank Luntz, Straight Arrow News, san.com, July 27, 2023.
Biden’s 2024 team is on a mission to stop him from tripping amid struggle with ‘significant spinal arthritis,’ by Anders Hagstrom, FOXnews.com, September 26, 2023.
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