There is no mention of political parties in the United States Constitution, and this most important of all our documents predates any notion of party politics. Fresh from winning our freedom from Britain, we were but one Country with Washington at the helm. But as we mentioned in earlier articles, Washington knew of and feared the influence of the party system on our fledgling republic. At Washington’s exit from the Presidency, the Democratic-Republican and Federalist parties emerged, and Washington’s fears came to pass.
Since the time of Abraham Lincoln, there have only been two viable parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. Smaller, less powerful election efforts have been mounted, but only Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 and Ross Perot in 1992 made any serious headway toward a challenge to existing parties since 1912. With every passing day, the likelihood of a serious third-party movement seems more and more likely in the 2024 election.
New Knowledge for Me
This week, I learned that one successful third-party candidate was elected President. The statement above is correct, and only two significant campaigns have been mounted since the time of Lincoln. But most, myself included, assume that Lincoln was a Republican when he was a third-party candidate.
Lincoln ran for a second term as the candidate of the National Union Party in 1864. The circumstances were very similar to the events happening in our upcoming election. The war was dragging on, and the human toll was incredibly high; the Republicans were split over Lincoln’s electability. From this discontent sprang the National Union Party. The National Union Party was formed with some Republicans as the core members. The name was used more nationally since many states continued to use the Republican banner for State and local candidates. The National Union Party was a “big tent” coalition that took in the Republicans, Unionist Party, Unconditional Union Party, Radical Democracy Party, and the War Democrats.
The National Union Party had Lincoln at the top of the ticket and Andrew Johnson from Tennessee as Vice President. The race was against Democrat General George B. McClellan, whom many viewed as a failed War commander. Lincoln and his fellow National Union Party members also swept most of Congress.
The National Union Party was made up of like-minded Republicans and members of other parties with shared views on the direction of the Country. Most, if not all, were hardline advocates for the defeat of the Confederacy and not compromise. This coalition of Republicans and others won a resounding victory. The third political party was necessary to attract Democrats who refused to vote for any Republican. Soldiers and veterans voted overwhelmingly for Lincoln and helped push him to victory. In a strange twist of fate, with Lincoln’s assassination, Andrew Johnson became the second National Union Party President. So yes, there have been two presidents from a coalition party, and stitching together voters from more than one party with shared interests was the formula for victory. This tidbit shows why the Democrats and Republicans are pushing back against third-party efforts today.
Many correctly point to this as an aberration in our political system and a unique situation brought on by the Civil War. These are sound observations, but our system commonly forms coalitions to achieve difficult political compromises. Within Congress, compromises have always been necessary to advance legislation. Presidents also sometimes build coalitions to fulfill campaign promises or steer the Country in a direction that matches their vision.
Where are we in 2023?
Election watching is an excellent pastime for many of us as the ebb and flow of information, opinions, world events, scandals, wars, and social media begin to take hold of the voters. This third-party possibility puts a very different spin on what will happen. My personal opinions are nothing more than those based on reading, watching, and studying what is happening daily. Here is what I see with candidates outside of Biden and Trump.
There has been a shift within the Republican lineup that is notable. Initially, it appeared that Ron DeSantis was the frontrunner to challenge President Trump for the Republican nomination. But with the last debate, his star began to fade a bit, and now Nikki Haley is rising in the opinion of voters. Haley has good foreign policy credentials, a valuable skill in this dystopian time. However, she may have made a misstep in inviting China to build within 5 miles of a military base in South Carolina. This misstep leaves her rightly open to criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.
Tim Scott is popular and “hanging in there” with the others. But his name recognition is much more significant in the South than in other regions, and he has a real uphill battle to become a household name elsewhere. As a Vice Presidential candidate, he would add a lot to any ticket, especially a third party.
Vivek Ramaswamy is on my list of interesting outsiders, but not as you might think. We learned in the past few elections that pollsters must improve surveying young voters. Vivek is on YouTube with extended interviews and appearances almost daily. He will engage with anyone and go toe-to-toe with them on issues. I believe his message resonates with those who are most difficult to poll. If he stays within the Republican tent, his message will be drowned out, and he has no chance. If he were to run as a third-party candidate, he would still be the longest of long shots but would force some very uncomfortable conversations with the others.
Maybe the early State voting will shift the landscape, but Trump, Haley, DeSantis, Ramaswamy, and Scott are the serious candidates right now.
Mike Pence, Larry Elder, Perry Johnson, Will Hurd, and Francis Suarez have now withdrawn from the race, and many other Republicans need to do the same. Chris Cristie and Asa Hutchenson are there but have little to no chance. Republicans must focus on just one or two candidates, or voters will lose interest from all the confusion and constant sniping. The debates are irrelevant without Trump, and the candidates, in my opinion, would be better served to go on the campaign trail.
Out of the blue, two more names appeared on the Democratic list of candidates. Marianne Williamson and Dean Phillips. These two are more than interesting but for very different reasons. We need to remember that the Democratic Party has a super delegate process where the Party controls the final vote. So, anyone running on the Democratic Party ticket is interesting but irrelevant unless the powers that be want them to be the nominee. The best they can hope for is some strange series of events that would move support away from President Biden. This seems unlikely now unless he decides to drop out because of his age. In any event these two are very interesting to discuss.
Marianne Williamson has never held public office, which is a plus, not a minus, for many. Her claim to fame is her role as the spiritual advisor to Ophrah Winfrey. She is a far, far-left candidate who is for unrestricted abortions, restrictive gun sales and ownership, legalizing recreational drugs, and 100% renewable energy by 2035. The likelihood of a serious campaign for her, even as a Democrat, is doubtful. If she were to win, we would all smoke weed in the dark while waiting for our EV to charge.
A bit more serious is Dean Phillips, currently a member of the House of Representatives from Minnesota. He hits at President Biden’s obvious weaknesses of age and low approval ratings. He has some crossover appeal by favoring more funding for police, immigration reform, and less government involvement in healthcare. But Phillips has already missed the filing deadline for Nevada and may miss more. I view Phillipps as window dressing for the Democrats to claim that Biden did not run unopposed.
According to several sources, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. seems to be gathering the most steam and may already have 19% of the national vote with little financial support. Of genuine concern, and I mean real concern, is that he meets the criteria for Secret Service protection, which President Biden refuses to grant. In a very unscientific survey I conduct almost daily, he has the largest following on YouTube, where he spells out his aspirations. His platform is nothing new and sounds like a blend of JFK and RFK. Their messages still resonate with “the boomers.” His message is more populist than true conservative, but he makes concessions on border security. Raised in a Catholic family, his stance on abortion might be more traditional, but so far, I have not heard him approach this issue.
Then there is Cornel West, the author and Harvard and Princeton educated activist. His platform will resonate with some, but not many. He is for a wealth tax, six months of mandated family leave for births, a $27 an hour minimum wage, a four-day work week, ceasing all drilling for oil, and codifying abortion into the Constitution. His policies would turn us into Socialists instantly, and his candidacy is about as solid as the many attempts of Bernie Sanders and Ralph Nader. But recent polling indicates that his participation hurts Democrats more thank anyone else.
No Labels Movement
My unscientific method of observation also includes the No Labels group. I now believe this is more concept than fact because they have not named a candidate. They must name a candidate now and start an effective fundraising effort and campaign. The No Labels Movement might be able to put together a ticket with Kennedy and someone else who is popular, but they need to catch up at this point. Unless NLM names a candidate soon, this movement will fade in popularity like 1980s platform shoes. They must be more than just the alternative to a Trump/Biden rematch with no platform or candidates. On my unscientific YouTube scale, the NLM rating is almost zero.
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 an Independent Candidate. There are just too many dissatisfied voters who want a third alternative for everyone to sit this election out.
- Will Trump be running from jail?
- Will Biden resign in disgrace from scandals?
- Will the wars in Ukraine and Israel change the outcome of the election?
- Will China invade Taiwan?
- Will Kennedy pull enough Electoral votes to throw the election into the House?
- Will markets crash from falling earnings and excessive debt?
- Will a consumer debt crisis require further intervention, or will we slide into a recession or depression?
No matter how you slice it, the election of 2024 will shape the United States and the world for decades. In the United States, for the first time in decades, voters must ask themselves: “Am I a Democrat, a Republican, or an American.” How you answer that question will determine your vote.
This article is part of a series on the 2024 Election. You can see others by clicking here.
Resources Used in This Article
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