Time for A New Political Party?

In the 1850's, the Whig Party, who had previously seen two of its candidates elected president, fell apart because of deep internal divisions. Many of it members switched to the newly created Republican Party. Some moved to the short lived American Party while others quit politics altogether. Today, we are seeing divisions in the Republican Party and a declining membership. Should it fail to win the presidency in 2016, will it be the end of the party at the national level?

The Republican party has only won the popular vote for president once in the last 23 years. A 2016 loss could be devastating for the party. Even the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, thinks so.

What's Next?

Assuming such a loss, there seems only three choices for the party. It could rewrite its platform, boot out the tea party faction, or it could give up the presidency.

It seems unlikely that the party can broaden its appeal by becoming more moderate. The base has been pushing the platform further to the right over the past several decades. It's likely it will continue to do so. A sudden turn around and strong move back isn't in the cards.

Cutting loose the right fringe of the party isn't likely to work either as it makes up the most active base of the party. Those remaining would be left with the stigma of the party name. Many independents would be suspicious of an actual change in the party's direction.

Leaving the presidency aside, the party is still a powerful force in state politics. As of the 2012 election they held 30 governorships and 27 state legislatures. They may decide to be content with that.

A New Party

In 2013, a gallop poll showed only 23% of those interviewed identified as Republican while 42% identified as independent. This is fertile ground to create a new party that would appeal to those independents and moderate Republicans dissatisfied with their party.

There are already many other political parties. About the only time you notice them is when you see them on the ballot running for president. Many of these parties have specific agendas that preclude wide acceptance. Some of then have been around for a long time and have gone nowhere.

As boring as it may be, a centrist party that holds moderate positions on all issues could get a foothold. If this party is committed to getting things done by working with the other parties, it may have wide appeal to those who are frustrated with the Democrats and the Republicans.

In order for the party to gain critical mass, it can't start with a couple of candidates winning seats on the hospital board. There would have to be a major commitment. The most likely source of such a commitment would be a dissatisfied moderate faction of the Republican party. To elected Republicans in deep red states who are fighting off opponents on their right, it would be political suicide. Likely switchers would be candidates who are threatened by a democratic opponent and Republicans that have lost in a primary election because they were defeated by someone more to the right and see it as an opportunity to get back in.

Critical mass for the party would be when in held enough seats in Congress to deny any party a majority. With both houses so evenly split between the current parties, it would only take a small percentage. Once this happened, the Democrats and the Republicans would have to work with the party to form a majority. With a place at the table, the party would attract additional moderates from the other parties. Most likely, the bulk of them would be from the Republican party. It could also attract conservative Democrats.

Can it Last?

If the moderates flee the Republican Party, all that would be left would be the uncompromising Tea Party faction. By their nature, they would have no chance of advancing their platform through compromise. In frustration, remaining Republican voters may slowly migrate to the new party to have any chance of seeing their goals achieved. Should the Republican party shrink into insignificance, we would be back to a two party system and the new party would have a shot at the presidency.

After the failure in the 1852 election, the Whig party quickly disintegrated. There was virtually no sign of it by the 1856 election. Could this be the same fate for the Republican party with a 2016 presidential loss or will it hold on for many years in its stronghold states?

4 Commentss to “Time for A New Political Party?”

  1. Bob Vella says:

    This is a clearly reasoned, analytical, and well-researched examination of a potential third-party movement in America. There is indeed a great tactical schism within the Republican Party which became evident after the rise of the Tea Party in 2009-10. However, like all third-party movements in modern American history, this one – should it arise – would face the extremely difficult task of overcoming the entrenched two-party duopoly codified into the electoral laws of U.S. states. In the absence of federal ballot-access standards, in addition to the nation’s winner-take-all system (as opposed to a proportional representation system), a new political party would have little chance of garnering a significant plurality of votes. For example, Ross Perot came closest to reaching that goal in 1992 with 18.9% of the vote as an independent presidential candidate. His vote count dropped to 8.4% in 1996 as the Reform Party candidate, and John Anderson (I) achieved 6.6% in 1980.

    Furthermore, although this GOP divide on political tactics is quite pronounced, the strategic ideological differences between establishment Republicans (i.e. centrists, moderates) and the Tea Party is virtually nonexistent. This suggests that their disagreement will not become serious enough to split the party.

    In contrast, it is the Democratic Party which is exhibiting very serious fracture lines. Establishment Democrats (i.e. centrists, moderates, and so-called “conserva-Dems”) are engaged in a bitter struggle right now with their progressive base over what the party fundamentally stands for. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been leading the left-wing in vigorous opposition to the Obama/Clinton wing on a range of specific issues from Wall Street reform to free trade (i.e. TPP, TTIP, and globalism) to foreign policy and the application of military power. But, instead of leading to a potential party split, this Democratic Party divide is already generating an even more worrisome trend – declining voter turnout among progressives and younger voters.

    Declining voter turnout poses an existential threat to the very practice of democracy in America. Without vigorous public participation to spur them, politicians inevitably turn to the practice of corporatism in order to get things done. Unfortunately, this serves moneyed special interests instead of the public good. For example, in today’s general election in Washington state, 41 of the 58 elected offices in my county have candidates running unopposed (71%). Voter turnout is projected to be below 20%. I ask you, is this really democracy?

  2. William Rowe says:

    Bob, I agree that it’s highly unlikely for a third party candidate to win the White House as long as there is an electoral college. The only chance for a new party to grow would be by winning congressional seats. It would take the demise of an old party and a return to a two party system for a new party to have shot at the presidency.

    Given the fractures you point out in the Democratic party, its conservative members may see an opportunity to combine with liberal republicans to form a new party. I just don’t see a future for the Republican party if it can no longer be successful in the presidential race. We’ve had the same two parties for over 150 years. It will take a sea change to change the status quo.

  3. Jubanord says:

    But Dave,I voted straight Republican. And urged eyrovene I knew to do the same. You have been reading here haven’t you?And the back stabbers? Romney Republicans. Those are the guys who didn’t show up at the polls – I’m working on a post.And who exactly is backstabbing the party? The big spenders in Congress. But hey. If you don’t want my kind in the party – more loyal for the last 4 elections than regular Republicans – fine. The party has just shrunk another 1 or 2% And become even more regional. Sarah will show you how to win Rs and Ds. Read “The Real Stealth Candidate” to find out how a professional who wants to win elections does it.Get back to me when the party shows some fiscal discipline and you want to win elections. Like any voter I have my price.

  4. Bob Vella says:

    An interesting turn of events has made a Republican Party split more plausible. GOP establishment leaders are considering a brokered convention next year should populist front-runner Donald Trump win the presidential primaries. Such a backroom deal to select the Republican nominee would surely anger Trump and his Tea Party supporters. Candidate Ben Carson has already suggested he would leave the party in that event. See: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/floor-fight-in-cleveland-republicans-discuss-brokered-convention/ar-AAgi4xD

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