It’s hard to say whether it’s even feasible, but according to this politico story, there’s going to be a discussion.
The case against a Conservative Third Party is pretty well-worn: splitting the Republican vote would almost certainly guarantee a Clinton victory and for many conservatives a Clinton presidency is even less palatable than a Trump nomination.
But it’s a moment of truth for Conservatives. Does the goal of preventing a Clinton presidency justify electing a narcissistic bully who would just as soon wipe his ass with the Constitution as read it? Conservatives who would trade their principles for expedience will deservedly wear the Trump hairshirt for a decade or more.
Besides, a Trump nomination alone is likely enough to ensure a Clinton presidency. If he did manage to win, the Democrats would love nothing more than to have Donald Trump represent the GOP for four years. Whatever ugliness occurs will fall at the feet of the movement that spawned (or at least supported) a Trump presidency.
When stated in moral terms the case for a Conservative Third Party is compelling. But the world isn’t strictly moral and I’m sure at least one person at this Thursday meeting will point out the more practical considerations: Who would be the candidate? Could they win?
These are harder questions indeed. Cruz is the obvious choice for a candidate. Would he actually give up on the Republican nomination? Or would he settle with Trump in exchange for some high honor like–assuming it hasn’t already been promised to Ben Carson–the Vice Presidency? Unfortunately there’s only one person who can answer these questions.
But I believe the chances of victory are better than we’d normally expect. There’s a presumption that a GOP schism would only affect half of voters. But it’s not clear this would be the case. Once you move into a three-party race our typical calculus has to change.
What would Trump do without his conservative base? He’d have no choice but to run left … and probably left of Hillary. His only chance of winning would be to entice Clinton supporters with promises of expanded child care programs and restoring America’s manufacturing sector? Could he siphon off enough traditional Democrat votes to make a three-way race even? Possibly. It’s not like Hillary inspires the most enthusiastic support to begin with.
Oh and that racism stuff? That’s easy, he could just say Hey, I was only saying that because I had to appeal to the conservative base but now I can really be myself … didn’t I tell you I was flexible. In the startup world they call this a pivot.
While such a strategy seems blatantly opportunistic, if there’s one thing authentic about Donald Trump, it’s his opportunism. I warned my liberal friends a few weeks ago not to dismiss Trump because if elections are about false promises, no one is going to out-false-promise Donald Trump.
Combining a Third Party bid with a populist candidate like Trump might in fact be just the right recipe for a Conservative like Cruz to squeeze out a plurality.
And that’s just one scenario. There are others. I have no research to back up any of my instincts here. But I know the research would say I’m crazy so why bother! All bets are off and all futures are imaginable. If we’re going to make 2016 memorable, let’s make it really memorable.