Third Parties

Third Parties Don’t Work In America


Leonard Zwelling

In a terse editorial in The New York Times on February 1, Michael Tomasky, the editor of the journal Democracy, does a great job explaining why third parties don’t ever rise to prominence in the United States. It has to do with the winner-take-all form of our House elections. Only one person represents a district and that’s the person who got the most votes in the election. He explains that if there were six parties, two doing well, two doing so-so and two doing badly, eventually the two doing badly will throw in with one of the two doing well because the poor performers get tired of being also-rans. Eventually, the two doing so-so will get tired of their fate as well, that is never winning. They too will throw in with one of the two doing well and you will be down to two parties. This is different than in parliamentary forms of government with many parties and proportional allocation of seats in the legislature (e.g., Israel).

This has risen to the surface as a topic of conversation as it seems possible that Mr. Trump may well create his own third party due to his (and his followers’) disenchantment with the mainstream Republican Party. As much as the Democrats have two distinct wings, there is little chance that the Bernie-AOC-Warren crowd is about to split away from the Bidenists. Such is not the case in the GOP where the Cruz, Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Greene et al cast of characters wants to swing the party so far right that Rob Portman (R-OH) needs to quit the Senate to get anything constructive done in his life. That is sad indeed, but a third party on the right is not beyond anyone’s imagination.

As Tomasky points out, all such a party would do, (and presumably it would run Mr. Trump for President in 2024) is guarantee the Democrats an Electoral College victory with 42% of the popular vote (see Clinton-Bush-Perot, 1992 or Wilson-Taft-Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party eighty years before).

This shows the fallacy of the GOP continuing to acquiesce to Mr. Trump’s will as House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy travels to Mar-A-Lago to kiss the ring of his benefactor. This will end badly for the Republicans which saddens people like me who believe a vibrant, viable conservative party is essential if America is to thrive in a globalized world of free trade and the need for strong defense. This is not to say that many ideas in the Democratic platform are bad, but that the best legislation will arise from a melding of the best of both worlds—liberal and conservative. That is what is being attempted now in the drive to arrive at a comprehensive covid relief plan that does not leave the most vulnerable to suffer nor break the bank at home.

Mr. Biden ought to give some serious thought into taking up the offer by the ten Republican senators who came to the White House at 5 PM tonight (February 1) and cut that deal. I understand that Biden wants to go big and wants to flex his muscles that have atrophied after he left the vice presidency and watched Trump from afar, but getting something done and living to fight another day is better than forcing a bill through under reconciliation and ending what little chance there is at bipartisanship in a attempt not to replay 2009.

Let Mr. Trump try to form a third party. All he will do is cripple the GOP for years to come. For now, let the Republicans stew in that mess and cut a deal with the mainstream thinkers in the Senate GOP caucus. Make the deal!

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