When you go into your polling place in 2016, you could find that you have to choose from amongst not two, not three, but FOUR presidential candidates. I'm not talking about the fringe candidates that run in every election, never getting 1% of the vote. I'm talking viable candidates outside of the Big Two parties who might not win, but who could change the result of the election.
Think Ross Perot who ran as a Reform Party candidate in 1992. In May he was beating BOTH incumbent President George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in the polls in several key states, including Texas and California. He did well in the national debates. And he received 19 percent of the popular vote, the most won by a third-party presidential candidate since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. Here's the key point. Had Perot not run we might have been spared the 8 years of national shame that was the Clinton presidency.
And what about George Wallace? Perot may have cheated a sitting Republican president of his re-election, but Wallace took votes away from a Democrat in 1968. There was only a gnat's whisker of difference in the popular vote between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey - 43.4% to 42.7%. Wallace won 13.5% of the popular vote. More importantly, this third-party candidacy actually won 5 states!
There have been other examples of viable third party candidates in our history. But the important impact they have had is that they took important votes away from either the Democrat or Republican presidential candidate. What if this election saw TWO strong outside candidates - one of whom drew votes away from the Republican, and one who took votes that would normally have gone to the Democrat?
Could this actually happen? Absolutely. In a recent New Hampshire poll, Bernie Sanders was ahead of Hillary Clinton by 10 points. Now, Bernie Sanders is an avowed Socialist. Is it likely that he will get the Democrat Party nomination? Not at all, especially since he is not even a registered Democrat. He was elected as an Independent, but even when he announced his run for the Democrat nomination he didn't change his party affiliation.
So, why is he running? The entire Democrat Party platform is Socialist - they just don't call it that. (They prefer "Progressive," which sounds better, but means the same thing.) But there is a large contingent of the party that is far Left and is unashamedly Socialist-Communist - like Sanders. And they LIKE Sanders. In many states he has had huge crowds coming out to hear his boring drivel - far larger crowds than Hillary. As Liberal as Hillary is, they actually believe she is too Conservative. So, at least at this point, Sanders is taking votes away from Hillary.
One of the reasons Sanders has been able to hurt Hillary is the polls that show that Americans (including many Democrats) don't trust her - and many just plain don't like her. As many as two thirds in some polls believe that she lied about Benghazi to cover her culpability in the deaths of four Americans; and that she is lying about what was on the email server that she finally turned over to the FBI (after she had it wiped clean). And while her "favorable" ratings are in the 30% range, her "unfavorables" are between 50% & 60% in many polls.
This is like blood in the water to a shark. It's attracting a host of Democrats who see the possibility that Hillary could face criminal charges for mishandling top secret information, and who see her dropping from front-runner to desperate in the polls. Has-beens like Al Gore and goofballs like Joe Biden, who had stayed quiet while Hillary seemed the inevitable nominee, are now making noises about running against her. And, of course, this is all very encouraging to Bernie Sanders.
Hillary tries to make it appear that the issue of her keeping classified information on a private server is just another "vast right-wing conspiracy." But Obama's Justice Department is anything but right wing. And the FBI, which is part of Justice, does not initiate investigations unless there is credible information that leads them to believe that a criminal act has taken place. Just this week a federal judge ruled that Hillary violated federal laws, and ordered the State Department to turn over everything it has on the subject to the FBI. So there is a very real possibility that the investigation into Hillary's actions could lead to criminal charges.
If that happens, either the has-been or the goofball would probably be the Democrat nominee. They won't nominate Sanders because, even though millions of Democrats love him, he wouldn't stand a chance in the general election.
But what if he ran as an Independent? Would he win? No. But would he take votes away from the Democrat nominee? Without question. If 2016 ends up being a three way race with Sanders facing a Democrat and a Republican nominee (whoever they may be), I believe Sanders would be a strong enough spoiler to ensure a Republican win. (Sanders has said he will not run a third-party race, but other Independents have said that before and then ran anyway. And, as my daddy said, “You can never trust a Socialist.")
What about the other wild card in this unusual election? If the word "wild" applies to anyone, it certainly applies to Donald Trump. A quick search of polls in which people are asked to describe Trump in one word unearths many others: Narcissist, blowhard, opportunist, obnoxious, sleazy. Others were more complimentary: Entrepreneur, businessman, wealthy, visionary. But I don't see anyone describing him as likable or presidential. Trump says he doesn’t care if people like him. That’s wild. And that’s not all…
The first time America got to see the top 10 Republican candidates together was on the Fox News Debate. The first question was asked of all 10 by Brett Bair: "Is there anyone on stage, and can I see hands, who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican Party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person?" There was widespread "BOOing" in the audience when Trump raised his hand.
He then clarified his position. First he said he would pledge to support the Republican nominee if HE was that nominee! Then he said he would support another person as the nominee only if he felt the Republican Party had treated him fairly. The clear implication was that he would run as a third party candidate if he didn’t
feel he had been treated fairly. Is it likely that Trump would run anyway if he does not receive the Republican nomination? Let’s look at a few factors…
He has a huge ego. If he feels the Republicans have not shown him respect, I think it is highly likely he would run as a third party candidate.
He certainly has the money to run, even if he never received a single campaign donation.
He is not a Conservative Republican, so he feels no loyalty to the party. For most of the last decade he has been a registered Democrat. I think he became a Republican because he knew the Democrats would never nominate him – much like Obama became a “Christian” when he decided to run for political office.
Trump describes himself as a Conservative, but he is Conservative only in certain areas. His stances on illegal immigration and the National Debt certainly resonate with most Republicans. But his history on the things that matter most to Christians – his views on abortion and homosexual marriage, for instance – do not give social Conservatives much comfort.
For instance, like Obama, he claims that his views on homosexual marriage have “evolved.” Unlike Obama, he evolved in the right direction. But I wonder if his evolution was a sincere moral change or an expedient political change?
Also, during his last presidential run, Donald Trump shocked attendees at the conservative CPAC conference in February, 2011 when he declared he had become pro-life after supporting abortion-on-demand for most of his life. In an interview he said he changed positions because of stories he heard about parents who planned to abort their child, then had the child and loved it. I would feel much more comfortable about the veracity of his change if it came as a result of understanding Biblical truth or due to a moral epiphany. His reasoning for changing his position because of "stories" does nothing to comfort me that he wouldn’t change his stance again if the wind was blowing in a different direction.
Considering all these things, I judge that there is at least a strong possibility that Trump would run as an Independent. So, what would be the likely result of a Trump three-way race with a Republican and a Democrat nominee? In this scenario Trump would play the role of spoiler. He would take votes away from the Republican nominee, ensuring a Democrat win.
I believe that this is why the Republican establishment has been extremely careful around Trump. Of course some of the candidates have taken shots at him (even though some of them have been handling him with kid gloves). But the RNC is very pragmatic. They fear a third party Trump run, and they want his money and popular support to go to the GOP candidate if it is not Trump. So they are very careful in their dealings with the Donald.
We know that, as always, there will be numerous presidential candidates on the 2016 ballot. Who knows? Old professional candidates like Ralph Nader and Ron Paul might even jump in at some point. But what are the odds of a genuine 4-way race with candidates who each have a shot at getting a race-changing portion of the votes? Slim – but not out of the realm of possibility.
The chances of either Trump or Sanders staying in the race to the end and acting the part of spoiler is greater. As I mentioned above, in either case this would almost certainly cause their party to lose.
But you have to admit that the idea of a 4-way race, while only remotely likely, is intriguing. There is no way to predict what the results would be. Nothing like this has happened in modern times.
I can explain what got me thinking about this possibility. During our morning walk one day my daughter Sarah asked me about our nation’s two-party political system. Most Americans think it is somehow based on the Constitution or some law. Of course it is not, but it has become enshrined in our system as if it were the law. In some states a citizen cannot even vote in the primary elections unless they are registered as a Democrat or as a Republican.
In effect, the Big Two parties share a monopoly on the American political system. This is not only unconstitutional, it’s downright un-American. Consider this – Congress has a 19% approval rating. Yet in every election over 90% of incumbents are reelected. How is this possible? Simply because Congress and the States have passed a confusing maze of election laws that make it almost impossible for anyone but a Republican or a Democrat to mount a credible campaign. This is one of the very few truly bi-partisan issues in our nation
The two party system is certainly simple. Fit in one of these two molds or forget about public service. But the problem is that as time has gone on the two parties have become more and more alike. As a friend put it, “We used to have the party of big government and the party of small government. Now we have the party of big government and the party of bigger government!”
What’s the alternative? Well, we could try what we had at the beginning of this great nation. Any group of people could start a political party and have a fair chance in an election.
Or better yet, no political parties. Would it surprise you to know that our first president, who served two terms, did not belong to any political party? Although he did subscribe to many of the policies of the Federalists he did not run as a Federalist. In fact there was no Federalist party, nor any political party. (The Federalists were people who supported the ratification of the Constitution, and the Anti-Federalists opposed ratification.) In fact, Washington was not in favor of the idea of political parties:
“However political parties may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” ~President George Washington
And John Adams had even stronger criticism for a two-party system such as we have today:
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” ~President John Adams
The disadvantages of our two-party system (similar systems to ours are used in a few other nations) include:
The downplaying of alternative views
Encouraging voter apathy, since there are fewer choices
There is less competition
It puts a damper on debate
We wouldn’t accept a marketplace that only allowed two airlines, two restaurant chains, or gasoline companies. The reason is because the two businesses would inevitably collude to fix prices, and the consumer would be the loser. So why should we continue to allow just two parties to control our entire nation, when it is obvious that they have done just as the businesses would do?
Is there another alternative that works in these modern times? Yes. As I explained to Sarah, most democracies in the world use some version of the British parliamentary system. This is definitely a “messier” system than ours, but it gives more power to the people, and less to the parties.
When I say this system is messy, you only have to look to events of the last week to see two world governments that have been forced to form new governments. After his disastrous performance in the Greek debt crisis, the Prime Minister was forced to resign to pave the way for a new government. Also, the Prime Minister of Turkey gave up trying to form a coalition government, triggering the scheduling of elections for a new government.
What does it mean when we hear that the government of a parliamentary nation has “failed” or that a “new government must be formed”? The government hasn’t failed in the sense that you might think; there hasn’t been a military coup for instance. It has failed in the sense that the ruling coalition of parties can no longer get along, and therefore cannot function properly as a government.
“Forming a new government” does not mean that all functions of government must be disbanded. The central bank, the government retirement system, the schools and so on will continue to function just as they always have. In fact, if a citizen doesn’t vote in the election, he won’t see any change at all – at least until the new government takes shape. In simplest terms, forming a new government means that following a new special election, the members of the parties that have been elected to the new parliament will get together and form coalitions.
A coalition of parties is a loose confederation of parties that hold similar views. Obviously, they are not identical views. Otherwise, there would be no need for different parties. In our nation, if such an election were to be held, the Democrats, the Progressives, the Socialists and the Communists would probably form a coalition. The Republicans, the Libertarians and the Constitution Party would likely form another. The fringe wackos such as the Green Party, the Rent is Too Darn High Party, and the Kill Baby Humans Instead of Baby Seals Party would probably find common cause. (The first two are real parties.)
The largest coalition would then elect from amongst themselves
a Prime Minister and Cabinet. “Whoa!” you might be thinking. “Hold on a minute there! The people don’t get to vote on the Prime Minister? That’s outrageous! That’s un-American!”
Actually we don’t vote for our president today. We vote for Electors who have pledged to vote for two people as President and Vice-President – but who do not always do so. The actual election takes place at the Electoral College. But that is a subject for another article on another day.
The sum and substance to remember is that today we really have only two choices, i.e., the individuals that the Big Two parties put in front of us. We may think that we are voting for the person who will become our nominee in the primary elections. But the rich and powerful elites of each party have the final say on who they nominate.
Nominating conventions used to choose the nominees. In the past there were many instances in both parties in which the candidate who went into the convention with the most votes did not come away with the nomination. But since the middle of the last century that has changed; the primaries have been key.
Of course the party bosses have a lot to say about the primaries. They control which candidate gets endorsements and money. In many cases monies from the national parties have decided the primary contests. Under either system, as long as there is a two-party system, the people behind the curtain determine the elections. People whose names you may never know and whose faces you may never see determine who runs this nation.
So why not give the parliamentary system that has worked so well for so long in Great Britain and other countries a try? We would probably have more than four parties running. But I think the result would be more participation by more people in the political process. And more ideas that now get squashed because neither of the Big Two party bosses like them might be heard.
I’d like to close this by thanking my daughter Sarah for asking her question about the two-party system. Not just because it got me interested in writing this article, but also because it shows that she is a young lady who thinks and cares about this country and its future. I wish more young people were like her.
The Two Party Monopoly
The Founding Fathers Tried to Warn Us About the Threat From a Two-Party System
GOP’s Nightmare – An Independent Trump
Bernie Sanders is Running to be the President of the United States of Scandinavia
I Get to Choose the Next President! - by Sarah Barrett, A Young Conservative