I’ve Changed My Mind on Third Parties and a 2020 Primary Challenge

I want to be careful here. I am not endorsing the concept. But I have reconsidered my flat opposition to both the creation of a third party and a 2020 Presidential primary challenge. I think neither would be successful, but as I recently pointed out to someone, had John C. Frémont not run as a Republican in 1856, there would probably be no Lincoln in 1860.

For the first time, I think I finally see a path forward for a third party in the United States, but it may run through the 2020 Republican primaries.

If you pay attention in Florida, Senator-elect (that sounds awesome to write) Rick Scott got 45% of the Hispanic vote. Brian Kemp, the Governor-elect in Georgia, got 38% of the Hispanic vote in Georgia. In fact, Republicans did far better with the Hispanic vote than the media would have anyone believe is possible.

Across the country, another notable data point is that Republicans this year, without Trump on the ballot, actually increased their share of the vote among black voters. Most notably, the share of the vote of black men and Hispanic men increased for the GOP. The trend away from the Democrats by minority voters is almost entirely because of cultural issues. The Democrats’ growing hostility to faith, conservative social values, etc. is a real Achilles heel for the party with minority voters, particularly Hispanic voters.

Concurrent to that, the white suburbs fled the GOP. High income white voters in the suburbs who have been reliably Republican have had enough of President Trump. Combine white suburban voters with black and Hispanic voters who will not go to the GOP because of Trump, but no longer feel at home in the Democratic Party, and there appears to be real room for a third party in the country now — one that is viable unlike the Libertarians or Green parties.

I suspect this all runs through the GOP, however. Put up someone in the 2020 Republican Presidential primary against Donald Trump running on these sorts of themes and the person probably cannot win, but probably could start a third party movement as a sizable, though not a majority portion of Republicans tired of President Trump leave their political home and make it an acceptable place for black and Hispanic voters.

The GOP would become a mostly white rural party. The Democrats would become a mostly wealthy, urban white party. This new party, call it the Federalists, would be a coalition of former Republicans and minority Democrats with a healthy addition of evangelicals all of whom think the two parties have failed the country.

Again, I do not think such a pivot would be successful in 2020. I also think it would probably lead to President Trump’s defeat, thereby making remaining Republican bitter towards the effort. But the data from the midterms shows pretty clearly the suburban Republicans and the socially conservative minority Democrats are all ready for a new political home. It would not be an immediate successful enterprise, but could potentially sustain itself so long as it makes it a party of ideas, and not one man’s enterprise like the Reform Party of Ross Perot.

For those of us who are fiscally conservative, we’d also have to get used to the idea that this would not be a small government party, per se. But it could no doubt position itself as a fiscally responsible, free market party, which neither of the existing parties are.

I am pretty sure I would not support the effort. And I have said repeatedly I think the GOP is Trump’s for the time being and there is no reason for a primary challenge. But the midterm data all very compelling suggest if someone wanted to try a go at resetting the American political coalitions, now would be the time.

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Erick Erickson

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