Philip Rucker and Robert Costa of the Washington Post report that Mitt Romney and other establishment Republicans are unsheathing their threatened final sword: Attempting to put together an “independent” Republican presidential campaign versus GOP nominee-apparent Donald Trump. The draft effort’s reputed short list includes Ohio Governor John Kasich and U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE). Good idea or bad idea? Depends on how one looks at it.
If the goal is partisan Republican victory this November, two Republican candidates — one chosen by the voters, one chosen by the party bosses — is a very bad idea. Two well-funded, ably promoted Republican candidates on the same ballots means a Democratic win. So let’s assume that winning the election is not what this move is about.
If the goal is preserving the Republican Party’s “soul” — its core ideology — we’re also looking at a very bad idea here. Why? Simple: The Republican Party HAS no core ideology. Maybe it did once upon a time, but these days it’s just an ad hoc coalition of interest groups and identity politics blocs like the Democratic Party. The GOP leadership’s problem with Trump isn’t lack of appeal to its traditional demographics (whites, males, evangelical Christians, people whose livelihoods depend on a hawkish foreign policy, etc.).
The GOP leadership’s problem with Trump is that he’s displacing them in their role as Pied Pipers.
But that second prospective goal does hit somewhat close to the mark. The real purpose of an “independent Republican” campaign against Trump is to give anti-Trump members of the Republican coalition another Republican to vote for so that those voters don’t abandon the GOP for good in favor of the Libertarian Party or Constitution Party.
How real is the danger of such abandonment? I don’t know. But I do know that to the extent that the danger is real, it is a danger created by decades of Republican failure to deliver on the things Republicans supposedly stand for.
The Libertarian Party might or might not be able to deliver on lower taxes, balanced budgets, civil liberties and George W. Bush’s promise of a “humbler foreign policy.” The Constitution Party might or might not be able to deliver on the pro-life agenda. They haven’t had their chance to deliver yet. The Republicans — under the influence of their “leadership” — have had, and blown, chance after chance. Now they’d rather put up with four years of Hillary Clinton than face the music they themselves made.
The Republican establishment created Donald Trump. Now they’re paying for their hubris with the disintegration of their party. A fake third party campaign won’t save the GOP. Real third parties simply have more to offer. Or at least their offers are more believable.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.