This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published May 8, 2016 by The Washington Times.
Some Republican and conservative talking heads are agitating for a third-party candidate to run against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. They want the rest of us to drink the Kool-Aid with them.
They can keep it.
Even a weak third party candidate on the right would guarantee a Hillary Clinton presidency, just as Reform Party candidate Ross Perot’s 19 percent of the vote put Bill Clinton into the White House over George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Democrats love all the third party talk. They cleansed their side of this nonsense after the 2000 election, when Green Party candidate Ralph Nader won 2.7 million votes, including 97,421 votes in Florida, enabling George W. Bush to beat Al Gore.
Since that stinging loss, the Dems have crushed any nascent third party bid like a bug. Do you see Bernie Sanders threatening to run on a Democratic Socialist Party ticket if he loses the nomination to Hillary?
Meanwhile, Republicans with short memories are actually making the case that a third-party candidate could rally millions of alienated Republicans and Democrats to vote outside their parties.
It’s nonsense on stilts. A huge number of people in both parties reflexively pull the lever for the party’s candidate regardless of merit, which partly explains why we face such poor choices election after election. That leaves only the people in the middle, of whom there are not enough to make up the difference. The party that turns out its base wins the election.
Since the Democrats have a greater share of “yellow dog” voters — the ones who would vote for a yellow dog before they’d vote for anything but a Democrat — a third party nearly always favors the donkey party.
Oh, but Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton are so disliked by so many that surely someone could put all the dissatisfied voters into a new, winning basket? Well, perhaps that could happen if we had an actual news media that asked tough questions. But we don’t. The media march in lockstep with the Democratic Party and will vilify not only Mr. Trump (who makes it easy) and any third party candidate who threatens continued Democratic rule. Although the two-party system is not mentioned in the Constitution, America has functioned this way for more than 200 years, for good reason. To win a two-person election, a presidential candidate needs a majority of electoral votes and nearly always a popular vote majority. That adds clout to the president-elect’s authority. Parliamentary pluralities are not in the American DNA, and leave a bad taste.
Garnering only a plurality — 43 percent of the popular vote — Bill Clinton pulled in 370 electoral votes (100 more than needed to win). Ross Perot, who got nearly 20 million popular votes, did not win a single electoral vote, but he helped limit Mr. Bush to 168 electoral votes. The Clinton Library should have a Perot Hall of Honor commemorating his contribution.
If we go back a bit further, it was former Republican President Teddy Roosevelt’s run with the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party that sucked away enough votes from Republican William Howard Taft in 1912 to elect Democrat Woodrow Wilson. With a mere 23 percent of the vote, Taft managed to win only two states, while Wilson took 41.8 percent of the vote and 40 states, with Roosevelt getting 27.4 percent of the vote and six states. Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs, the Bernie Sanders of his time, captured 900,000 votes.
Thanks to the split vote in 1912, America got a plurality-only president, a vast increase in centralized government and the federal income tax in 1916. Later, Wilson led the United States into World War I and helped birth Prohibition, which gave rise to organized crime. The Democrats have been the party of Big Government ever since.
This November, the stakes are frighteningly high, with a choice between an upstart wild card on one side and a career liar, crook and socialist in all but name on the other. Nobody really knows what Donald Trump will do if elected, but there is no doubt about Hillary Clinton’s radical agenda, which will make even the Obama regime appear moderate.
With the death of Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court’s fealty to the Constitution is hanging by a thread, with three conservative justices, a “swing” justice and four radical leftists. The next president will appoint as many as two to three justices, along with hundreds of federal judges and U.S. attorneys.
It’s unclear what kind of justices a President Trump would appoint, but there is no doubt whatever that Mrs. Clinton would pick judges who would shred what’s left of religious liberty protections of the First Amendment, along with gun rights protected by the Second Amendment. She’s actually promised to do the latter.
Voter ID laws would fall at the same time the southern border would turn from Swiss cheese into gossamer, and the welfare rolls would swell with brand new Democrat voters, thus dooming any chance in the future to elect a conservative to the White House ever again.
If feeling good about casting a third party vote is worth all these certain outcomes, by all means go there. It’s not fun voting for the lesser of two evils, but even under the best circumstances, it’s what we do, since no human being is perfect.
If we want to leave a constitutional republic to our children and grandchildren, it’s time to think about ways to make lemonade, not drink the Kool-Aid.