I have recently heard a number of those upset with McCain bemoaning the unwillingness of Americans to vote for a third party. They claim that the only thing keeping the Republicans alive is the unwillingness of Americans to embrace a true conservative party.
But is a conservative third party viable?
The current situation is an about even division of Democrat and Republicans, each with between 40% and 45% of voters, with 10% to 20% independents and others. So, what would be the fate of a conservative third party?
Well, it could simply replace the Republican Party, taking the 40% of Republicans, plus maybe 1% to 2% of the "other" votes whoa re more conservative than Republicans. However, if it absorbs the entire Republican Party, won't it vote just like the Republicans? So how would that be anything more than just a superficial name change?
So, if we want a real conservative party, we have to eliminate the liberal wing of the Republicans. Since the liberal wing is numerous enough to control many congressional elections, and put McCain in as the presidential nominee, they have to be at least a significant minority, if not majority. That means a conservative third party could expect, at best, 20% to 25% of the total electorate, plus maybe that 2% which is unaffiliated, but more conservative than the Republicans.
So, the end result is a Conservative Party with 25% of the votes, a Republican Party with 15%, 20% independents, and 40% Democrats. Which seems pretty clearly a setup destined for countless Democrat wins. Even if the Republicans disappear, as they are clearly unwelcome in the Conservative ranks, they would simply become independents, or even Democrats, leaving us with a party that is still about half the size of the opposition.
Might I propose that, rather than abandoning the party, or purging those on the other side, we try to educate the party, and the general public, and thus move them to the right? Is that not a better plan that staging a coup which amounts to nothing more than slitting our own throats?
This in no way contradicts my previous post. In the last post I was discussing how to eliminate RINOs, I said nothing about whether or not it was a sound electoral strategy. In reality, I would think the best strategy would be to continue accepting "big tent" support, but press for a more conservative platform and more conservative nominees. If the party itself moves tot he right, odds are good that most current party members will move with it.
On the other hand, a sudden jump to an enforced conservative position, either by a split of a third party or by a coup within the party, will likely alienate party members, the way the superdelegate selection alienated Democrats.
The best answer is something akin to the DLC movement within the Democrats, creating a conservative group within the party which assists in moving the platform to the right and supports conservative nominees. By both defining clearly what a conservative is and by trying to move the party toward that ideal, if manages to reform the party without alienating party members.
But I have drifted a bit far from my original point. I wanted only to point out that those who oppose a third party are on pretty solid ground. At least as long as winning elections matters to conservatives.
Originally Published in Nation of Whiners on 2008/07/22.