The Case Against Third Party Politics

by Sal on December 8, 2009

in Election 2010,Election 2012,Politics

Since the start of the Tea Party movement, talk of a Conservative third party has peculated on Twitter, around the blogosphere, and even making it into news punditry, advocated by such media heavyweights as Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Lou Dobbs.  While the idea of a ideological Conservative party seems like a good one intuitively, as the GOP seems lost in a barren wasteland of ideas and bereft of any strong principles necessary to mount another Conservative revolution, the truth is that a Tea Party as a third-party entity would be a disaster for both Conservatives and the Republicans, and would guarantee that the liberal socialist overlords that currently occupy the seats of power in Washington continue their reign for years to come.  This simple, obvious truth was backed up with some hard data in a recent Rasmussen poll.

In the poll, Rasmussen used the generic congressional ballot question to try to gauge support for the parties.  In a two-way matchup between Republicans and Democrats, the Republicans led by four points, 43%-39%.  In terms of the generic congressional ballot, this is unheard of.  Even in good Republican years, the Republicans usually trail in this question.  However, when a third party is added to the mix (Democrat, Republican, or Tea Party candidate), the Democrats take the lead with 36% of the vote, while the Republicans only garner 18% to the Tea Party’s 23%.

These numbers show two things.  First, the Republican brand is shot.  People will vote Republican because it is the better alternative to Democrats, not because they happen to like Republicans.  The GOP needs to repair its image by being a strong, forceful voice for Conservatism in the Senate and House of Representatives.  As of now, they seem weak-kneed, do not have too many substantive policy distinctions, and are not fighting against the Democrat policies in a way that many of us would like them to.  Second, the Democrats benefit from a third party.  True, the sum of both the GOP and theoretical Tea Party votes is greater than the Democrat vote, but in electoral politics, only plurality wins, and the Democrats would have the plurality.

The Tea Party does have a role to play in electoral politics.  I see it as similar to the role the Conservative party plays in New York state politics.  The Tea Party should lobby Republicans and support Conservative GOP candidates who share their vision.  On rare occasions, where there is no viable Republican candidate, or the Republican candidate is so sufficiently offensive, (a la Dede Scozzofava) they should field their own candidate.  A wholesale third party push, however, would be electoral suicide for anyone who believes in limited government and Conservative values, and would ensure a generation of liberalism and the wholesale expansion of government.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike December 8, 2009 at 6:12 pm

I disagree with a small part of this post. The GOP should be conservative and avoid going squishy by advocating limited government, lower taxes, debt reduction, strong national defense, fidelity to the Constitution, respect for human life, and equality before the law. (I could go on but you get the point).

However, the GOP should go nowhere near advocating the advancement of a big c Conservatism or any other ism or movement in terms of an ism or movement. That isn’t how politically uninvolved people (still the overwhelming majority of people in this country) think of their worldview even though most of them adhere to conservative ideas. To them, its about the country and their families. Talk of isms only turns these people off, even from candidates they agree with substantively. The GOP candidates should talk about their conservative ideas in their own right.

That said, this Rasmussen Poll should serve as a lesson for the GOP. Like the Whigs before them, the Party that stands for nothing gets squeezed. If they keep going down the Scozzofava path, Whigdom awaits.


Sal December 8, 2009 at 9:46 pm

I think we agree more than you think. When I say preach Conservatism, I don’t mean that the GOP should preach “Conservatism” but rather preach the values of limited government, lower taxes, debt reduction, strong national defense, etc., etc. They don’t have to go around saying “The Republican Party is the Conservative party” to do that. They just need to be true to those core principles that are enshrined in the Constitution.

I also don’t want my post to be misconstrued to say that total ideological purity is necessary (not saying that you’re saying this at all, Mike. Just another argument that is often repeated). There is a difference between a Rudy Giuliani and a Dede Scozzofava; between a John McCain and a Lincoln Chaffee.


Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Previous post:

Next post: