Is the Republican Party About to Go the Way of the Whigs?

There are 224 state-level ballot-qualified political parties in the United States.

Most are obscure.

We like to believe we can vote for whomever we want in the United States, yet because we do not practice a parliamentary system nor a national-level system of proportional representation, our electoral system is designed for only the Democratic or Republican party.

But could the current Republican party be in the inchoate stages of fracturing off into an eventual third party?

Multiple state Republican parties have been retaliating against fellow GOP lawmakers for abandoning their allegiance to Donald Trump in the wake of the attempted Capitol coup d’etat on January 6 and Trump’s second impeachment.

The North Carolina Republican party recently censured Sen. Richard Burr, who voted along with six other Republicans to convict Trump.

One of those six was Sen. Bill Cassidy, facing party censure from the Louisiana state GOP.

Alaska Republican party officials voted to censure Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and Nebraska is prepared to vote on doing the same to Sen. Ben Sasse next month.

Utah Republicans are aiming to censure Sen. Mitt Romney.

Pennsylvania is threatening Pat Toomey, and Maine has its ire trained on Susan Collins.

While not to the point of censure, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney is drawing condemnation from the Wyoming GOP, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger is at odds with Illinois Republicans.

For being “unfairly antagonistic” toward Donald Trump, the Republican party previously censured former Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, and Ariz. Sen. Cindy McCain.

Daniel Strauss and Tom McCarthy explain in their Guardian piece, “Republicans aim to purge anti-Trump officials from state parties in sign of battles ahead”:

 “The moves by state party officials are highly unusual and an indication of the heated internal battles the Republican Party is facing in the months and years to come as it struggles with the legacy of its capture by Trump, his allies and his loyal supporters.”

Gallup poll released last Monday reveals 63 percent of Republicans favor the formation of a third party.

This poll follows only by a couple of days a CBS/YouGov poll that explains two-thirds of Republicans would consider joining a Trump-formed new party.

33 percent would consider joining; 37 percent would may consider it; 30 percent would refuse.

This is more than just mere pundit speculation.

Over 120 former Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Trump officials along with ex-Republican ambassadors and strategists participated in a Zoom call two weeks ago to discuss the “principled conservatism” platform a hypothetical splinter party might espouse.

According to Reuters, they would consider endorsing center-right candidates regardless of to which party they belong.

Former House Republican Conference chief policy director Evan McMullin, who ran for president as an independent in 2016, was one of the meeting’s leaders.

He stated:

“After the insurrection, what we see now is a fourth to a third of a party desires a new direction. We now have a larger segment of the party to work with.” 

Mullin explained 40% of the meeting’s participants expressed a desire to form a new party immediately; 43% argued the party should forge a new faction to operate within the establishment or independently.

Trump administration Homeland Security official, Miles Taylor, who co-hosted the meeting added:

“We wouldn’t have talked about it if we didn’t think it was plausible. But at the same time, everyone is clear-eyed about the challenges. Third parties have been tried many times and have failed many times in this country.”

A recent CBS News poll finds 73% of Republicans feel it is very or somewhat important fellow Republicans remain loyal to Trump.

A third of Republicans assert they would join Trump if he formed a new “Patriot Party” or “MAGA Party”.

Among voters, interest in a hypothetical third political party has grown to 57 percent.

According to polling site Fivethirtyeight.com, however, the likelihood of this coming to fruition is low due to “significant financial and organizational investment” and the winner-take-all electoral college system.

Although there are currently third-party candidates on ballots every year, and technically voters have the freedom to vote for them if they want to avoid selecting “the lesser of two evils,” there are drawbacks.

One drawback is that if we decide to vote third-party, we are effectively throwing away a vote that might otherwise have gone to one of the other major-party candidates.

In 2016, Donald Trump won Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania by less than one percentage point.

If even a fraction of voters in those states who voted third party had voted instead for Hillary Clinton, she might have been the one sitting in the Oval Office the past four years.

Another drawback pertains to location.

In a solidly Republican state like Mississippi, or Democratic state like New York, voting third party is not bound to swing elections one way or the other.

It’s a given New York is going to “go blue” and Mississippi will “go red.” But in swing states, like North Carolina, in our “winner-take-all” electoral scheme, throwing our lot in with the Libertarian or Green Party could make winners of candidates we really don’t want.

A third drawback is voter suppression.

Republican states are setting records for purging voter roles, and they are doubling down to ensure their success in future elections.

In fact, the Supreme Court is set to hear two cases next week that could, according to Vox,Shred much of what remains of the right to be free from racial discrimination at the polls.”

Voter apathy is another drawback. We talk a good game about practicing our “civic duty” and “free and fair elections,” yet our turnout at the polls is embarrassingly poor.

Voting third party might satisfy our sense of morality.

It might make us feel we have performed our civic responsibility without supporting an “establishment” candidate.

As utopian as it may seem, American third parties aren’t viable–at least not yet.

Why are there are no Green Party members in Congress?

It’s not because there are no Green Party politicians. Many currently serve in local governments.

There are some Libertarians in Congress, but it’s more of a policy category. They’re functionally Republicans.

There is a reason Bernie Sanders chose to run on 2016 and 2020 as a Democrat instead of a Socialist, Independent, or Green.

It’s because he refused to run as a spoiler.

Even though he ruffled a few feathers for endorsing Hillary Clinton four years ago and Joe Biden today, he acknowledges the two-party system despite its flaws.

But could really take off?

There have been political shifts before.

Remember the Whigs?

Image credit: Wikipedia

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