Don’t Get Ready for a Third Party

Elephant and DonkeyHave you heard about the end of the two party political system in the United States? Let me lay it on you. In 2016, Rand Paul will run for the Republican presidential nomination. He won’t win, because, you know, he’s Rand Paul. Plus, all the establishment Republicans will be funneling cash and expertise to Marco Rubio. In case you didn’t know, Marco Rubio is not only the Republican Savior™, he’s got great policy ideas like, uh, “something like the Dream Act but not as good” and “grow the economy.” And did I mention that he is a Cuban American, which technically makes him a Latino even if he is even whiter than Mitt Romney? So Rand Paul loses.

But wait! There is a cry from the Tea Party grassish rootish, “Let Rand Paul run!” And then we are off: Rand Paul runs as a third party candidate and wins because all the college kids will vote for him because just like the pretend libertarian that he is, Rand Paul is kind of sort of for maybe decriminalizing cannabis. And suddenly, we have three political parties: Democratic, Republican, and Tea.[1] This would not just be bad for the Republicans. Democrats ought to be afraid too!

Or so say a bunch of people interviewed by Ron Fournier at the National Journal in an article titled, Republican Leaders Worry Their Party Could Divide in Two. But this is what you need to know about it: it is total rubbish.

Let’s start with the Tea Party. These are people who love liberty rhetoric, but they hate the actual policy. Once Rand Paul is on the national stage, they will see that he doesn’t want to get the fags. And perhaps as important, he doesn’t want to get Iran or any other country with a similarly foreign sounding name. And don’t forget: he doesn’t think that wacky weed is the greatest threat to western civilization since Stalin invented frisbee golf. Everything that might make Paul inviting to college students will make him replant to the Tea Party. Remember: the Tea Party talks freedom but it votes illegal abortion.

But there is another reason that Rand Paul will not run as a third party candidate. Let’s call it the heroin exception. One thing that libertarians love is pointing out that they want to make heroin legal. It is a great way to say, “Look at me! I’m intellectually consistent!” (Libertarians, despite what they think, are never intellectually consistent.) But Rand Paul doesn’t do this. He is only for cannabis legalization, and even on that issue his endorsement is hardly full throated. Rand Paul is a man who makes political calculations. He will calculate that he can’t win as a third party candidate and that losing third party candidates never go on to anything better (unless you consider becoming a punchline better and in Paul’s case that may be true). So he won’t run.

This doesn’t mean that there won’t be some other crazy person who tries to break the Republican Party in two. However, I don’t see anyone who is likely to do a very good job of it. Anyone popular enough is better off staying in the party. Anyone unpopular enough to want to do it won’t cause that much damage. But let’s imagine for a moment that it somehow did happen. Imagine that Rand Paul did run as a third party candidate? What would that look like?

Hilary Clinton by 10 percentage points!

It is ridiculous to think that a Tea Party offshoot from the Republican Party would hurt the Democratic Party anywhere near as much. The fact that “thoughtful” Republicans believes this shows just how delusional they are. But they aren’t wrong that there is a split in their party. But this goes back more than 30 years. And the party has always managed to stay together. The truth is that the economic conservatives don’t care about the Neanderthal policies of the social conservatives, because when you’re rich, the law doesn’t really matter. And the social conservatives don’t care about the vile policies of the economic conservatives, because when the second coming of Jesus is going to happen any day now, who cares about money?

So don’t expect a break-up of the Republican Party any time soon. Instead look for a lot of discussions about branding and intra-party fighting that will allow the Republicans to continue on with their failed and unpopular policies. Otherwise: see you in 2014!

[1] I imagine the Tea Party later splitting into the Earl Grey and English Breakfast parties.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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