According to a new Gallup poll, the majority of Americans think it’s time for a third political party to join Republicans and Democrats on the national stage. The poll found that 61% of American adults want to see a new, viable party, including significant pluralities on both sides of the spectrum. 49% of registered Republicans are in favor of a third party and 52% of Democrats are on board with the idea. The hope for a third party, perhaps inevitably, gets the majority of its strength from independents – 77% want to see a third party join the two major dogs in the fight.
“The real constituency for a third party is likely to be political independents, meaning the party would have to be politically centrist,” Gallup wrote. “With record numbers of Americans frustrated with the way the country is being governed, the country could be inching closer to having enough people who want an alternative to the status quo to make it a reality, at least with the right candidate at the helm.”
The results are hardly surprising, given the way the 2016 elections played out. There are fierce ideological splits in both major parties. One could even say that Donald Trump WAS, in many ways, a “third party” candidate, even though he ran for and won the Republican nomination. He certainly didn’t represent the party’s basic platform or traditional braids of conservatism. And his path to victory was forged with newcomers to the voting booth, many of whom had felt left out of national politics for years.
On the other side, well, they STILL have no idea what to do about the fractures eating their party alive. Progressives are locked in battle with “neoliberals” for the party’s power center, and it remains to be seen which side will win out. The Bernie Sanders phenomenon took the Democrat Party’s leaders by surprise last year – so much so that there is really no one they can turn to and pin their 2020 hopes on. Another “establishment” candidate like Hillary Clinton may well be openly rejected by the progressive leftists who want to drag the party even further into socialist territory. And if the leftists win control over the party’s platform, millions of Democrats are going to flee the coop, whether to a third party or to the Republican side of the aisle. There’s left and then there’s LEFT. And the LEFT is on a roll.
Still, the idea of a centrist, nationally-viable third party remains an unlikely scenario. We’ve been in this place before. It never seems to pan out. There’s too much money, history, and…well, money…in the two major parties to allow for that kind of insurgent, out-of-nowhere candidacy. Voters who want change will mostly have to find it by overturning the establishment leadership in the existing infrastructure. And as Trump’s astonishing win last year proved, THAT is something that can be done.