Major Party Divisions Will Lead to Third-Party Strength???

Both the main political parties in America are seriously divided. Let us take one at a time. Additionally, they are polarized and show no indication of working together. The Democratics also have an age problem- where are the young leaders? These factors, along with Mr. Trump’s success as an ‘outsider candidate’, may pave the way for a third party movement in the near future.

It is no secret that President Trump and the establishment wing of the Republican Party (Paul Ryan and co.) don’t like each other. The bad blood was present during most of the campaign. There were signs of a reconciliation, with Mr. Trump selecting Ryan’s friend and establishment figure Reince Priebus as his chief of staff. However, the health care debacle severely weakened the relationship.

In this post from a week ago, I pointed out how Mr. Trump’s actions indicate that he is tired of Mr. Ryan. Don’t forget how the president campaigned and what his chief advisor, Steve Bannon, believes about the establishment. There will be establishment casualties to come. On the O’Reilly Factor, Ed Henry reported that there may be ‘staff changes’ at the White House. I wonder what that means for the establishment figures?

Last year, I argued that Mr. Trump’s election would alter politics and the Republican Party, most important to this discussion legitimizing outsider candidates and delegitimizing insider ones. Depending on how this war against the establishment goes, you could see more outsider than insider candidates in upcoming years. There have been outsider candidates before, but not one has ever won the Presidency. The ripples of 2016 will hurt the establishment for years to come.

In addition, Mr. Trump has significant disagreements with the Freedom Caucus, a highly ideological group of hard-line conservatives and libertarians. After the failed health care proposal, the president tweeted on March 30th that both the Democrats and the Freedom Caucus must be challenged in 2018. With the Trumpeters, the establishment figures and the ideological purists, the Republican Party faces significant challenges to remain unified.

The Democrats are quite divided as well, with significant divisions between the ‘establishment’ faction, led by Hillary Clinton supporters, and the more radical faction, led by Bernie Sanders and his crew. Current DNC Chair Tom Perez was widely seen as an establishment candidate. Mr. Sanders has been quite vocal since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, and it is hard to see how the two camps within the Democratic party will work together.

Furthermore, where is the young leadership in the Democratic Party? There is Mr. Sanders, Mrs. Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren. They all older than 65. The Democrats chose former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to issue the response to President’s Trump address to Congress. Late night comedians had a field day with this choice, lampooning Mr. Beshear and the restaurant in which he spoke. Why wasn’t someone like Cory Booker chosen?

As we can see with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, both parties seem hell-bent on not working with each other. The Republicans will have to go ‘nuclear’ to confirm Mr. Gorsuch, which will only divide America further. As of January 2017, the Republican and Democratic Parties roughly had a 50% approval rating. With continuing obstructionism, failed votes and general acrimony, these levels will fall significantly.

Given the divisions between the Republican and Democratic parties, the political polarization, and the victory of an outsider candidate, conditions look promising for a 3rd party/independent candidate in 2020 or beyond. Mr. Trump ran as an ‘outsider’ but on the Republican ticket- the next ‘outsider’ candidate may not need the Republicans or the Democrats. Mr. Trump was the first step, but Candidate X in the near future may be the coup de grace.

2016 was a good opportunity for third party candidates, most specifically the Libertarians. But with some embarassing mistakes (not entirely fair), messaging issues and not being invited to the Presidential Debates, it was a missed opportunity. Third parties must learn from their 2016 mistakes if they want to change the political landscape. They should be carefully observing what is happening within the two major parties and be ready to fill the void immediately.

Depending on how bad the divisions get inside the Republican and Democratic Parties, we could see some exiles from those parties join a different party or help form a new one. The Libertarian Party has seen former Republicans join its ranks like Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. I see Mr. Sanders (who is officially an Independent) and Mrs. Warren forming their own progressive group if the Democrats continue to court the establishment.

At any rate, the current divisions within the two major parties give third parties and ‘outsider’ candidates a decent shot at power in the near future. The two parties need to be challenged every single election. Otherwise, the current problems with the establishment (on both sides) will only worsen. Hopefully, more competition within our political system will make it better, instead of anarchical.

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Originally published at on April 4, 2017.