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“It Ain’t Gonna Happen”: No, There Won’t Be A Major Third-Party Candidacy In 2016 — From Bloomberg Or Anyone Else

Let’s face it: we in the media are suckers for any kind of political story that offers something unpredictable. And like clockwork, every four years someone suggests that there might be a viable third-party presidential candidacy in the offing, spurring legions of reporters and commentators to lick their lips in anticipation. At the moment the attention is focused on former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, but there is also discussion of whether conservatives might rally around a third-party candidate if Donald Trump, no true conservative he, becomes the GOP nominee.

I have some bad news: It ain’t gonna happen.

Not only is Bloomberg not going to run, but if Trump wins the Republican nomination, every last prominent Republican will line up behind him like good soldiers.

Let’s start with Bloomberg. Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that he is thinking about running because he’s distressed at the thought of a race between the vulgarian Donald Trump and the socialistic Bernie Sanders. They made it sound like he’s really on his way to a bid:

Mr. Bloomberg, 73, has already taken concrete steps toward a possible campaign, and has indicated to friends and allies that he would be willing to spend at least $1 billion of his fortune on it, according to people briefed on his deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss his plans. He has set a deadline for making a final decision in early March, the latest point at which advisers believe Mr. Bloomberg could enter the race and still qualify to appear as an independent candidate on the ballot in all 50 states.

He has retained a consultant to help him explore getting his name on those ballots, and his aides have done a detailed study of past third-party bids. Mr. Bloomberg commissioned a poll in December to see how he might fare against Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and he intends to conduct another round of polling after the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9 to gauge whether there is indeed an opening for him, according to two people familiar with his intentions.

You might read that and say, Holy cow, he’s doing it! But the thing about having $36.5 billion is that you can explore lots of things without being serious about them. Bloomberg has political consultants who work for him, and he can open the paper one morning, decide he’s troubled by today’s news, then pick up the phone and say to one of those consultants, “Write me up a report on what it would take for me to run for president.” Then they go off and do a poll, conduct a little research on ballot access, and put together a “plan” in a couple of weeks. Maybe it costs $100,000 all told to satisfy the boss’s curiosity, but that’s nothing to Bloomberg.

And he’s done it before. Here’s an almost identical article in the New York Times from eight years ago, about how he was laying the groundwork for a third-party run. Practically the only thing that’s different is the date.

You might say, “Hey, nobody thought Trump was going to run, either!” Which is true. But Trump found an opening in one of the two parties, and Bloomberg hasn’t suggested running as a Democrat. While I’m sure Bloomberg thinks he’d be an excellent president, he’s also smart enough to know that unlike in New York, where he could swamp the field with money and circumvent the Democratic Party’s dominance in the city, running a national third-party campaign is a different matter altogether.

It’s no accident that there hasn’t been a successful third-party presidential candidacy in modern American history. The closest anyone came was Teddy Roosevelt’s run in 1912, when he got 27 percent of the vote. In 1992, Ross Perot managed 19 percent of the vote — and zero votes in the Electoral College.

Perot offers us a hint as to why the talk from some Republicans about a third-party run is just that, talk. It has come most notably from Bill Kristol, who has been toying with the idea in public for a couple of months now, on the theory that if Donald Trump is the nominee, true conservatives would simply have to find an ideologically true standard-bearer to promote. Given the horror many conservatives are expressing at the prospect of a Trump nomination, you might be tempted to think they’d sign on to any conservative who decided to run.

But don’t believe it for a second. Are those conservatives heartfelt in their anguish about Trump being the GOP nominee? Absolutely. It’s not just that he’d probably lose, it’s that he obviously has no commitment to their ideals; he’s just saying whatever his current audience wants to hear, and once that audience changes (as in a general election), he’ll say completely different things. And who knows how he’d actually govern.

And yet, if he is the nominee, Republicans will be faced with a choice. They could launch a third-party bid, but that would almost certainly guarantee that the Democratic nominee would win. Republicans long ago convinced themselves that Perot delivered the 1992 election to Bill Clinton (even though the evidence makes clear that Perot took votes equally from Bush and Clinton, who won easily and would have done so with or without Perot in the race), so they’d be extremely skittish about repeating that outcome.

Far more importantly, if they have to choose between supporting their party’s nominee and mounting an almost certainly doomed third-party run, their feelings about Donald Trump will be far less critical than their feelings about the Democratic nominee, who will probably be Hillary Clinton — for whom they’ve nurtured a passionate loathing for two and a half decades now. We live in an era of “negative partisanship,” in which people’s hatred for the other party has become more central to their political identity than their love for their own party. Faced with the imminent possibility of Clinton sitting in the Oval Office, virtually every Republican will race to get behind Trump. Those now writing articles about what a nightmare a Trump nomination would be will be writing articles touting his virtues.

They won’t be dissembling — rather, they’ll just be trying to make the best of a bad situation. Once the point of reference is not a more preferable Republican but Hillary Clinton, Trump will look to them like a hero in the making. So as fun as a three-way presidential race in the fall might be, we in the media won’t be so fortunate. But don’t worry — it’s still going to be an interesting election.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 25, 2016

January 26, 2016 Posted by | 3rd Party Presidential Candidates, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Neocon Revival?”: The Illusion Of GOP Ideological Diversity

It’s a bit startling to see the New York Times‘ David Brooks pen a column headlined “The Neocon Revival,” which speaks confidently about “neoconservatism” as an internally consistent perspective on public life that once dominated the conservative movement and the Republican Party (and apparently should again!). In 2004, the self-same David Brooks contributed an essay to a book entitled The Neocon Reader that suggested the very label was more or less an anti-Semitic slur (“If you ever read a sentence that starts with ‘Neocons believe,’ there is a 99.44 per cent chance everything else in that sentence will be untrue.”).

If Brooks is now giving us all permission to talk about neoconservatism without raising a presumption of ethnic or partisan poison, I’d argue that his brief manifesto is curiously detached from both the historical and contemporary realities of conservatism and of the Republican Party. Brooks is right that “neoconservatism” (a term actually popularized by democratic socialist Michael Harrington to refer to thinkers and doers who were largely still on the ideological Left and/or affiliated with the Democratic Party) was originally “about” domestic as much as international policy. Its most recent identification with George W. Bush’s foreign policies, or with post-Bush advocates of an aggressive internationalism and often of Islamophobia, is hardly an accident, but also isn’t the whole story.

Having said that, Brooks commits an act of grand larceny in claiming for neoconservatism the legacy of Ronald Reagan, not to mention that of Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, with whom he shoehorns RR in an unlikely triptych. At least that seems to be what he is doing; the column constantly shifts from politicians to writers ranging from Irving Kristol to Richard John Neuhaus and even George Will in defining the kind of conservatism Brooks identifies with “neoconservatism” and with the successful GOP of the 1980s, which happily accepted the modern welfare state and simply wanted to harness it to conservative social goals and to national greatness.

Reading this piece, you might well forget about Ronald Reagan’s deep roots in conservative rejection of the New Deal and Great Society (he opposed both Medicare and the Civil Rights Act), or his administration’s efforts (not ultimately very successful) to use the budget process and executive powers to unravel the social safety net. You might also skip over, as Brooks does, the conservatism of the 1990s (which is interesting insofar as Brooks cut his teeth at The Weekly Standard–itself often associated with “neoconservatism”–which proclaimed itself the tribune of a “Republican Revolution” that would roll back liberalism’s accomplishments in every direction). And only someone with a wildly exaggerated idea of “compassionate conservatism” would conclude that the George W. Bush era of the GOP was characterized by happy acceptance of the welfare state.

But the oddest thing about Brooks’ column is its headline, to which he should have objected violently if he did not suggest it himself. If “neocons,” defined as people who look fondly on TR and FDR as well as that sunny welfare state advocate Ronald Reagan, are enjoying some sort of “revival,” where is it? Brooks himself says “[t]he Republican Party is drifting back to a place where it appears hostile to the basic pillars of the welfare state: to food stamps, for example.” It’s pretty hilarious to call that a “drift,” or to attribute it to some long-lost pre-Reagan impulse. The Reagan administration tried to dump the food stamp program on the states as a way station to its elimination, even as it sought to “cap” federal responsibility for Medicaid, much as Paul Ryan is trying to do today. Beyond that, who among major Republican politicians is resisting this supposed “drift,” and where is the “revival” of a tradition opposing it?

In this as in other respects, Brooks resembles other “conservative reformers” (notably his New York Times colleague Ross Douthat) who regularly lay out policy prescriptions that would get them tarred and feathered in any gathering of rank-and-file Republicans, but then more or less loyally follow the party line anyway, creating the illusion of ideological diversity. Douthat and Reihen Salam wrote an interesting book in 2009 prescribing the same sort of welfare-state-accomodation strategy that Brooks seems to be endorsing. It became associated by rhetorical osmosis with Tim Pawlenty, because they used his motto of “Sam’s Club Republicanism.” T-Paw promptly ran for president in 2012 and staked his candidacy to a failed effort to become an electable right-wing alternative to Mitt Romney. Was he a “Sam’s Club Republican” happily arguing for a more family-friendly welfare state? Probably not on the day that he signed onto the vicious “Cut, Cap, Balance” pledge that represents a death sentence for the New Deal and Great Society.

The trouble is that the conservative movement and Republican Party that Brooks and Douthat like to talk about has never existed in living memory, and isn’t likely to exist in the foreseeable future. Perhaps they have other reasons for affiliating with a political movement that so routinely ignores their advice (in Douthat’s case, I suspect his RTL self-identification is the crucial factor).

With respect to the column at hand, the very slim case for a “neocon revival” now depends on politicians like Chris Christie and Marco Rubio who are almost certainly about to spend the next couple of years snuggling up to the Tea Folk and disagreeing with Rand Paul or Ted Cruz mainly on the foreign policy grounds Brooks tells us don’t actually define neoconservatism. But by 2016, I’m reasonably sure David will have found in Christie or Rubio or someone else the flickering flame of an ideology that he mistakenly remembers as Ronald Reagan’s and mistakenly projects as the wave of the future.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 3, 2013

August 5, 2013 Posted by | Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We The People” And America’s Future: Is Rick Perry As American As He Thinks He Is?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece asking whether Governor Rick Perry could call himself a Christian given his opposition to government actions to help the hungry, aged, and ill. Not surprisingly, many challenged my view of Christianity. In letter after letter they pointed out that Christ spoke to individuals, not government. My observation that He was speaking to a conquered people, not free individuals who could use their power to make a more just state, was not convincing. My reference to the prophets Micah, Amos, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, each of whom called on governmental leaders to help the poor, was dismissed as being from the “Old Testament.”

I will surely return to the issue of Christianity again, but I devote this piece to Rick Perry’s character and the character he would nurture in American citizens. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” So what is the character that Perry embodies? What is his view of the American citizen and the citizen’s responsibility to our country and to one’s fellows?

First, Perry himself.

His persona evokes the rugged individualist. His warning to Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, not to come to Texas so that he can avoid being subjected to “real ugly” frontier justice evidences a character antithetical to one of the crowning achievements of the United States — a nation under law, not men. In a phrase, he dismisses the Bill of Rights — due process, trial by jury, the right to confront one’s accuser.

The real question is not what character he would make of the United States but whether he believes in America at all. He has threatened to secede. Central to his campaign is his pledge to shrink the federal government — making it impossible for our noble nation to lead the world, to serve as the “city on the Hill.”

Perry may want to pretend that he is taking America back to a better past, but his actions are part of the movement away from nation-states, where countries are largely irrelevant. The notion that we are at the end of the need for nation-states is gaining more adherents globally. The fortunate few, commonly referred to as the Davos groupies, hang out with the other well off and well-heeled all over the world. Summering in Europe, wintering in Colorado, the global elite have more in common with and feel more loyal to their carefully connected crowd than with their fellow citizens. When one’s loyalty lies with one’s own class, where does that leave one’s country?

In declaring his wish to shrink the size of government, Perry believes that government should have as little role in people’s lives as possible. No investment in education, science research, building the railroads, highways, or sewage systems of the future.  Why care about America’s future, why set inspirational goals that bring people together, if you don’t believe in “We the people”?

Nationalism, patriotism, commitment to one another are for Perry an anachronism, a thing of the past. He has not said that those with the greatest wealth, talent, and circumstances have any special responsibility to our country or their fellow citizens. He has not said we are all Americans together. Rather, he seems to be able to watch human suffering with equanimity — as though America should be a place of survival of the fittest. No Social Security, no Medicare, no unemployment insurance, no laws to protect clean air, clean water. When hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and flood destroy home and communities — no FEMA, no help. “We” are on our own.

In his book Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America From Washington, Perry writes that the 16th Amendment, which gave birth to the federal income tax, was “the great milestone on the road to serfdom,” because it represented “the birth of wealth redistribution in the United States.”

Individualism, self-reliance, self-respect — these are great virtues, useful in many fields of endeavor. But they are not enough to sustain a nation. Virtues don’t spring into being in a moment. They need to be exercised and practiced. Nations at war need courage, quick thinking, and selflessness. Nations at peace require that sense of duty to others. No man goes into a burning building for mere money. Nor does a fierce individualism nurture the patience that a teacher requires, the love given by a hospice nurse caring for a dying man.

Citizens’ moral compasses do not stem only from their faith. Government also defines the moral standard of a nation. If we are told that blacks are worth but three-fifths of whites, many will see this as the acceptable treatment of their fellow man. Likewise, when the government declares it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, we see that discrimination is also wrong.

When a candidate like Governor Perry boasts that he will shrink government by cutting those programs that grasp the nation’s imagination of what we can do together, he is saying that America does not need the one institution in which we make our most solemn decisions together. We need not nurture a nation of laws, nor educate the young, nor protect the elderly. Teddy Roosevelt took on the trusts, protected the environment, made America more just. The character of the nation improved with his leadership. Can it improve with Perry’s?

By: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, The Atlantic, August 29, 2011

August 30, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, Freedom, GOP, Government, Governors, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Liberty, Medicare, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors, Social Security, Teaparty, Unemployment, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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