Thinking 3rd Party, True Believer, or Independent Candidate?

Don’t. Just don’t.

The 2020 elections are off to an early start. On the Democratic side, the candidate roster is creeping up on double digits already. The calendar mark of “too late to get in the race” is likely to come early this time around. For the Republican, there are scenarios involving Trump’s impeachment or resignation. The hunt is on for viable candidates to challenge Trump in the primaries. If someone like the governor of Maryland takes that leap, the challenge could be substantial. Team Trump is hard at work trying to short circuit challenges in the primaries and at the convention. We live in interesting times.

Sorting It All Out

The Republican line up will likely sort itself out without a lot of complicated moves. It would be remarkable to see a real challenge emerge from within the Republican party. The core appears too rotten to make that possible. We will have to wait for a new center right party to emerge.

The Democrats likely will not have so simple a path to walk. It seems that old lessons need to be relearned every four years. Will that be the case for the Democrats this time around? There are so many candidates, spanning a range across the ideological spectrum. The differences between them will be more evident over time. Thus, the potential for voters clinging to a candidate after it is clear she or he could not win is a real risk. A divided Democratic party could snatch victory from defeat for the Republicans.

Add to this the usual quadrennial appearance of the Green Party and Libertarians. As near as I can discern, they do little to build their parties at the grass roots. They show up at presidential elections with no prospects of winning or of influencing the national dialogue. They just siphon off votes from the major parties. Ask George Bush or Hillary Clinton about that. And there are, of course, always the independent candidates. Howard Schultz is already finding its lonesome out there. But, hey when you have a vanity fantasy and a billion dollars to spare, you could do some real damage, if not much good. Schultz likely will not be the last on this roster.

Trump’s ever-growing weakness fuels all this. A lot of people think they could do a better job (they are right about that). Trump’s vulnerability is like blood in the water for sharks. Anyone remotely inclined to run, on any ticket, feels the call.

Here’s an Idea

For Democrats and most independents — settle down. Do your homework, pay attention. Get comfortable with the idea that many of the candidates have real potential and much to offer. Any of them would be better than Mr. Trump. The races are likely to get going in earnest, quickly thinning the herd. Be prepared to work hard for a candidate that was not your first choice but is the nominee.

Many Democrats and Independents I have spoken with reflect this pragmatic approach. Their first criteria are for a candidate that can win and that can be a competent leader. They are willing to compromise on ideology for the greater good.Me, too. I already have my A List and B List candidates, but if just about any of them triumph, I will work my butt off for them. In the timeless phrase from that great TV drama Highlander, In the end, there can be only one. If it turns out not to be my chosen one, I’ll get over it. The country will not get over four more years of what the Republican party has become. This is true whether Trump’s name is on the ballot or not.

If that becomes the norm, even after hard fought primaries, the country might get back to normalcy. Maybe even functional governance. If the left can resist phrases like “the spineless middle,” hope springs eternal. If the center can resist decrying “unrealistic socialism” as a blanket retort to ideas, progress is possible.

A bit less hubris and a bit more humility all around would be welcome. I know we are all passionate and brilliant, but others may have views worth our consideration.

But I Don’t Like Either Major Party

Think both parties are a pox? Fine, I get that. Go build some real alternatives from the ground up. When you have the organization, make a run for the White House. Without that foundation, you are wasting our time and our votes. And giving Donald Trump an immense gift.

This is politics, folks. Let’s grow up, make some trades with each other, and get the nation’s business done. Spare me the purist or the change resistant. This country does not have the luxury of time to throw away a course correction. I still think there is a good possibility that Trump will not be on the Republican ticket in 2020. But he has had time to build a toxic base that will be here long after he is gone.

The Clock is Ticking

Look at what has happened domestically, and especially internationally over the last two years. Does this look like America to you? Let this fester long enough and it does become the new normal. Don’t give this infection more time to grow by fighting ad nauseum over who is the “real Democrat.”

Time to clean up this mess. Don’t fritter the opportunity to get this right. Unite.

     Bill Clontz

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