At various times in American history, voters have come together in bipartisan Fusion Parties when both major parties failed to represent their interests. As the Republican Party continues in a graveyard spiral at the hands of President Trump and the Democratic Party veers ever further toward the radical left, the time may be right for another fusion across party lines.
As Erick Erickson recently noted, “The GOP is a party in decline and I think if anyone wants to challenge it, the challenge is best done with the establishment of a new third party.” Erickson further pointed out, accurately I think, that, “The GOP is largely defined by one man and the party itself stands for nothing other than what he wants. With only around 40% of the country supportive, and less than that strongly supportive, the GOP could be brought low with only a bit of effort.”
Republicans will be tempted, as they were in 2016, to support Donald Trump’s re-election campaign no matter how bad the situation looks. There is almost no chance that Trump will lose the Republican nomination and the chances are equally small that the president’s core supporters would desert him in the general election. Any Democratic candidate will always represent a national crisis that can be used to justify jettisoning conservative principles and even common decency.
The problem for Republicans is that their base is shrinking and they are alienating moderate voters at an alarming rate. Exit polls from 2018 showed that the GOP lost ground with almost every demographic. A new poll from Gallup, taken in the midst of the shutdown, showed that the share of voters who identify as Republican has fallen to 25 percent, down three points since the midterms. Democrats have increased by three points to 34 percent.
In 2016, voters were unhappy with both candidates and all indications are that this sad situation will be repeated in 2020. Donald Trump was the most unpopular president of modern times even before the shutdown caused his approval to sink even lower. Recent polling showed that 57 percent of registered voters said they would definitely vote against Trump. The risks of backing a president who has become even more disliked since losing the popular vote should be apparent to Republicans but most seem caught up in the Trump fervor.
Democrats are in a better position. There are numerous Democratic candidates with more sure to follow. Many are relatively unknown, which is a plus, given their radicalism. The chief advantage that Democrats hold at this point is that their candidate is almost certain to face off against an increasingly isolated and unmanageable Donald Trump.
Fortunately, for Trump opponents, the Gallup poll showed that 39 percent of voters identify as independents. Granted, most people who say they are independent are lying. Most are fairly reliable partisan voters who just don’t like their party well enough to claim it. Nevertheless, the fact that almost 40 percent of the electorate rejects both parties is encouraging for those who want neither party. If these voters don’t claim the label of either party, they are likely to be willing to consider an alternative.
I believe that there are Democrats who are just as disillusioned and angry with their party as I am with the Republicans. Howard Schultz is a manifestation of this wing of the party. I know that there are many Republicans who are unhappy with Donald Trump because I’ve talked to many of them. It is these people who have been left behind the two major parties that could make a Fusion Party a success.
The radical wings of both parties will stand by their respective nominees. If there is to be a serious third-party alternative to Trump and the Democrat-to-be-named-later, it can’t be a strictly conservative party. Any conservative party would simply split the dwindling conservative vote and help to elect the Democrat (not that the Democrat candidate is likely to need much help).
A better strategy is for a Fusion Party to carve out a place in the middle of the political spectrum. The target of the Fusion Party should be the moderate and independent voters who are increasingly left behind as both parties cater to their own respective extremists. The United States is a center-right country and that is where the Fusion Party should concentrate its efforts.
Like the two current parties, the Fusion Party wouldn’t be all things to all people. Rather than being built around conservative or liberal orthodoxy, it would be focused on bipartisanship and the ability to forge practical, workable compromises. It would also be focused on electing people of good character who could be trusted with the nation’s highest office. Neither conservatives nor liberals would be totally happy with the party platform, that’s the mark of a good compromise, but they would hopefully be happy to have a decent person to vote for.
In the end, a compromise platform might do more to advance conservative legislation than a purist platform. For the past 10 years, the parties have campaigned on no compromise and it has gotten them almost nowhere. Tax reform passed by a bare partisan majority (as did Obamacare), but Obamacare reform and border security were left on the table because Republicans could not compromise enough to win the necessary Democrat votes. A compromise platform might build the wall as part of immigration reform package and fix the worst parts of Obamacare even if it didn’t fulfill every conservative goal.
Even though a Fusion Party wouldn’t be a conservative dream ticket, it would be better than the most likely alternative, a liberal Democrat in the White House. If the 2018 midterms are any indication, the Republicans will be subjected to an electoral bloodbath if voters are given a binary choice between President Trump and any reasonably sane and personable Democrat. A three-way race with a Fusion Party candidate may be the best chance to avoid a democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders or a leftwing radical like Kamala Harris being elected president.
Originally published on The Resurgent