Over the weekend, Sarah Palin floated the idea of forming a third party – tentatively dubbed the “Freedom Party,” at the suggestion of a Fox News viewer – if the Republicans continue to disappoint conservatives. This drew a spirited response from blogger LaborUnionReport at RedState, followed by an equally spirited counter-response from Stacy Drake at Conservatives4Palin, who accused the RedState blogger of using a Palin Photoshop to illustrate his post.
I haven’t got any Photoshop expertise to offer, beyond observing that it’s a really good Photoshop. It’s an image of Palin sitting on Santa’s lap, presumably to emphasize that wishing for a third party is hopelessly unrealistic. It’s like Ralphie’s dogged pursuit of a Red Ryder BB gun in A Christmas Story: you’ll put your eye out with that thing, kid.
I’ve been wrestling with that third-party temptation for a long time, and generally agree with LaborUnionReport: if the insurgents can’t beat those silly RINO squishes and take control of the GOP, what chance do they have against the blood-stained gears of the Democrat political machine? No student of the 2012 election can doubt that the Democrat machine is far more powerful, automatically coughing up gigantic margins in key districts for anyone who runs. Republicans can beat it with the right candidate, but it’s tough; they can win, but the odds are tilted against them, particularly when the media landscape is also taken into account. A third-party candidate has even less of a chance, particularly since what remains of the GOP would also be out to get him or her.
There are a number of valuable assets tied to the Republican Party that would not easily transfer to a third-party candidate – from money, to ground-level political organization, to congressional support. Another lesson of 2012 is that national politics is hard work that requires many coordinated boots on the ground. Too many “outsider” candidates wanted to sweep the Republican Party, and America, off their feet in a political Cinderella story. It doesn’t really work that way. Every serious 2016 candidate had better be working on their campaign right now, at least behind the scenes.
However, I don’t really mind third-party talk, because I think the Republican cage needs to be rattled on a regular basis. The grand principle of capitalism – the wisdom Democrats have persuaded much of America to forget – is that competition breeds excellence. And the essence of competition is the ability of the unsatisfied customer to walk away.
And there will come a point at which the GOP is a lost cause, and the generation-long work of tearing it apart and building a new party should begin. I think we’re coming perilously close to that point. Maybe amnesty would take us over the edge, converting the Republican Party into a permanent minority that isn’t worth fighting for anyway. (After all his hard work on amnesty, early polls have Marco Rubio losing to Hillary Clinton among Latino voters by nearly 40 points.)
If minority status is guaranteed anyway, the devolution into a system of Democrats winning easily against two competing parties for a decade or two, followed by the rise of a truly competitive, principled opposition party that can compete within every demographic and win elections, becomes less unthinkable. The nation’s devolution would be assured at that point anyway – the Democrats will be the proud owners of a ruined dystopia if they run the country for another 20 years – so we’d really be talking about which party will make its bid to salvage something functional from the wreckage of the Great Crash.
In other words, there is no time left for foolishness, Republicans. Dazzle us.