A lot of folks are very unhappy with the thought of a Trump candidacy. If you are conservative in any way, shape, or form and had illusions that your ideas were carrying the day, Donald Trump's appeal has to be as disheartening as hell. The thought is being kicked around that a third party needs to rise to challenge Trump.
Spurred by Donald J. Trump’s mounting victories, a small but influential — and growing — group of conservative leaders are calling for a third-party option to spare voters a wrenching general election choice between a Republican they consider completely unacceptable and Hillary Clinton.
While he has gained intense popularity on the right, Mr. Trump has alienated key blocs in the Republican coalition with his slash-and-burn campaign. For many, his initial refusal last weekend to disavow an endorsement from David Duke, the white supremacist, was a breaking point.
There is no obvious alternative on the right to Mr. Trump, but Republicans believe that an existing minor party, like the Libertarian Party or the Constitution Party, could serve as a viable vehicle, allowing crestfallen Republicans to show up on Election Day despite their distaste for him.
I've made it clear I think this idea is not only a very bad idea on its merits (it is predicated on the idea that by splitting the GOP into two parties we can better advance conservative principles against the unified Democrats) but it is an unlikely idea due to the mechanics of how American elections are conducted.
But let's not argue the bad idea part, let's just look at the mechanics.
How Do You Get There?
The first thing you need is a candidate who can actually win. That candidate is not Mitt Romney. Right now I don't see the charismatic candidate who can draw crowds of voters and raise a gazillion dollars. I'd submit it that candidate existed, he or she would be in the race today and kicking Trump's ass. But, as we're assuming away difficulties, let's assume such a person can be found.
Amazingly, that would be the easy part. At that point you have to decide whether you want to run with your name on a ballot line or if you want to run as write-in. The advantage of a write-in is that you don't have to worry about ballot access. The disadvantage is that you have to find enough people who can write who will vote for you.
The other way is as the candidate of some party. A minor party will have some infrastructure and it will have solved some of your ballot access problems.
The Constitution Party
The Constitution Party started life in 1991 as the Taxpayer's Party. It was sort of the not-too-bright, ne'er-do-well cousin of Ross Perot's Reform Party. Both parties contributed mightily removing George H. W. Bush from office and replacing him with Bill Clinton.
On Monday, Randy Barnett a libertarian law professor at Georgetown University had an op-ed in USA Today calling for a third party:
And let’s be frank. By refusing to credit the legitimate concerns of ordinary Americans, the GOP establishment created Donald Trump. And many K Street Republicans will rush to embrace him because they know he has no principles and will be happy to deal.
What the nation needs is a new party that is expressly dedicated to upholding theConstitution of the United States, however it may cut politically — a party that can attract principled conservatives, but also any American who is tired of crony capitalism, runaway government and rule by an out-of-touch political class.
Should such a party split the GOP vote and throw the election to Hillary, this beats a Trump presidency, which would inevitably remake the Republican Party in the Donald's own image. And, if Republicans hold onto Congress, divided government under Hillary beats one-man rule by a demagogue and his party.
Parties die. The Whigs died because they could not bring themselves to stand against the Democratic Party that overwhelmingly supported or, at least, toleratedslavery in the South and its extension into the territories, thereby threatening the North. So a new Republican Party very quickly arose to replace it. Now the national GOP establishment’s failure to listen to the people is on the verge of giving us Donald Trump. If it does, it deserves to be replaced by a party that puts the Constitution first and politics second.
It is (almost) time for an American Constitution Party.
You may never have heard of it, but the Constitution Party is a political party. It's charter of positions is very conservative, socially and fiscally, for instance, it is 100% against abortion. It's attraction is that it a) exists and b) it is on the ballot in twelve states. There are two third parties that are larger: the Libertarian party which is on the ballot in 34 states and the Green Party which infests 18 states.
While this gets you on the ballot in 12 states it only partially solves the problem of ballot access because Texas and North Carolina, for instance, are not among the twelve states
The research points to Texas and North Carolina as early tests for running an independent, conservative candidate against Trump and the Democratic nominee. The candidate would need to gather over 79,900 valid petition signatures in Texas by May 9 and over 89,000 in North Carolina by June 9.
Realistically, for a third party candidate to compete in a lot of states they have to do so as a write-in.
Joining the Party Or A Hostile Takeover?
The platform of the Constitution Party is much more libertarian than Republican in some ways, and more nativist than Trump in others. For instance, it want to ban abortion, repeal the Sixteenth Amendment, phase out Social Security and it wants a moratorium on immigration. It is hard imagine any candidate run on this. There is no doubt that an influx of GOP voters could overwhelm the existing party and take it over. The question is would that be a good idea?
Can You Get There From Here?
My assessment is "no." You can run in a half-assed kind of way but the odds of putting together all the pieces you need for a national campaign in seven months is pretty unlikely. If someone was going to try it, I'm not even sure running as a Constitution Party candidate is even helpful because the states where they have ballot access are easy access states and you have to deal with their platform. By the way, Donald Trump is full of crap when he talks about a third party run. He would face exactly the same problems that anyone else would face, in addition, he would face hostile bureaucracies in a majority of states and petition signature challenges everywhere.