The Republican and Democratic parties are facing an interesting dilemma this year. How do party members get behind their respective nominees and their campaigns and vote for them even if they have strong feelings against the nominee's positions and their perceived lack of personal integrity? In an election year when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have favorability ratings close to that of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV after he killed Apollo Creed in an exhibition match, will party members vote the party line or will they defect to a third party or even the opposition party?
For party members, voting for your party's nominee isn’t a simple decision and it's creating a moral dilemma for politicos on both sides -- especially for the Republican Party. Trump's recent comments about the Mexican heritage of the American-born judge presiding over the Trump University case has caused several prominent Republicans to withdraw their support for Trump and to strongly condemn his comments.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been one of the loudest critics. He was asked by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, “Are you comfortable with a potential president attacking a federal judge for his heritage?” Gingrich, who many have speculated was on Trump's list of possible running mates, responded by saying his comments were “inexcusable.”
“No. This is one of the worst mistakes Trump has made. I think it’s inexcusable,” Gingrich said. “He has every right to criticize a judge, and he has every right to say certain decisions aren’t right, and his attorneys can file to move the venue from the judge. First of all, this judge was born in Indiana. He is an American, period. When you come to America, you get to become an American, and Trump, who has grandparents who came to the U.S., should understand this as much as anybody.”
Gingrich blasted Trump for not acting like a potential leader of the United States, saying the primary season was over and he needed to act like a leader.
Other Republicans that took convincing to support Trump publicly, including Senator Lindsey Graham, have begun to withdrawal their support based on these recent comments as well. And others such as House Speaker Paul Ryan have had to publicly defend their support of Trump.
So what does a Republican Party member do? Do Republicans stick with the party’s nominee or do they abandon "The Party of Lincoln” because of Trump’s recent comments or do they support him to keep the White House from another Clinton? And do the preferences of either of our two established parties matter as we have become a nation of independents?
A Nation of Independents
In Gallup’s most recent poll on party affiliation in the U.S., likely voters were asked, “As of today, do you consider yourself a Republican, Democrat, or Independent?"
The results showed that independent voters represent 45% of likely voters which dwarfs both Republicans (27%) and Democrats (28%). This is why many believe that independents and swing voters control the electorate. Independent voters haven’t committed to a specific platform or party and are able to vote their conscience and have no set party ties. In some cases, independent voters have been locked out of state primaries due to not being members of a specific party and haven’t yet been able to vote for the candidate of their choice.
The Future of Third Parties is Bright
One thing that we will see in future election cycles is the formation of new political parties and the rise of organizations similar to the Reform Party of 1992 that put Ross Perot on the ballot. Bernie Sanders supporters have already formed a new organization, Brand New Congress, to organize and support electing congressional candidates in key races that support the Sanders agenda. The Libertarian Party has also received a boost in voter interest and is getting behind Gary Johnson, who is approaching the 15% threshold for inclusion in the Presidential debates.
With a large number of both Republicans and Democrats not likely to support their party’s nominee and independents not being tied to a specific party, will this be the presidential election that puts a third party in the White House? I leave you with that question… because I for sure don’t have the answer.
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