Not all of them are spoilers, not all of them are parties
There is always the whiff of the True Believer in American third parties: either the impractical fanatic who is would a little too tight for their own good, or a sensible fellow about to get devoured by the process. And yet, there they are, establishment Democrats and Republicans making an absolutely airtight case for a viable American third-party option.
Hunter Biden is facing trial for influence peddling for the Big Guy. Trump is a cascade of indictments, from titillating but pointless payoffs to porn stars, all the way to the terrifying sand-bagging the electoral process. And Georgia hasn’t even weighed in yet. Evidently, everyone is wallpapering their living room with classified documents these days. And somehow, Biden can’t create even a slim lead out of this soup. His strategy appears to be waiting for Trump to implode on the witness stand then claim faute de mieux.* To be fair to Biden, that is actually not a bad strategy.
Granted, some of the third-party options seem the part, Cornel West for the Green Party, for instance. True, Bobby Kennedy, Jr. is a not technically third party, but he can’t even get his own family to endorse him. He is doing a fair impersonation of the Conner Roy presidential campaign, though.
The Forward Party, established by Andrew Yang, Christine Todd-Whitman, et al is making impressive gains on the state level, but don’t plan to field anyone at the federal level. Which is an admirable long-term plan – provided that there is a long term to plan for.
Then there is the Unity Ticket, which is backed by No Labels, a bipartisan non-profit that been around since 2009. The irony, and it could really only happen in this election, is that the most viable third-party options is not, in fact, a third party. It’s a presidential option that puts two centrists - Democrat and Republican - on a single ticket. There isn’t a third party involved.
The main resistance to an independent candidate is that a president without a party is useless. A Unity Ticket bridges both, as it would be backed by a sizable bipartisan House caucus. Imagine trying the run the country without being forced to throw a bone to a radical faction exploiting razor-thin margins to promote agendas that are just… Hell, you read the news, one group is opposes background checks for RPGs and the other opposes parental permission slips for middle schoolers getting a sex-change. What that built-in across the aisle caucus means is that the congressional howler monkeys can be, blissfully, ignored.
It’s already lifting your spirits, isn’t it?
The Democrats, openly terrified at the prospect, have launched state-level legal challenges to prevent a Unity Ticket from getting on the ballot and gone into media overdrive. The thinking being that despite the cascade of indictments, if Biden loses so much as a single vote, he’s toast. Raising the question: If your guy is so lame, why are you running him in the first place?
Lacking the bandwidth to cover a third presidential option out of a population of 152 million qualified citizens, the national media is doing fair job of framing No Labels as a third party spoiler for Trump, and will throw up poll data to prove it. The polls, you’ll remember, keep being wildly, spectacularly wrong. Obama was in the White House the last time they consistently reflected reality, and it’s pretty much been fun-house mirrors since then. Neither party can win election with card-carrying members alone, and they know it. The key will be an ocean of voters who are keeping their cards close to their chest for one simple reason: Freedom of speech may be a crucial to the Republic, but it’s getting unbearable in the open.
For its part, the GOP is far too busy to give a Unity Ticket much air-time. They are trying to fight the political calculus on Trump – as Trump’s legal calculus fights back. All of which raises the same question as above. Why him? Publicly, the GOP is saying it will harm Biden worse than Trump, but don’t put too much truck in disconnected arrogance. Privately, I’m hearing from Republicans that No Labels is, in fact, a liberal spoiler for Biden. Well, it can’t be both, can it?
It might be something else entirely, though.
*For want of a better alternative.