By Quin Hillyer;
Readers of this site already know of my belief that Donald Trump is morally, experientially, temperamentally, attitudinally and philosophically unfit for the Oval Office. I do not believe he is emotionally stable; I do not believe he is personally decent; I do not believe he is principled; I do not believe he is conservative; and I do not even believe he is a big business success aside from having a proven ability at branding and being a successful reality-TV showman.
Still, even many people who agree that Trump is a bad choice for president say that we must now support him because we must keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House. They say that a third-party/independent candidate will just split the anti-Hillary vote and thus give the White House to the Left. Some even go so far as to suggest that I and fellow NeverTrumpers desire that outcome.
Well, while it is true that I literally do not believe that Trump is any less bad than Clinton, the latter is absurd. I am both NeverTrump and NeverHillary. And my 40 years in the conservative vineyards should at least merit an acknowledgement that I think things through very carefully, for the purpose of conservative ends; and that even if I turn out to be mistaken, there must be some considered logic and good intentions behind my actions. (And certainly there is not some obeisance on my part to the “establishment,” which my entire career has shown has been far, far more often a target of my criticism rather than my praise.)
The simple truth is that I believe a strong third-candidate effort provides the best, not the worst, chance to keep Mrs. Clinton from the presidency. I also believe that a third-candidate will make it almost infinitely more likely that Republicans will keep their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, and significantly more like to keep the Senate (which will be tough to hold regardless).
I also believe that it would be downright immoral to provide only two major choices to the public when those choices are both utterly hideous and dangerous. For an analogy, if there had been a way under Louisiana law in 1991 to suddenly provide a third candidate in the gubernatorial runoff between David Duke and Edwin Edwards, it would have been immoral not to do so.
I will in the near future provide a comprehensive explanation — for those who haven’t been swayed by my many other columns on this point — for why Trump should never be president. But for now, I owe an explanation for why the third-candidate option helps, rather than hurts, the anti-Clinton cause.
First, please understand that in a two-way race, Clinton will destroy Trump. The man has a very hard “negative” rating above 60 percent. Absent an indictment or health-event for Clinton in the final month of the race, that 60 percent hard negative is insurmountable. It is especially insurmountable because the Democrats and the media — which heretofore has been remarkably easy on Trump by ordinary professional standards, believe it or not — will subject him to such withering criticism that he can’t possibly overcome it. His weaknesses — his lies, his business failures, his lack of character, his unreleased tax returns, his record of trampling ordinary Americans — are too rich a target for him to escape, especially because he will not have the funds or the party unity to ward off the attacks.
Second, consider that the unique weaknesses (and some unique strengths) of both Trump and Clinton will scramble the familiar “red-state/blue-state” map this year. (Trump will steal a number of ordinary Democratic voters from Clinton, but will lose some 20 million or more ordinary Republicans to the third candidate.) With a strong third candidate also in the mix, and with a Libertarian candidate providing a fourth alternative and attracting several million millennials who are newly minted voters, there is a quite good chance that the electoral map could be divided so that nobody, including Clinton, gets the 270 electoral votes needed for majority, and victory.
If that happens, the election gets forced into the House of Representatives. And if the House remains Republican, then effectively it will choose between Trump and the conservative third candidate.
Fairly recent history proves that a third candidate can be more than merely competitive. In 1992, Ross Perot was hardly a household name. But on March 12, he opened a phone line in his office to accept names of volunteers for his potential campaign. Within weeks, he was at the top of the polls. Well into June, he actually led the race, at 39 percent in the polls to 31 for the elder Bush and 25 for Bill Clinton. And this was without the Internet, Fox News, modern social media, I-phones, and all the rest of the ways people these days achieve instant celebrity. It is far easier today than in 1992 to quickly establish both name identification and credibility.
Of course, people will say, but Perot lost and handed the election to Clinton. But that’s only because he wanted to lose. His whole goal was to bring down Bush, with whom he had a feud. Having reached the top of the polls, he then started a Crazy Uncle routine, then literally dropped out of the race from July until well into September, and then, upon re-entering, starting blathering outlandish nonsense about Bush supposedly trying to disrupt his daughter’s wedding.
And he still got nearly 20 percent of the vote.
The key lesson is not his loss, but his rise to the top of the polls at 39 percent. A solid conservative candidate this year can do the same — and then stay there, because he will neither drop out of the race suddenly nor pull a Crazy Uncle routine. In fact, if anybody starts losing votes because he sounds like a Crazy Uncle, it is not the third candidate but Donald Trump — and the third candidate will be there to pick up the pieces.
Finally (for now), conservatives must understand how imperative it is that Republicans maintain their House majority and at least have a fighting chance to retain the Senate. But with Trump turning off so many people who habitually vote, and vote Republican, there is a real danger that so many of these voters will stay home that Republicans will lose the Senate and even the House in addition to getting demolished for the Oval Office. A conservative third candidate, however, lessens this risk substantially. By attracting millions of these voters back to the polls — voters who, while there, will pull the lever for GOP Senate and House candidates too — the third presidential candidate will help save Congress and the country from left-wing domination.
For all those reasons, it is desirable to find and support a strong third-party candidate. That is what I — and many smart people with a boatload of political victories to their credit — are working to do. We should be able to announce such a candidate fairly soon. Stay tuned.