Writer says U.S. needs four parties

The Hill, May 5, 2016

America Needs Four Parties

by Bernie Quigley

On Fox News, the station that plays in the background where I work, a somewhat different spirit entered into their studio on Wednesday. In several touching moments, commentators and hosts paused to honor one another for the work they had done together this past year. This seemed a different day; something historic had happened and they were proud to have been part of it and proud of each other.

After the Indiana GOP primary on Tuesday, it seemed the beginning of something. And it turned so quickly when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz left the race in the night. Something had ended, something had begun and Ohio Gov. John Kasich felt it as well by noon the next day, when he announced that he would also leave the race. The race to the Republican nomination was over; tycoon Donald Trump had won. Indeed, an awareness seemed to be setting in that his was a legitimate, new approach -- an awakening -- to governance in the new millennium; unbeholden to the past, unbeholden to anyone. The glass had been shattered.

But within minutes after the Trump victory, intramural challenges appeared. As The Washington Post reported post-Indiana, some anti-Trump Republicans adopted a new strategy: “I’m with her.” “Are they ready to help elect Clinton?” the Post asked in the headline. Rumors of a third party began to materialize.

In another field, it would seem like throwing the fight, as a third party could take from Trump and give the general election to likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Insurgents beware, because Trump is an accomplished cage fighter. And his major support is from the heartland; places like Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Youngstown, Ohio, factory towns and Appalachian coal towns where people of hand and heart know how to defend themselves if they have been wronged.

As columnist John Feehery writes in The Hill, “We can get all Mencken about the American people (“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard”), but the bottom line is that you either trust the democratic process or you don’t.”

Jackpot!

Yet the old line should have its say. In this oddest of campaign seasons, we have in fact four de facto political parties. The Republicans have organically divided into two exclusively different positions: the old generations come to be called “the establishment,” and the entirely new approaches in foreign policy and trade especially, officially represented now by Trump as the presumed candidate. It is not an evolution of previous existing policy positions, but an actual full change in outlook and paradigm. They consist now of two distinct positions, which would most fairly be represented by two political parties.

“A third candidate could lay the groundwork for a new political party,” Eliot Cohen, who worked in the Defense and State Departments for the George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations, writes in The Washington Post. “The Republican Party may right itself after this moral disaster, led by men and women of the caliber of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.)”

Clearly, a third party today in clear opposition to Trump would likely send Clinton -- “easily the lesser evil,” says Cohen -- to the White House.

If conservatives raise a new party, a “center” party or a Bush Reconstruction, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) must immediately enter into his own fourth party, to insure that his great effort to date is not sandbagged by malicious intent by conservatives who want to send Clinton to the White House because they don’t like their own party’s candidate.

And Sanders should have his own party anyway. As conservatives today divide between old generations from new, so do the Democrats. As it is with Republicans torn between traditionalists represented by the Bush dynasty, and new approaches represented by Trump, the Democrats today likewise consist of two de facto positions, the one standing apart from the other: Clinton the centrist and Sixties nostalgico and Sanders the Vermont socialist. Sanders’s position is, as he says, “revolutionary.”

Four parties, as Germany and other modern democratic nations have, with two on each side, make for a more comprehensive, balanced and nuanced political framework. And if any conservatives hope to rig a new party simply to skew the field to get Clinton elected, Sanders as a stand-alone fourth choice would neutralize that effort, as he would pull from Clinton probably as much as the conservative insurgency suggested would add to her store by negating Trump.

Trump has in fact made a useful suggestion on this. “Bernie Sanders has been treated terribly by the Democrats -- both with delegates & otherwise,” Trump tweeted. “He should show them, and run as an Independent!”

Sanders might enter in with the very able and well-presented Jill Stein, who is running for president on the Green Party ticket. He would add cache and celebrity power to an already formidable Stein, who is being left on the margins as third parties tend to be. He has more in common with Stein than he has with Clinton. And Sanders would bring with him a new generation which maybe needs a new party; its own party.

“He crushed Clinton [in the Iowa entrance poll] by an almost unimaginable six to one -- 84 percent to 14 percent -- among voters younger than 30. For those tempted to dismiss that as just a campus craze, he also routed her by 58 percent to 37 percent among those aged 30 to 44,” The Atlantic reported.

Sanders brings with him the future, and most likely, so does Trump.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children.