I find it interesting that two of the non-politicians in the Presidential race are the ones who would abandon their party if certain conditions apply.
Donald Trump has waffled back and forth on a third-party run, which is a prospect that scares Republicans who can see him doing a Ross Perot and helping to hand the election to a Clinton. Even though Trump’s support seems to hold between 25 and 35 percent in national polls, that represents a significant enough chunk of the national electorate that it would make the difference in a presidential election. It’s likely Trump would take less from Hillary’s base than he would from a Republican.
But today Ben Carson joined Trump in vowing to leave the party if the convention ends up being brokered. This, though, is a possibility given the rules in place and the large number of hopefuls still out there. Winner-take-all rules in various states could give Trump the nomination with the share of the vote he’s currently receiving, but the GOP establishment frets that The Donald’s outspokenness on issues such as immigration and a Carteresque ban on Muslim immigration would repel moderate voters. So the fear is the delegates will be browbeaten into supporting a different candidate that’s more acceptable to the establishment.
There is nothing that says a Republican candidate has to stay loyal to the party if rejected – in fact, in the 2012 cycle former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson began as a Republican candidate but once he found his campaign had little traction he decided to withdraw from the GOP race and seek the Libertarian Party nomination instead (which he received.) On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is actually not a Democrat but seeks their nomination nonetheless.
Unlike Trump, Ben Carson did not leave the door open for a third-party run if he leaves the GOP. But the question is whether Carson would be willing to work with the eventual nominee if he or she comes through a divided convention. With the number of candidates out there who would otherwise not be occupied, there are a lot of prospective campaigners out there. Carson would certainly appeal to certain evangelical and minority audiences as a conservative surrogate. Someone has to take the message into certain quarters where they would be embraced in a manner that Donald Trump could not. Truthfully, it would not surprise me if Donald Trump was the 2016 answer to Ross Perot, and I will admit that George H.W. Bush’s forgetting what his lips said about no new taxes drove me to vote for Perot. It was a vote that would have went for Bush.
It’s been noted that Trump supporters tend to be less educated and more rural than typical Republican backers. They remind me of Reagan Democrats, who were the working-class laborers that voted Democrat along with their unions for generations but became fed up with a Democratic party that drifted farther and farther away from its moorings. Many of that generation are gone – remember, the first Reagan election was half a lifetime ago and those who had put in 25 years at the factory back then have passed on. It’s their kids that are looking at Trump as the answer.
In this day and age, people are less and less wedded to party and more and more skeptical of politics as usual. If nothing else, the rise of Carson and Trump have proven that experience doesn’t matter as much anymore. Whether they stay as Republicans may not matter if the GOP doesn’t strengthen their brand.