A new Suffolk University/USA Today poll has found that 46% of Donald Trump voters would join his party, with just 27% saying they’d stay with the GOP and the rest undecided. At the same time, 54% of respondents said that they were more loyal to Trump than to the Republican Party compared to 34% who signalled that the party was more important to them.
Trump’s base remains committed to supporting him after the second impeachment trial, the 6 January DC riots and his defeat in the 2020 election. Furthermore, according to an earlier Suffolk University/USA Today survey, 73% of Republicans still believe that Joe Biden was not legitimately elected.
Third Party’s Election Odds are Historically Minimal
The GOP appears to find itself at a critical juncture in its 165-year history, says Rogers Smith, Christopher H. Browne distinguished professor of political science, suggesting that “it is more likely that Trump supporters will complete their takeover of the GOP than it is that they will form a third party”.
Meanwhile, Never Trump Republicans will continue to leave, according to the political scientist, though he doubts that they would be able to create a viable “third party”. Over the last few months, the third party issue has been floated both by Trump supporters and Never Trumpers within the GOP. First, the Wall Street Journal reported about a hypothetical “Patriot Party” which could be led by Trump. Later, dozens of Republican centre-right politicians were said to be considering forming a separate party “free” of Trump’s influence.
However, third parties have never managed to win the majority of votes in US federal elections, according to Diego Von Vacano, professor of political science at Texas A&M University, who refers to the cases of Bernie Sanders and Ross Perot. The latter gained 19% of votes in the 1992 presidential election, considered to be one of the best results by a third party or independent candidate.
The best popular-vote performance since 1912 by a third-party or independent presidential candidate was by Ross Perot in 1992. He received 19,743,821 votes, 18.9% of the total votes cast.
An incredible achievement.
He got ZERO votes in the electoral college.
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) April 29, 2020
In addition to that, a third party’s election activities would require a lot of financial and human resources, given that it would be necessary “to organise to get on the ballot for offices in every city, county, and state, to have candidates in most if not all of the country, and to get funding”, notes Smith, stressing that “all of these are huge obstacles”. Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party appears far more viable in this respect, according to the observers.
“I don’t think the poll shows that people want a third party,” Vacano says. “I think it shows more that Trump has taken over the Republican Party”.
On the other hand, the Republican Party has recently shown that it’s “pretty afraid to break from the kind of Trump line”, Vacano suggests. Despite subjecting Donald Trump to criticism over the 6 January Capitol protests, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell nevertheless voted to acquit the former president during the Senate impeachment trial. For his part, McConnell’s longtime party mate, Lindsey Graham, openly admitted that congressional Republicans “don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of taking back the majority without Donald Trump”.
Could ‘Tribalistic Tendencies’ Within the Democratic Party Facilitate a GOP Victory?
Previously, the Democratic Party faced clashes between its moderate and “progressive” wings which, in particular, led to a row between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Squad, a group of congresswomen including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan in 2019. For his part, Bernie Sanders was leading nothing short of a progressive populist movement during the 2020 presidential campaign before laying down arms and endorsing Joe Biden.
“Tribalistic tendencies plague the human species and always have,” notes Smith. “In the case of the Democrats, some forms of ‘identity politics’, aimed at combating real American injustices, sometimes spill over into hostility toward all who do not share those identities in ways that can be called ‘tribalistic’.”
Still, one cannot count on the Democratic Party’s fracturing, according to Robert J Hutchinson, who suggests that the Left appears to be “more united than ever” in the face of the “threat” posed by Donald Trump and his supporters.
“Even President Biden now seems to you know, he has moved pretty leftward, much more so than expected,” echoes Diego Von Vacano. “And I think much more than even President Obama did initially. So I don’t think there’s any kind of dualistic tendency or split within the Democratic Party.”
Lots of Average Americans View Trump as ‘Representation of Their Values’
To come out on top, the Republicans need “to move from appealing to working class Americans on social issues while serving the wealthy on economic issues to a party that does serve working class economic interests as well as those of more affluent Americans,” according to Smith. In addition to that, the GOP has to show “greater concern for racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, even as they oppose more radical proposals in the name of such groups (e.g. ‘racial reparations’),” he believes.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party “really cannot do very much” to prevent Trump from really completely controlling it, as a lot of “mainstream average Americans” support the former president, according to the observers. Regardless of the anti-Trump mainstream media narrative Trump’s base does see him as “evil”; quite the contrary, he is “a representation of a lot of the values and the aims that they have”, Vacano concludes.