Third Parties

Can a Third Party Gary Johnson Run Save the GOP?

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At Conservative HQ, Andrew Davis thinks a Gary Johnson Libertarian Party run could scare the Republican Party straight:

 in this spirit of checking corruption among the ruling class that conservatives and Tea Partiers should take keen interest in Johnson's run—not for what it could do to strengthen third parties, but for what it could do to weaken the grip that the Republican Establishment has on the GOP. 

The reason the Republican establishment has been able to dictate the direction of the GOP for so many years is because the conservative grassroots has been unable to unseat them from their Ivory Tower. The Tea Party, and its foundation in the belief that the GOP should return to its limited government roots, is a byproduct of a growing discontent with the direction of the party at the hands of liberal Republican leadership.

In 2010, the Tea Party showed the Republican Establishment just how powerful it was. They knocked-out RINO candidates in the primaries, and elected an impressive class of Tea Party-backed candidates into office. However, the lessons of 2010 seem to have faded, and Republican leaders are back to their old tricks. 

What will it take to get them to listen to the grassroots? Nothing short of removing the power they've used to stay at the top.

That is where Johnson comes in. His mass appeal, especially to fiscal conservatives who feel betrayed by the Republican leadership's wishy-washy stance on spending cuts, has the potential to siphon votes away from a moderate Republican presidential candidate like Romney. In a political environment where the conservative grassroots base has more allegiance to message than party (as seen in the 2011 Virginia election), a third-party candidate like Johnson, with a strong conservative message on spending, could be doomsday for a content-free Republican candidate. 

While who knows what the mysterious world of tomorrow may hold, my read on political culture is that a Johnson Libertarian run that the Republicans could blame for an Obama victory would not make the GOP at large cry "Oh God what have we done by disappointing the small government crowd so badly? Let's mend our ways!"

It would rather, I suspect, double and treble their hate-on for that sort of extremism that leads people to believe they should have choices beyond what the Republican Party wisely chooses to offer, and further destroy any influence such folk have in the Party, at least in the short term.

In the long term, what has to happen is that more voters have to agree with and be willing to act on that small-government perspective. 

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