Third-Party Talk

Paul Weyrich

10/17/2007 2:01:00 PM - Paul Weyrich

Recently there has been considerable talk about a third party, which originated from an informal meeting in Salt Lake City called by Robert K. Fischer, President of Fischer Furniture, Inc., Rapid City, South Dakota. The session gathered steam when Dr. James Dobson, perhaps the most influential pro-family leader, stated that he would consider a third party if an unacceptable GOP candidate were nominated for President.

The statement immediately caused a media firestorm. Gary L. Bauer, who is an associate of Dobson, denounced the idea, saying this would guarantee Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) the election. Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, usually seen as a close collaborator of Dobson, distanced himself from the third-party idea.

Morton C. Blackwell, President of the Leadership Institute and Virginia Republican National Committeeman, believes that it is easier to overthrow a political party than it is to form a third party. Blackwell is the expert in practical politics.

I agree with Blackwell although perhaps it would be useful to examine the criteria needed to create a third party. Such an examination could be relevant if one of the parties would embrace a position anathema to a major segment of its grassroots. If the Democratic Party were to embrace the Second Amendment and call for the right to bear arms there would be a grassroots revolt. Such an occurrence could be sufficient to collapse the Democrats and pave the way for a third party. Likewise, if the Republicans, the pro-life party since 1980, were to repudiate that position there would be a substantial grassroots walk-out, perhaps enough to pave the way for a third party.

I believe it would require three steps to create a new and viable third party. First, major figures from either existing parties would need publicly to defect. For instance, if the two Oklahoma Senators, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Governor Mitt Romney held a press conference stating that the Republican Party no longer represents their beliefs and views, in turn, they would be creating a new party, perhaps called the Christian Democrats.

Secondly, the third-party effort would require a multi-millionaire prepared to spend his own money for a Presidential campaign. This individual would be required to spend millions in order to earn a ballot position within each state. Having earned the ballot for the new party and seeing that his candidacy were going nowhere, this great American might well drop out, leaving the third party ballot positions to somebody else, perhaps Governor Romney, who could be nominated at a hastily called convention. To leave the ballot positions to the current situation would be utter chaos. The multi-millionaire would be indispensable.

Third, the new party would require the defection of a major media outlet. The Democrats would require THE NEW YORK TIMES or the WASHINGTON POST. The Republicans would require Fox News Channel. True, Roger Ailes, whom Rupert Murdock selected to put together the Fox News Channel, was a Republican operative before the Nixon Presidency. Ailes is known as one of the most able operatives in the nation. Under his leadership Fox News Channel has been a tremendous success. Not only is Fox News Channel the top cable news channel but it is giving cable networks a run for their money. Ailes has achieved this by having a Republican base with a conservative twist. In other words, while the channel favors the Republican Party, it always is open to a conservative viewpoint.

In my opinion, these three developments would be required for a third party to be successful. If important political figures were to distance themselves from the GOP it would not necessarily be a ticket to Clinton's election. True, the Republicans would be divided but if a multi-millionaire not only assisted the third party in obtaining ballot positions and invited his fellow multi-millionaires to join the cause still would need the allegiance of some key political figures.

If Fox News Channel would implicitly not go along with the new party, an alternative could be the WALL STREET JOURNAL. That paper has not been pro-life as such but now that it is owned by Murdock it might implicitly go along. If it were clear that the Murdock empire were along side the GOP and were hostile toward the Christian Democrats, the third party effort would fail. That is why Morton Blackwell stated that it would be easier to overthrow the Republican Party than to start a new party. All three developments would be required for a third party.

If the walkout of Republicans grassroots were dramatic enough and if it enticed major figures to join, which in turn caused millionaires to follow along and caused major media continually to provide favorable treatment, a third party could work. Hubert H. Humphrey's dramatic walkout from the Democratic Party in 1948 into the arms of a new party combined with a sympathetic media and still it didn't work. Why? There was no other major defection and no money followed.

Could Dobson, himself a major figure, trigger all of the ingredients for a new party if there were a walkout from the GOP? I doubt it. Loyalty is too strong. Maybe Dobson could find multi-millionaires to help but having a major media operation to be sympathetic would be almost impossible. He could try the 1,100 local and national radio talk-show hosts. But managing that in a short time frame would be next to impossible. I am afraid that were Dobson to pull out we would be looking at President Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2009.