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The decision that will certainly get Trump elected in 2024


Editor’s note: Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist and CNN political commentator, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and served as an adviser to Clinton in the White House. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. See more opinion pieces on CNN.


While planning his candidacy for the presidency in 2000, Ralph Nader asked me to meet him. Nader firmly believed he could launch a viable Green Party, grabbing at least 5% of the national vote, which would qualify the Greens for federal matching funds, and begin to erode what he called “the duopoly.” bipartisan”.

“I don’t know if you can do that,” I told Nader. “But I’m sure of this: if you succeed, you will elect George W. Bush.” Nader vehemently disagreed. He thought then-Vice President Al Gore would still have enough votes to win comfortably, and he wanted to pull him to the left.

I couldn’t dissuade Nader, of course. The rest, as they say, is history. Bush was credited with a victory in Florida by just 537 votes. Nader received 97,488 votes in Florida.

Some might say third-party presidential candidates are like cockroaches in the kitchen. To quote legendary Texas Longhorn football coach Darrell Royal, “It’s not what they eat and what they take, it’s what they fall and mess up that hurts.”

The brave people of the No Labels political organization dive into the 2024 presidential election. The organization describes itself as a group that “demands that America’s leaders and citizens declare themselves free from the anger and division that are ruining our politics and, most importantly, our country.” And yet their core project – arranging a moderate third-party bid for the presidency in 2024 – would likely reward, despite their stated intentions, the most extreme, divisive and angry forces. of our policy.

In a video on their website, chief strategist Ryan Clancy explains that his group is working to get a spot on the ballot in all 50 states, “to create an opening for a presidential ticket that represents the kind of ideas which appeal to most people, even if it drives the extremes crazy. What ideas? Well, Clancy says in the video, they’re coming. “Soon.”

No Labels, so far, has not come up with any concrete ideas or policies. Nothing on whether corporations should pay more taxes, as Democrats want, or less, as Republicans do. Nothing on whether health care should be driven more by private markets, as Republicans want, or more heavily subsidized by the government, as Democrats are.

All we know is that No Labels rejects partisanship, division and extremism. Here’s the simple political reality, as I see it: In recent elections, most voters who reject extremism tended to vote Democrat. This means that the vast majority of votes a No Labels presidential candidate would receive would likely come from President Joe Biden’s potential voter pool, not former President Donald Trump – assuming the 2024 election goes ahead. turns out to be a rematch of 2020.

Third Way, another centrist public policy group, has a more compelling response. According to their analysis, a third-party candidate would “act as a spoiler” and that the kind of post-partisan candidacy No Labels is calling for would draw disproportionately from the Democratic nominee. Simply put, there’s no way in the world that a third-party candidate can win. But a moderate third-party candidate would, in my view, almost certainly elect Mr. Trump.

Ross Perot, the most successful independent candidate of modern times, who has spent millions of his money campaigning, won nearly one in five votes in 1992 – and got precisely no electoral votes. What made Perot different from the No Labels effort was that he drew inspiration from both sides. Its pro-change, pro-choice, anti-Gulf War, and anti-NAFTA stances draw from Democratic nominee Bill Clinton’s electoral base, and its pro-business, anti-deficit stances draw from the president’s base. Republican George HW Bush.

The strongest third-party candidate of all time was former Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, who received 88 electoral votes – not enough to win, but more than enough to keep the 1912 election away from his former GOP protege William Howard Taft and give the presidency to the Democrat. Woodrow Wilson. The best performance by an independent since Roosevelt was Democrat-turned-independent George Wallace, who in 1968 won five states. In the half-century since, not a single independent presidential candidate has won a single electoral vote.

Democrats may not want to hear this, but Third Way doesn’t back down from the facts: Trump got more votes in 2020 than in 2016. After two impeachments, after banishing people from Muslim-majority countries, after sided with Putin over US intelligence agencies in Helsinki, after initially saying Covid-19 would ‘go away’.

After all that, he got more raw votes and a higher percentage of votes in the major swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. But while Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lost those states in 2016, Biden won them. For what? As Third Way states, “In 2016, there was a third installment that ate away at Clinton’s support. In 2020, this third-party segment has shrunk, so Biden’s support has eclipsed Trump’s. In 2016, two third parties – the Libertarian and Green parties – both clashed strongly across the country, drawing nearly 6 million votes between them. In 2020, voters dropped out of third parties and edged closer to 2 million votes.

While that’s not the only reason for Biden’s success, as Third Way points out, “Biden won the 2016 Third Party voters by a 30-point margin.” Of course, there hasn’t been a total rejection of Trump’s brand of extremism in 2020, and there likely won’t be in 2024. But a sensible, centrist, moderate, anti-partisan candidate, like the No Labels researcher, will succeed in getting Trump elected. , the most divisive and polarizing politician of modern times.

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