The Corner

Politics & Policy

In Support of an Independent Presidential Bid

At the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol calls for an independent presidential run by a Republican who can provide a viable alternative for Republicans and conservatives opposed to Donald Trump. Similarly, in his column today, Thomas Sowell argues that a credible third-party candidate could divide the general-election vote enough to deny any candidate an electoral college majority, throwing the election into the House, “where any semblance of sanity could produce a better president than” Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

I agree and support the effort.

I have two caveats.

1. I am only in it to win it. I have no interest in a symbolic gesture that has no plausible shot at either (a) getting to 270 in the electoral college, or (b) preventing Trump and Hillary Clinton from getting to 270, such that the election would be decided in Congress. I need to be satisfied that a credible national campaign that is likely to win some states can be mounted. Bill contends that this is not only doable but that the effort is underway.

To be clear, if I have no other real alternative, I am prepared to make the excruciating choice of voting for Donald Trump. I will never support Trump, but I would vote for him in the presumptive two-candidate election because I find Hillary Clinton more objectionable and I believe there is a chance Trump would surround himself with solid people who would make better decisions for the country. I don’t do mind-games, and I will not engage in a symbolic gesture that has no chance of achieving anything other than letting me pretend I did not, in effect, vote for Clinton.

If, however, there is a credible alternative – preferably, a Republican who can unite conservatives, independents, and Reagan Democrats who surely have disagreements, including disagreements with me, but reject the direction in which the Left is taking the country – I am on board. I don’t need the certainty or even probability of success; I need the possibility of success coupled with confidence that the effort would promote down-ballot success for congressional candidates who would form a solid opposition in the event Clinton or Trump wins.

2. I am convinced that the deep lesson of the 2016 campaign is that Americans reject the Washington political establishment and business as usual – the forces that are already gravitating to Trump and that are actively handing the Democratic nomination to Clinton despite intense opposition to her among Democrats across the country. If an independent candidacy were just camouflage for a scheme to install a Republican establishment hack, I would not be interested. To repeat, however, those types are already predictably stampeding toward the Trump camp. I am happy to join with principled conservatives who recognize that Washington – the Washington that the Clintons and Trump sustain – is the problem.

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