Huntsman: It's third-party time, America

I can see why he’d feel that way. We could have done the pragmatic thing and nominated a smart, handsome, centrist, technocratic former governor with a connection to Utah. But instead we’re probably going to nominate … a smart, handsome, centrist, technocratic former governor with a connection to Utah.

He’s not fantasizing here about a third party that can win — that’s nearly impossible at the presidential level — but simply a banner under which independents can coalesce around certain defining issues to force the two major parties to address them. Er, what would those key issues be? He keeps grumbling about campaign finance reform but I’d bet there are few voters anywhere on the spectrum so committed to that that they’d let their vote turn on it. Because of the Ron Paul phenomenon, I’ve always assumed that a third party would look largely libertarian — socially liberal, with leftish positions on gay marriage and drug legalization, but fiscally very conservative in calling for dramatic spending cuts. Over at the National Journal, though, Josh Kraushaar argues that it might well be the opposite, more of a Santorum-type movement defined by cultural conservatism and blue-collar safety-net programs. Quote:

Republicans, increasingly dependent on the support of blue-collar voters, are campaigning on cuts to popular entitlement programs that may rankle some of the GOP rank-and-file. And … Democrats can’t effectively win over these voters with populist appeals because the party’s views on litmus test cultural issues, like immigration and abortion, are well out of step with their personal beliefs.

That’s why former Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode’s third-party presidential candidacy should be receiving more attention. The Democrat-turned-Republican congressman is campaigning on a platform of reducing immigration (legal and illegal), protecting Social Security and Medicare and balancing the budget immediately…

The media tend to think that the impetus for third-party candidates comes from Americans who are just plain sick of politics-as-usual and want a truth-teller to come in and shake things up. Hence, the regular Bloomberg boomlet in certain circles. In reality, the greatest demand for a third-party candidate would come from the voters whose views are most out of line with the political establishment and most newspaper editorial boards.

The key, I guess, is to find common-ground issues about which both Paul-type independents and Santorum-type independents are passionate, but that’s not easy. Everyone wants a balanced budget but those groups are likely to have profound differences over how much of the balancing should be done with cuts to Social Security and Medicare. If all your third-party coalition is capable of doing is agreeing on policy goals in the broadest terms, with little specificity — reduce spending, strengthen defense, encourage growth — then the party is pointless. Democrats and Republicans will simply push their own respective agendas and wait for indie voters who lean left and right to defect to them. Huntsman actually mentions the debt problem here as one reason we need a third party but I can’t imagine what good he thinks would come of that. There’s virtually no demographic in American political life that supports drastic reform of entitlements, which of course are the driver of that debt. Until there is, what do we have to talk about?

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Jazz Shaw May 16, 2022 12:41 PM ET