History suggests Donald Trump's reported Patriot Party won't work

Donald Trump’s desire for post-presidency relevance, assuming he’s not thrown into prison for tax fraud, may involve creating a political party. The Washington Post reported hearing the ideas from “people familiar with the plans” due to Trump’s ire towards those he believes failed loyalty tests following his loss to now-President Joe Biden. Trump’s primary targets are no secret: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. One would think Utah Senator Mitt Romney’s name is scrawled somewhere on Trump’s (Political) Kill List.

The plan involves using whatever leverage Trump (believes he) possesses to reform the GOP in his image. Trump’s threat of a Patriot Party, as WaPost postulates as a name, involves taking his cul-err-supporters away from the Republican Party to a separate sphere. Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene proclaimed her fealty to Trump on Twitter while vowing Republican voters were ‘loyal’ to Trump instead of the Party as a whole. I don’t believe in holding party loyalty for the sake of party loyalty. Taylor Greene’s “America First” declarations, however, seem more of a dedication to Trump the man than anything else. So goes the legacy of political clans.

History suggests this won’t work. Past cults of personality have failed including Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party (aka the Bull Moose), Ross Perot’s Reform Party, and George Wallace’s American Independent Party. William Jennings Bryan suffered similar failures during the 1896 election despite a coalition from the Democratic, Populist, and Silver parties. It’s harder for political groups to succeed if they’re formed around a singular person or issue instead of an ideological platform. Trump and those loyal to him rely mostly on a cult of personality through the MAGA or KAG declarations. What’s next for a Patriot Party when Trump no longer runs the show? Can the Trump Family keep the legacy going? If France’s National Right aka National Front can’t under Marine Le Pen, then the Trump Family isn’t set up for much success either.

The other issue a Trump Patriot Party will run into is ballot access. Republicans and Democrats tilted the scales in their favor. It’s extremely difficult for minor parties to end up on statewide or local ballots. The Libertarian Party of Ohio lost its minor party status after the 2020 election after regaining it in 2019. Republicans and Democrats in various states typically file lawsuits against third and fourth parties in hopes of keeping them from the ballot. The Commission of Presidential Debates sets a 15% poll threshold for any candidate looking to participate in debates. Who runs the commission? Why the Republican and Democratic parties! It’s a rigged game.

Problems remain with money and infrastructure. Trump holds only so much money and mega-donors may eschew anything containing his name. Arizona’s Republican Party possibly could succeed the most given its censuring of Governor Doug Ducey, Cindy McCain, and ex-Senator Jeff Flake but the other state parties probably wouldn’t slide completely into the Trump fan club. California Republicans might also see some Trump success, but is it set up for long-term success?

This is why you see South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham and RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel attempt to keep the Trumpists with the GOP. They realize the loud populists have no real power if they form a circle of their own. It’s a similar reason why populists within the Democratic Party don’t pick up stakes for the Democratic Socialists of America or the Green Party. The infrastructure, plus ballot access issues, prevent third parties from any real success.

Of course, now that I think about it, maybe Trump should try to form a political party. It will likely fail in the U.S. like Trump Ice, Trump Vodka, Trump University, and Trump Mortgage. There are plenty of problems with the GOP and Democratic parties. However, America is, unfortunately, a two-party system. A MAGA-style Patriot Party won’t be the success Trump and his ilk hope it will become.