With the popularity of Donald Trump as presidential timber this year, I recalled writing an academic paper while in college assessing the differences and similarities of third-party presidential candidates.
Third-party challenges are more common than most people think in our largely two-party system.
In that 1968 election, I correctly predicted that George Wallace’s campaign against Vice President Hubert Humphrey and eventual winner Richard Nixon would not change the election results as Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 campaign — Minnesota backed TR’s Bull Moose Party — against President William Howard Taft most certainly had resulted in the victory of Woodrow Wilson.
I also researched the efforts of the regional third-party hopeful in South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond (1948) and movement candidates of the left — Robert Lafollette of Wisconsin (1924) and Iowa’s Henry Wallace (1948).
Unconventional Trump run could swing the election
In a most unconventional run for the Republican nomination this year, Trump has refused to commit to supporting the endorsed candidate and has left open the option of running as an independent.
Such a 2016 effort by the 69-year-old billionaire could well result in changing the results, not unlike the way Ross Perot did in 1992 in his largely self-funded effort that garnered nearly one in five of all votes; eight in 10 Perot voters identified as conservatives and moderates. With the defeat of President George H.W. Bush that year by Bill Clinton, a new Democratic Party emerged.
Though I do not think that he could win outright, the most likely beneficiary of a Trump third-party run, of course, is Hillary Clinton, the leading Democrat who is currently struggling to credibly define herself to U.S. voters.
Jumpstart look at 2016 Republican hopefuls
America got a jumpstart look at presidential campaign politics recently on C-Span when 16 of 17 (Trump-less) Republican candidates talked in a “forum” where each engaged one-on-one with a New Hampshire newsman; and on Fox News, where the first debate featured the seven announced also-rans followed by the 10 Republican candidates running strongest in the national polls.
I joined a record 24 million viewers watching Trump, who four days after the Aug. 6 exchange was supported by an incredible 32 percent of Republicans nationally, a percentage equal to the combined totals of Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker (Morning Consult Research, Aug. 10).
To determine Trump’s eventual role and to sort through the large contingent of Republicans, I’d suggest Trump get beyond the sound bites and silly, even offensive finger-pointing and focus on America’s real challenges at CNN’s Sept. 16 debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Califormia.
Important questions for Trump and the others
The questions for which I seek clearer answers:
1) What is your plan for reducing, over time, the federal budget’s annual deficit (in July it was $149B) and $19T federal debt?
2) How would you oversee America, militarily and diplomatically, in regard to our allies and others?
3) What are the threats and solutions for preparing businesses and the American workers to compete in the next decade?
4) How would you, as president, deal with a politically divided country to make the right things happen?
Trump and other candidates for president need to better define how our form of democratic capitalism should work in a win-win for everyone, including 11.7 million undocumented immigrants who are currently in the work force and the one in four young people who are on a failure track in school and life.
Chuck Slocum, Minnetonka, is president of The Williston Group, a management consulting firm. He got an “A” on his senior honors paper.
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