Writing for the National Journal, veteran Washington reporter Ron Fournier tackles a question about which I’ve also been wondering: Can the Republican Party, riven between its radical right Tea Party wing and business-oriented traditional wing, stay together?
Fournier runs through a scenario in which Tea Party favorite Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky makes a credible but ultimately unsuccessful run for the Republican nomination in 2016, then stays in the race as a third-party candidate. That would be a dream come true for whomever is the Democratic nominee, although Fournier throws in a little speculation that the Democratic Party could also undergo major stress in finding its post-Obama identity. That last bit doesn’t make immediate sense to me. The first part does.
Since Abe Lincoln was elected in 1860, establishing the Republicans as one of the Big Two parties, the Dem-Repub duopoly has produced the first- and second-place finishers in every single presidential election except 1912 (when Teddy Roosevelt bolted the GOP and finished second to Woodrow Wilson). Looking at the modern history of democracy around the world, it is really unusual for any particular two-party system to be so stable for so long.
The implications of a possible crack in the duopoly are fascinating to imagine.