by Jeffrey A. Rendall
You’re forgiven if you didn’t hear the news – or didn’t pay attention to it – but former Maryland governor Larry Hogan announced last week that he won’t run against Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination.
This didn’t mean Hogan accepted the inevitable and intends to throw-in with the wisdom of his party’s voters and simply do what most loyal politicians do when the grassroots selects in a primary someone he or she doesn’t necessarily agree with. No, Hogan said he hopes like heck that someone other than Trump or DeSantis will earn the GOP nod – and henceforth release him from taking drastic measures. But should Republican primary participants opt for a Trump or DeSantis candidacy… Larry may run instead on a third-party ticket.
Say what? Larry Hogan mount a serious challenge to the Democrats and Republicans? Yeah, and it’s theoretically possible a meteor could strike my house after this column is published, too.
Hogan didn’t engender much establishment media coverage of his 2024 wishes (dreams?) because hardly anyone even knows his name, what he purports to believe or why he so strongly disapproves of both parties’ favored candidates now. Hogan is making the rounds telling anyone who would listen that he supports a mythical middle-of-the-road consensus candidate, and might try being that person if one doesn’t magically appear out of thin air – or, more succinctly, from the malodorous ooze of the Washington DC swamp.
It turns out Hogan isn’t the only one who’s anxious that Trump and senile Joe Biden might be on the 50 states’ ballots late next year. Whereas some Republicans worry Trump could defy the party and run as an independent if he doesn’t get his way in the process, Democrats claim they’re equally distraught that ol’ senile Joe will tank their chances if he’s the one going against Trump.
If that’s the case, liberals reason, the door opens for a “centrist” group like Hogan’s to throw the election to Trump. In an article titled “Democratic group warns about ‘spoiler’ third-party ticket that could hand Trump the presidency”, the Washington Examiner’s Cami Mondeaux reported:
“In a recent memo sent out by Third Way, the left-leaning policy group outlined the ways in which a third-party ticket would tank Democrats’ chances of defending the White House in 2024. The think tank specifically pointed to efforts by the group No Labels, which is courting centrist lawmakers in both parties to create a so-called ‘unity ticket’ that offers an alternative to ‘divisive’ candidates.
“’For No Labels, the moderate President [Joe] Biden falls into this ‘unacceptable’ category,’ the group wrote in its memo. ‘The bottom line: Their candidate cannot win the presidency [and] such a candidate ‘will succeed in electing Trump.’
“No Labels has been quietly working to craft a bipartisan third-party ticket for over a year, looking to give voters an alternative option to candidates they view as extreme. As of September, the group has already raised more than $46 million and has more than 400 volunteers seeking ballot access in several battleground states, according to the New York Times.”
In case you were wondering, Hogan is the honorary co-chairman of the No Labels group, which, if they succeed in gaining ballot access in most of the states, could conceivably drum up a point or two of support for Larry in the general election. Leftist Democrats apparently figure more “centrist” votes would be sucked from Biden’s rather than Trump’s side, because, you know, senile Joe is such a “moderate”, right?
In all of this, it makes one wonder how a definition-less organization like “No Labels” starts, builds a fundraising base, and attracts candidates who portend to be without classification and “centrist” in the first place. What does a “centrist” truly believe, anyway? How will Hogan and the NL crowd discover and settle on their magical standard bearer, one who appeals to “independent” voters who are supposedly “centrist” themselves?
What does a “centrist” think about abortion, for example? If you honestly believe growing cells within a mother’s (birthing person’s?) womb is a baby, how can you reconcile allowing abortions? Or could it be you accept “exceptions”, such as life of the mother and/or a pregnancy created through rape or incest? How about a 15-week abortion ban that many states are considering after the Dobbs decision?
Or, how does a “centrist” view the federal deep state? Should half of the January 6 defendants be set free? Or should Attorney General Merrick Garland cut his pursuit of Republicans and conservatives in half? Should Garland similarly refuse to prosecute only half of the Antifa scum who were recently seen burning down buildings and tossing Molotov cocktails in Atlanta?
What about federal spending? Do “centrists” advocate for half a balanced budget amendment? Or would they merely take the proposals from each party on federal programs and split them down the middle? Would they raise taxes on certain earners and lower them on others? Would they take the number of bombs committed to Ukraine and divide them by two?
Would they keep Iran and North Korea as enemies but make nice with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping?
Or would they take a middle ground on the military’s “woke” direction and cut the number of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) survey questions in half? Is there such a thing as a half a racist? Or half a sexist? Or take the 1619 project and include the first half of the theory and leave out the rest? What is half of anti-racism? How about cutting the number of slavery reparations in half but still pass them out?
This is stupid, isn’t it? A “centrist” is nothing more than someone who’s taken aback by the lack of “civility” in the two parties towards each other and prefers a spineless candidate – like Hogan or someone of similar mindset – who disdains “labels” and name-calling and whose chief philosophy is nothing more than a grand sit-in where the entire country sings “Kumbaya” together.
Meanwhile, many conservatives rejected the Republican Party and re-registered as independents simply because they were so put off by people like Larry Hogan not believing in anything that they could no longer call themselves Republicans. The Bush establishment wing of the GOP disgusted so many folks that they chose not to receive fundraising pitches from the RNC. They’re still conservatives, and tend to vote for GOP candidates, but they’re not registered with the party.
And, of course, Trump himself drove the RINOs out of the party by the jungle safari-load. Someone like Bill Kristol would seemingly be happy to support a “No Labels” candidate as long as that person advocated forever war and loves neoconservatism. Or how about Jonah Goldberg, who still “labels” himself a conservative but has become one of the MAGA Republican Party’s biggest critics?
In the United States, for better or worse, like it or not, we’re stuck with the two-party system. In a perfect world conservatives could leave the Mitch McConnells and Paul Ryans in the past and create a true Conservative Party, but it just won’t happen – because there aren’t enough disgruntled people who are fed up with the GOP to give a new entity viability. With few exceptions in races with special circumstances, CP candidates would lose.
What do you receive for finishing second in a political race? We’ve spent the past two and a half years talking about it, haven’t we?
Besides, would a third-party candidacy really hand the election to Donald Trump as the Third Way group insists it would? Or would it, as many Trump-bashing Republicans swear, guarantee another four years of senile Joe Biden’s bumbling, mumbling, hair sniffing, country-dividing and American economy sabotaging policies?
Here’s thinking that Larry Hogan, if he ends up the “No Labels” candidate, would poll in the four or five percent range up until the election, when he would receive about the same quantity of votes that most third-party candidates get. He’s no Ross Perot, put it that way. He could make a difference in extremely tight individual state races – and conceivably tip the Electoral College towards one candidate or the other – but history won’t regard him as having done much of anything other than to waste some big “centrist” donor’s money.
(Note: The vaunted Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal suggested Senator Joe Manchin could be the not-Trump/Biden candidate. For a lot of reasons, I don’t think so.)
Every presidential nominating cycle both parties freak out at the notion of a third party swaying the results towards the opposing candidate, and every general election it boils down to which contender is able to capture the imaginations of a plurality of the country’s voters (and, of course, 270 Electoral Votes). This cycle will be no different no matter how many Larry Hogan “No Labels” candidates say otherwise.
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Jeffrey A. Rendall is a senior contributor to ConservativeHQ.
Photo “Election” by Edmond Dantès.