The Spectacle Blog

RE: Conservative Third Party

By on 2.2.07 | 11:37AM

Giuliani as Republican presidential nominee is the ultimate test for the appeal of a conservative third party. Giuliani differs from the Republican base on at least four issues that are among the reasons many conservatives got involved in politics in the first place. If a conservative third party can't make a strong showing against him, when can it? Maybe in a race between Arlen Specter and Evan Bayh, with a liberal Republican and nonscary Democrat?

The recent performance of conservative third parties isn't good. George Wallace took 13.5 percent of the vote in 1968, but that number is padded by blue-collar statists, economic populists, and generic racists who don't fit any reasonable definition of Goldwater conservatism. John Schmitz ran a more identifiably conservative campaign in 1972 and won a million votes -- even that was just 1.4 percent of total ballots cast and probably padded by nonconservative former Wallace voters.

Since then, it has been nowhere but down. Ron Paul as a Libertarian and Pat Buchanan as the Reform Party nominee both languished in the 400,000-vote range (Buchanan won 3 million votes in the Republican primaries just four years earlier). And they are the biggest names on the right to have given the third-party route a try. Most other disgruntled conservatives have spurned entreaties to run as third-party candidates like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan did before them.

The Constitution Party has never cracked 200,000 votes or attracted a big-name conservative to its ticket (not for lack of trying). Most other conservative third parties are even smaller; some are even nuttier.

It is easy to see how a pro-life, pro-gun, immigration-restrictionist voter who opposes government recognition of homosexual relationships would want an alternative to Giuliani. But it is less easy to see either the Republican presidential field or a conservative third party offering her a viable one.

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