Now there is speculation that a third party will grow to challenge the status quo. The cause is the general disgust so many Americans feel over the way the Democrats and Republicans have handled the nation’s financial affairs. Unlikely, but we’ll wait and see, nonetheless.
Even before the government shutdown and the debt-ceiling fiasco, party affiliation was declining while the number of people who were registering (or declaring themselves) “independents” was on the rise — even in swing states where the parties were spending lots of money.
Though the popularity of both parties has suffered in recent weeks, Republicans have taken the greatest hit. Support for the GOP, according to Gallup polling, is at an all-time low.
In the past, an independent voter was one who would, as they were fond of saying, “vote for the man (or woman), not the party.” However, when neither party offers a new candidate to replace the gerrymandered incumbent who has caused the mess, what is an independent to do?
Some have begun to suggest that this lack of an alternative will lead to a legitimate third-party movement with independent voters constituting its core.
Although both parties would lose support if a third party took shape, Republicans could suffer the most as the conservative business faction that has been at the center of the GOP’s Big Tent strategy looks for a way to distance itself from the divisive and potentially disastrous economic policies advocated by the Tea Party wing.
Democrats could also lose as supporters who are disgruntled over Senate and House brinkmanship and who have little enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton as the party’s presumed presidential nominee. They might not be willing to bolt and join the GOP, but they could be enticed by another alternative.
In the months to come, the vote of the independent will be up for grabs. If neither of the two parties can capture it, a third just might. If that happens, both Democrats and Republicans could suffer.