Rumors have been swirling on social media for some time that Donald Trump is exploring the possibility of starting a new political party. Word has it that this potentially establishment-wrecking entity would be called the Patriot Party. A recent poll conducted by Just the News and Scott Rasmussen provides startling insight into just how popular a Patriot Party could become. According to this poll, such a party led by Trump could command the support of almost one-quarter, or 23%, of the American electorate.
Since the greater part of that support would be drawn from conservatives, the news is not good for the Republican Party, which, according to the poll, would be shunted into third place on the political ladder, with the backing of just 17% of the electorate. On the face of it, this appears to be good news for Democrats who would compete in future elections against a split opposition and – at least in the short term – would become entrenched as the dominant political party. Of note is the fact that, according to the poll, black and Hispanic conservatives would split virtually evenly between the Republicans and the new party.
Over many decades, the two main parties have established a vise-like grip on American politics, and so talk of a third party is always met with a degree of trepidation and a great deal of doubt that such an adventure would ever achieve a level of influence sufficient to alter the political landscape.
What real prospect for success would this hypothetical Patriot Party have, though? American politics is a very expensive business. It’s not just a matter of how many votes a third party could potentially win but how many significant political donors it might attract. If enough of the big-money players currently financing Republican campaigns were to switch their allegiance – and, more importantly, their dollars – to a Patriot Party, the Republicans would be in big trouble.
An Impeachment Gambit?
One of the prevailing theories is that talk of a third party is really about Trump attempting to gain some leverage among Republicans prior to his impending impeachment trial in the Senate. The theory holds that GOP senators would be so spooked by the idea of a rival party on the political right that they will abandon any thoughts they might have had of convicting the 45th president, lest they stir him to such a vengeful move.
It’s a theory that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, though, because a conviction would mean that Trump would never again be allowed to run for public office, and so the best thing Republicans could do if they wanted to kill the idea of a third party led by Trump would, in fact, be to convict him.
Then again, even a conviction, as unlikely as it is, may well not hold up to a future legal challenge. Since Trump is no longer in office, an impeachment trial at this stage holds no constitutional credibility – not to mention that the chief justice of the Supreme Court will not preside over the proceedings as is required.
Speaking of the unlikelihood of conviction, one must question why Trump would need this kind of leverage going into his trial. A conviction in the upper chamber requires 67 votes, and, in reality, it is unlikely that 17 Republicans would make the fateful decision to convict the man who, as far as many American conservatives are concerned, was one of the greatest presidents in modern history.
Patriot Party Prospects
Trump’s advisers recently poured cold water on the notion of the Patriot Party, yet it is clear that the former president intends to remain politically active. Trump certainly always appeared to be the great optimist – sometimes a little too optimistic. Nevertheless, these recent poll numbers must surely give him pause for thought.
While most pundits on the right are recoiling in horror at the idea of a new political party competing for the support of conservatives, fears that it would hand political dominance to the Democratic Party for the foreseeable future may be a little misplaced. Assuming that legal barriers were not somehow erected by the left to prevent the formation of a Patriot Party, Republicans sensing which way the wind is blowing could, it is possible, desert the Republican Party en masse. In theory, there is nothing to stop even elected GOP officials from switching their party affiliation. Suddenly, the new party could find itself with seats in both houses of Congress.
It is not entirely outside the realm of possibility that this Patriot Party, within just a couple of election cycles, could become as powerful as the Republican Party is today.
Granted, this is all pure conjecture. Trump, it seems, may be more inclined to devote his energy to maintaining and growing his influence over the GOP. Third party or not, the formation in Florida of the Office of the Former President, an entity every bit as legitimate as Joe Biden’s now obsolete Office of the President-Elect, tells us that we have not seen the last of Donald J. Trump.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.