Democrats seem more afraid than Republicans of the potential third-party presidential ticket being contemplated by former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman’s No Labels organization. The Democrats apparently believe that people who three years ago supported their nominee, President Biden, are more susceptible to a third-party candidate than people who supported former President Donald Trump three years ago. It is thought that Trump’s supporters from three years ago remain more enthusiastic than Biden’s and are less likely to be drawn away by an independent.
Some evidence for such Democratic fears came this week in a Rasmussen poll showing that despite Trump’s indictment for misappropriating classified government documents, he still led Biden in a rematch by 45% to 39%. Things might be worse for the Democrats now, since the poll was taken before Biden’s son, Hunter, accepted a lenient plea bargain on federal tax and gun charges, a deal fairly dubbed “the wrist slap heard ’round the world.” Meanwhile Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives claim to have documents showing the Bidens ran a lucrative foreign influence-peddling business while Joe was vice president.
Additionally, people in Connecticut may have noticed the irony that Hunter Biden’s plea bargain came just hours after his father spoke at a “gun safety” conference in Hartford. People in Connecticut and around the country did notice the president’s odd behavior at the conference, his bidding goodbye with “God save the queen, man,” a valediction for which there was no persuasive explanation.
So strange as it may seem, by Election Day next year Biden could be the more tainted candidate for president. After all, in recent years misappropriating sensitive government documents and otherwise compromising national security also has been the practice of leading Democrats who nevertheless escaped indictment. The leniency of Hunter Biden’s plea bargain has reinforced the impression that the Democrats have brazenly politicized justice at the federal level.
If Democrats are right in thinking that Biden’s potential supporters are much less enthusiastic than Trump’s and more likely to be drawn away to a third-party candidate, it strengthens the case for No Labels to run a presidential candidate if neither party replaces its awful frontrunner. Indeed, either party probably could clinch the election early just by nominating a sane and sentient candidate of relatively good character. No Labels could save the Democrats.
Polls show Democrats overwhelmingly want their party to nominate someone other than Biden. The party’s supposed experts say there’s no chance of that if the president wants the nomination again. But without much renown or campaign spending, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s candidacy for president already draws 20% support among Democrats, some of whom may remember that “impossible” was also said about Eugene J. McCarthy’s challenge to the renomination of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. That challenge quickly pushed the president into retirement.
Back then presidential primary elections were unusual. Today most states have them and there is plenty of room for insurgency, something on which Trump has thrived. The Democrats might do well to try it.
Failing insurgency in either party, the country may be left to sulk with H.L. Mencken’s definition from a century ago.
“Democracy,” Mencken wrote, “is that system of government under which the people, having 35,717,342 native-born adult white men to choose from, including many who are handsome and thousands who are wise, pick out a Coolidge to be head of the state. It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back upon the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies.”
Could someone else really be worse than Trump or Biden?
Comparisons with contemporaneous presidents eventually prompted Mencken to retreat from his definition’s disparagement. “Coolidge,” Mencken reflected in his eulogy, “was preceded by one world saver and followed by two more. What enlightened American, having to choose between any of them and another Coolidge, would hesitate for an instant? … He had no ideas, and he was not a nuisance.”
No ideas and not a nuisance? Today that could be high praise.
Chris Powell has written about Connecticut government and politics for many years. (CPowell@cox.net)