It Doesn't have to be just Trump vs. Hillary
An interesting debate has developed on this site in the past few days. Thomas Lifson published a piece titled "It's Trump. Get Over It." In it he wrote, "[Trump] is not a perfect man, but those Republicans contemplating a cup of hemlock instead of coffee this morning... need to take a deep breath and contemplate Trump’s upside potential – for America, for conservatives, and for the Republican Party." The next day, obviously dismayed by Lifson's argument, C. Edmund Wright asked, "So what exactly should we get over? What does getting over it look like?" He then proceeds with a list of reasons to not vote for Donald Trump. Howard Hyde then followed up with his excellent piece that urges conservatives to disengage, but to help push to retain Congress. Lastly, he encourages conservatives to hold their nose and vote for Trump. However, for me, #NeverTrump means never Trump.
I agree with Mr. Wright and with Mr. Hyde. It's not time to get over it or to give up. When a burglar enters your house you don't quit and let them have the run of the place. You do everything you can to stop them. Also, Hyde's call to work to retain Congress is also vital to the conservative cause. However, it doesn't have to be Trump vs. Hillary. The reality of our Electoral College system still gives us hope. Following is my strategy to deny the presidency to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
There are six months between now and Election Day. That may not seem like a long time, but in our one-hour news cycle (forget 24 hour), that is a near eternity. Six months is enough time for those dissatisfied with both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to formulate a strategy and carry it through.
Americans, even those who have a deep knowledge of our electoral system, have become so accustomed to our current paradigm, i.e. Republican vs. Democrat, that we've forgotten what the candidates must do in order to win the presidency: win a majority in the Electoral College. To do so, the winner must win 270 electoral votes. In 2000, George W. Bush won the Electoral College with a 271 to 266 (with one abstention) tally. Had an independent candidate or third party candidate won a single state that Bush won, the election would have gone to the House of Representatives for a vote. This is not without precedence in our history; however, that election took place nearly 200 years ago.
Article II Section 1 of the Constitution lays forth the process of determining the president. This was changed with the 12th Amendment, but the process is still the same. That is, if no candidate earns a majority of Electoral votes, the House of Representatives will determine who is president. Each state delegation has one vote. Only the top 3 vote getters are eligible. Republicans currently controls 33 of 50 state delegations. If reports of a rejection of Donald Trump's nomination in Congress are true, then there is little doubt that an insurgent conservative candidate could win if the election goes to the House of Representatives.
2016 will likely be a nip and tuck election, much like 2000 and 2004 were. If this holds true, one or two states going to an independent candidate could deny a majority to either Clinton or Trump. However, not since libertarian John Hospers in 1972 has a non-major candidate won an electoral vote. But before that, in 1968, George Wallace won 46 electoral votes. In four other 20th Century presidential elections, minor candidates won electoral votes -- the most notable was Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, who won 88. The point is, an insurgent candidate does not have to win the Electoral College vote -- they would merely need to win enough electoral votes to deny a majority to either Clinton or Trump.
I am remiss to posit a "retread" candidate, but the only type of person that could pull this off must have serious name recognition, have personal wealth, and legitimacy as a candidate. The name of Mitt Romney comes to mind, as do the likes of former senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC). I would not have supported Romney had he run in this cycle (I much preferred Walker or Cruz). However, since we are faced with the reality of a Clinton vs. Trump race -- the political equivalent of choosing leukemia or colorectal cancer -- I would gladly get behind Romney, even if it were for only one term. This candidate could restore some sanity to our country in the next four years and then a new, revitalized Republican Party could go through another nominating cycle in 2020.
The problem with the usual insurgent candidacy is that they feel they need to try to win nationally and run in as many states as possible. In my strategy of merely winning enough electoral votes to deny an Electoral College majority, only a certain number of states need to actually be won. It would then go to the House of Representatives, which, as mentioned, would likely go to the insurgent candidate.
Were Romney, or someone like him, to run in a few select states, he could accomplish the goal set forth here. The best way to select the states to compete in are those where Ted Cruz defeated Donald Trump. There is little doubt this candidate would win Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and probably Montana. They could compete in Mormon-heavy Arizona and Nevada and in the purple state of Colorado. These six states combine for over 30 electoral votes. Is that enough to deny one or the other major party candidate from a majority? Possibly. However, this candidate should run in a few other states to give them a better chance of succeeding in denying a majority.
Cruz won handily in Texas, but he is a Texan. It is likely Trump would win Texas, but the vote-rich state should be an option. Wisconsin and Iowa, which Cruz also won, are both purple states and should be targeted. Florida, which Romney lost by only 40 thousand votes in 2012, is also a deep purple state. Although Trump would likely dominate the mid and deep South, Romney, or more especially Tom Coburn, could fare well in the prairie states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Kansas. The Midwest and Northeast wouldn't be very promising for Romney, but he could possibly nab New Hampshire, which isn't always a gimme for Democrats.
Running a viable insurgent candidate is desirable for many reasons, but most important is the fact that he could actually win in a vote in the House of Representatives. This would also force the other candidates to run harder and spend more money in states they now take for granted. With a targeted, specific game plan, this candidate (whether Romney or someone else) could shrink the map and expend less effort and resources. Most of all, by not running nationally, they would have a better chance at getting onto the ballots they need. The point is, conservatives must never give up.
Layne Hansen is a PhD student in American politics. He can be reached for comment at email@example.com.