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  • byebygop byebygop Jan 1, 2014 11:47 AM Flag

    The Third-Party Trap

    After ratcheting up during the government shutdown this fall, tensions between the Republican establishment and many Tea Party supporters (or “wacko birds,” as Sen. John McCain has called them) seemed to hit a high point in mid-December: House Speaker John Boehner had harsh words for hardline conservative activist groups, and they declared in response that “the conservative movement has come under attack on Capitol Hill.”

    The growing Republican “civil war,” as many have labeled it, might leave Republicans wondering just how much more pressure the party can take before it breaks in two. Recent Gallup polls show not only that 43 percent of Tea Party backers view the Republican Party negatively, but also that a remarkable 60 percent of Americans think a major new party is needed. A November NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll also found that more Americans (30 percent) would vote for a third-party congressional candidate than a Republican (28 percent). Now, talk-show hosts, pundits and the like are echoing with calls for third-party organizing.

    The prospect of a serious third-party push within the conservative movement, if a bit far-fetched, certainly seems tempting to those disillusioned with the GOP establishment. But it also calls to mind a similar attempt in 1976, and its failure. Had that push succeeded, Ronald Reagan might never have become president—which is to say: Today’s GOP dissidents should take a look back at their history before any renegades attempt to break off.

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