The average Democratic and Republican party favorability rating dropped from 55 percent in 1992 to 45 in 2014. Meantime, Democratic and Republican affiliation are both near their lowest since 1938, while independents are at an all-time high.
In 2015, according to Pew Research, 78 percent of independents, 46 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats believed a third party was needed. Why? The parties seem paralyzed in addressing the growing debt, slack job growth and the viability of Social Security and Medicare.
But while many Americans would jump for a third-party presidential candidate this year, the Democrats and Republicans seek to prevent this by internalizing the conflict, encouraging potential third-party candidates to run under their labels.
Sen. Bernie Sanders is an independent/democratic socialist who became a Democrat within the past year. His progressive message is resonating with a growing number of Democrats. Although unlikely to win the nomination, he will not run as a third-party candidate this fall.
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Between 48 percent and 63 percent of Republican voters since September reported they preferred a candidate with no political experience. This drove the rise of Donald Trump, and the GOP secured his pledge not to run as an independent.
Will he run anyway if he does not secure the nomination? Unless he wants to be a spoiler, no. Seven states — including Florida, Texas, Michigan and Georgia — have third-party filing deadlines before or during the Republican convention. These account for 137 Electoral College votes. Without them, Mr. Trump would need 67 percent of the remaining Electoral College votes to be elected. A successful post-convention Trump run would seem out of the question.
Our political system is under economic and political stress that threatens to further fragment it. The beauty of our two-party system is that it reflects and adjusts to these pressures. By internalizing these stresses, the Democratic and Republican parties will emerge with presidential candidates, platforms and commitments to address unresolved problems.
The writer is a professor of political science at Newberry College in Newberry.