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    Saturday, March 02, 2024

    Romney's third-party idea could boomerang

    File-This Oct. 9, 2018, file photo shows Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney answering a question about tariffs during the debate with Democratic opponent Jenny Wilson in the America First Event Center in Cedar City, Utah. (James M. Dobson/The Spectrum via AP, File)

    One can sympathize with Mitt Romney for deciding not to run again in Utah for the U.S. Senate. The traditional Republican has found himself isolated in a party where majorities still revere Donald Trump.

    Romney had apparently discussed the idea of forming a new centrist party with West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin. It would "endorse whichever party's nominee isn't stupid," Romney told biographer McKay Coppins.

    That sounds sensible, but it actually might hurt the cause of peeling away the curse of Trumpism. Here's the problem:

    A designated centrist would drain votes from Democrats as well as Republicans -- and in the very swing districts that Democrats need to win if our politics are to return to normal. The far more effective strategy is to simply support Democrats running against the crazies.

    The end game must be to make the Republican Party lose power. When that happens, the GOP may fix itself or another conservative party could rise from the ashes.

    We know there are attractive Republican moderates who are not stupid -- but who recently replaced Democrats in purple districts. They may denounce the lunacy of the authoritarian right, but their positions are of no consequence if their very presence in Congress empowers the worst of the worst.

    And the worst of the worst are running the House of Representatives. Ever since the pathetic Kevin McCarthy sold his soul for the speaker's gavel, a handful of mephitic self-promoters have taken control. They now threaten to shut down the government for some stupid reason or another. They get away with their stunts because McCarthy has the slimmest of majorities.

    Without the Republican moderates, he'd have no majority at all. The Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries would almost certainly be in charge. (Jeffries is so moderate that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez contemplated having him primaried by a left-winger.) The day may come when the Hatfield-McCoy approach to politics is replaced by a more cooperative rivalry, but it won't under the current Republican leadership.

    The most admirable Republicans are those who choose to run bravely facing the tsunami of Trumpian sludge. We speak of Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who sought reelection knowing she would almost certainly lose the primary to one of Trump's flying monkeys. The same goes for Peter Meijer, the Michigan Republican who voted for Trump's impeachment.

    Cheney has said that if Trump again becomes the GOP nominee in 2024, she will campaign for Democrats running against Republicans spraying election lies. Her idea is simple and could be effective.

    Helping Cheney's cause are Republican donors now hiding their checkbooks from the current party leadership. Consider the example in Michigan of real estate mogul Ron Weiser, who gave Republicans $4.5 million in the 2022 midterm. He's now had it. He can no longer stomach the "ludicrous" claims that Trump won Michigan in 2020.

    "I question whether the state party has the necessary expertise to spend the money well," he told Reuters. Translation: They've joined the grifters.

    By the end of March, the Arizona Republican Party had less than $50,000 in cash reserves. Why so little? It had spent over $300,000 on lawsuits intended to throw out Arizonans' votes for Joe Biden. And it blew more than $500,000 last year on an election night celebration for Trump-backed candidates, every one of whom lost in the midterms.

    A third-party candidate might attract Republicans loath to cast a ballot for a Democrat. We get that. But rather than risk dividing the electorate in a way that could help the toxic election-deniers, disaffected Republicans would do well to partner with Cheney.

    In this country one party or the other wins power. And that's why a third party could boomerang on its sponsors.

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