We are witnessing a sea change in American politics. While I would agree that not all Republicans will support Donald Trump, it is equally true that not all Democrats will support Hillary Clinton. A realignment of political parties is ocurring before our eyes. It would not be unthinkable that a third viable political party could emerge from lesser parties that have never gained traction before.
Both Republicans and Democrats could suffer major defections this fall, either to the other party or to the sidelines. Under the usual circumstances that surround a presidential election there typically are few defections. That will probably not be true this year.
Seven percent of Republicans voted against their nominee in 2012, 10% in 2008 and 7% in 2004. Slightly more Democrats voted against their nominee: 8% in 2012 and 11% in both 2008 and 2004. The differences could well be more dramatic in this election cycle.
There have certainly been years where more Democrat and Republican party members defected.
[Source: Unity Won’t Come Easy for Either Party, by Carl Rove]
In 1996, 19% of Republicans deserted their party’s nominee, Bob Dole, for President Bill Clinton or independent Ross Perot. In 1988, 17% of Democrats left their standard-bearer, Michael Dukakis, to vote for Vice President George H.W. Bush.
A third of Democrats voted for President Richard Nixon in 1972 after their party nominated George McGovern. A third of Democrats broke with their party again in 1980. Some voted for the independent candidate, Rep. John Anderson, but most pulled the lever for the Republican and became Reagan Democrats.
Currently, Republicans face the greater threat of defections. Trump faces not only Democrat and mainstream media criticism, but criticism from his own party. This issue of Republican “defection” did not focus solely on Donald Trump. For example, among Connecticut Republicans, 39% and among Maryland Republicans, 31% said they would not vote for Ted Cruz if he became the nominee. This strikes me as evidence that Republicans have very definite ideas of what they want their candidate to promulgate.
A USA Today/Suffolk University poll asked voters what they plan to do if their candidate does not get the nomination. Of Republicans, 7% said they’ll vote Democratic, 9% will “seriously consider” a third party, and 7% will stay home and not vote—a total of 23%. Among Democrats, 5% said they’ll vote Republican, 9% will consider a third party, and 7% will abstain—a total of 21%.
My friends, I will ask you to remember that in the 2016 presidential election, don’t compare Trump to the Almighty. Compare him to the alternative. If we can hold the 7% of Republicans who say they’ll vote Democratic, the 9% who will “seriously consider” a third party candidate, and 7% who say they will stay home and not vote, we add 23% to our total. Throw in the 5% of democrats that say they will vote Republican if Hillary is nominated and we are up to 28% of likely voters. When was the last time a candidate won an election by 28%? The answer is never! Warren Harding came close in 1920 with a 26.2% margin of victory.