A dog and pony show and the case for the American Party

There are now about a dozen Republican senators who say they won’t vote to certify the results of the presidential election unless an “emergency 10-day audit” is done of all of the votes cast. This follows dozens, possibly over 100, of Republican representatives in the House saying they will also contest the results.

Anyone for a Dog and Pony Show?

Since it only takes one representative and one senator to force a debate over a state’s results, it’s now virtually guaranteed that Congress will waste time on January 6 doing a dog-and-pony show for Donald Trump and his supporters. There’s no chance it can succeed: Democrats have control of the House and – barring a bizarre defection of several Democratic representatives to the Trump side – eventually each state that’s disputed will be upheld, because both the House and the Senate would have to vote to throw out results and potentially replace them with alternate electors. So, no, that’s not happening.

The whole thing is performance art, and Republicans, especially those senators who are up for re-election in 2022, will need to make a difficult decision: decline to participate in this nonsense (and potentially get a primary challenge from a MAGAite two years from now) or go along (and give their future Democratic challenger plenty of attack ad fodder). I’m guessing at least a few more will join in the fun, now that they’ve been given cover by the first dirty dozen.

Who are they really doing this for? The hardcore Trumpites/MAGAites are always going to vote for “whoever isn’t the Democrat.” But there are significant numbers of voters who occupy the center-right and even the center who might be swayed – one way or the other – by the way each senator votes in a few days. You remember, those centrists who everybody on the left and the right dislike so much because we can’t make up our minds which extreme we want to throw our weight behind.

My guess is that there are at least 50 percent of Americans who might identify themselves as either center-left, center, or center-right. I haven’t found a poll that asked the question that way; Gallup asked people whether they were “conservative,” “moderate,” or “liberal” in 2019 and got the following results:

Source: Gallup

It’s interesting to me how consistent the percentages are across demographics. Men and women differ in their leanings toward right and left, and younger people are more moderate and liberal, but generally the cumulative percentages are pretty consistent. Let’s assume that not everyone who self-identified as “conservative” in this 2019 poll is rabid Trump fan who buys his hats and flags and goes to every rally that comes near their hometown, but instead voted for Trump because he was nominally a Republican and was absolutely not Hillary Clinton.

Using the percentage of homes in my neighborhood that still have their Trump flags and yard signs out two months after he lost an election versus the number who had them up before the election, let’s say that maybe 20% of Americans are hardcore Trumpites. Using the concept of a standard distribution, or more-or-less perfect bell curve, let’s say there are also 20% of Americans who are solidly, even over-the-top, left-wingers (this would include any real socialists or Communists, which certainly isn’t a majority of Democrats, no matter how many times Trump says so).

Admittedly, this isn’t scientific, but think about it – if the people on the fringes were really equal to the overall percentages who voted for Biden and Trump in November, we’d already have a full-scale civil war underway. The fact that we don’t seems to me to prove that most people are in the middle and aren’t willing to fight for either the current president or the next one.

Okay, so that leaves 60% in the middle. Even if we fudge a bit and give each wing an extra 5%, you still have 50% of voters who aren’t interested in being on the fringes and might be willing to work together.

This is how government worked, most of the time, anyway, when I was growing up. It wasn’t perfect, but there were Blue Dog conservative Democrats and there were socially liberal Republicans and there was a playing field in the center where they could meet, negotiate, and make things happen. That’s gone right now; compromise is evil and consorting with the enemy is punishable by the worst possible threat – a primary challenge.

Because the two parties had members across the spectrum back then, the two-party system worked. It doesn’t anymore. We need a third party that appeals to the 50 to 60 percent in the middle. That won’t be easy; both existing parties have millions of reasons (dollars and voters being two categories that come to mind) to make sure it doesn’t happen. But if you could do it, you could dominate American politics for generations, holding the center with half of the seats in Congress while the Rs and Ds play backbench games on the right and left.

Let’s call it the American Party.