Presidential candidate Donald Trump has sent the clearest signals yet that he is willing to consider running as a third-party candidate and abandoning the Republican Party, who he claims has “not been supportive.” That has sent shockwaves of terror through the Republican Party, as most polls show that should Trump run as an independent, it would hand the White House back to the Democrats, drawing as much as 20% of the GOP’s votes away from them.
In an interview with The Hill, Trump complained about how the GOP was treating him, as he feels he is not “in the gang.” “I’m not in the group where the group does whatever it’s supposed to do.” These comments fuel the misconception that Trump is a “maverick” candidate who isn’t controlled by special interests. Regarding continuing his presidential run as a third-party candidate, Trump threatened, “if they’re not fair, that would be a factor.”
Trump has recently been enjoying overwhelming support in the polls. A recent poll has him leading amongst Republican primary candidates with 24% of Republican voters supporting him. That puts him 11 points ahead of his closest rival, Gov. Scott Walker.
But while he’s been gaining in the polls, his recent antics have angered the GOP, who are attempting to distance themselves from Trump. RNC chairman Reince Priebus reprimanded Trump after his inflammatory remarks about Mexican immigrants, describing them as rapists and drug dealers, but Trump laughed off the Republican leader’s attempt to get him to “tone it down.” “He knows better than to lecture me,” said Trump.
The level of discourse exhibited by Trump and his Republican colleagues continues to resemble that found in a high school cafeteria. Trump has recently been feuding with Sen. Lindsey Graham, and the two have exchanged insults as sophisticated as “idiot” and “jackass.” Finally, Trump retaliated by reading Graham’s personal cell phone number aloud at a public rally. (Graham has since destroyed his phone in a blender, posted in an absurd YouTube video.) It really serves to highlight the level to which Republican politics have devolved into pure infotainment, devoid of any coherent policy proposals or solutions to the issues facing our nation.
Trump put his foot in his mouth again on Saturday when he denied that Sen. John McCain was a war hero because he was captured in war, a view that was swiftly condemned by the RNC. It is startling that Trump continues to poll so strongly after going out of his way to anger and demean so many groups of Americans.
Trump thinks that the Republicans are acting two-faced, since they supported him in the past when he contributed to the GOP. “I was their fair-haired boy,” said Trump. (But whose hair is it, exactly?) Now, the Republican Party appears to be turning their backs on Trump, but this only seems to improve his image as someone who bucks the establishment.
This all puts the Republican Party in a bad position. Their leading candidate shows a clear lack of respect for Republican leadership and does not seem to want or need their backing. Trump is willing to work with the Republicans just as long as it works for him. But if he breaks away from the Republican Party, then he poses a real risk for the Republicans in the general election. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, “in a hypothetical three-way race, Clinton is at 46 percent, Bush is at 30 percent and Trump is at 20 percent among registered voters.”
If Trump decided to run as a third-party candidate, he would undoubtedly draw more voters away from the Republicans than the Democrats. That means that an independent Trump candidacy would be incredible news for the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, as long as Trump stays with the GOP, he will continue to disrupt the Republican primary process with his “shock-jock” sense of public speaking and complete disregard for Republican leadership. Either way, things look pretty grim for the Republicans as the primary race continues, and we have Trump to thank for that.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.