The 1992 and 1996 presidential elections in America were complicated by the third party presence of Ross Perot, a billionaire businessman who opposed the first Iraq War and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The driving reason for this year’s post-election convulsions in the country has been that Donald Trump is not a big enough man to admit that he lost. So we cannot easily imagine him doing a Perot when the next presidential election comes in 2024.
For if he couldn’t win against the Democrats this year, he wouldn’t win against both them and the Republicans in four years’ time – unless the wrecking ball of disillusion and disorder wreaks fundamental damage to America, and it is most unlikely even then.
But that isn’t to say that a Trump-backed independent candidate couldn’t make an impact in 2024. Perot took 19 per cent of the vote in 1992. (His platform wasn’t at all like Trump’s in many ways, but those positions on war and NAFTA were precursors.)
There may be no such candidacy because Trump and the Republicans are a happy family in four years’ time. We wouldn’t put money on it.
“The question is,” Humpty Dumpty says in Alice in Wonderland, “which is to be master—that’s all.” So too for Trump. The only political relationship that he can conceive of, where he himself is concerned, is that of master and servant.
A Trump-backed Republican candidate in 2024 would also be a Trump-owned candidate in 2024, and Trump himself has now alienated a vast swathe of the party’s voters.
According to YouGov, 45 per cent of Republican supporters back the actions of his supporters at the Capitol, and 43 per cent oppose them. Twenty-seven per cent view them as a threat to democracy.
If there’s one point that both Trump’s friends and foes agree on, it’s that you can’t be neutral about him. It is hard even to be nuanced, as this site tried to be when weighing up the pros and cons for Britain of the two presidential candidates.
So if the Republicans are going to have decide whether they’re for him or against him, it’s best if they grit their teeth and get it over as soon as possible.
In essence, the Republicans constructed this Frankenstein (an irony, since he had no background of commitment to the party), and so have a responsibility to dismantle him.
That would be a poisonous mission, but less so for America than one driven by the Democrats – i.e: an impeachment, which will be no more successful this year in both houses of Congress than it was in 2019.
Mike Pence says it’s “time for the nation to heal”, and so won’t lead a charge to remove Trump. This instinct would usually be right both in national and party terms: we understand why the Vice-President wants to shield the Republicans from further pain.
But if an unpleasant medical procedure becomes unavoidable, it’s nearly always best not to put it off. Pence should seek to move the 25th amendment.