The midterms are mostly behind us, and Congress can finally focus on what really matters: the careful consideration of new legislation and dutiful oversight of the executive branch.
Ha ha, just kidding. No, even though the votes from the midterm elections aren’t even all counted yet, it is, of course, time to move on to the next election. And while the discussion so far has focused on which Democrats are running and who among them is best positioned to defeat President Trump, I’ve got the perfect candidate to dethrone the Donald.
It’s Mitt Romney.
Or maybe Jeff Flake. Ben Sasse? Sure, whatever. Any of them will do.
Because I’m not suggesting that any of these vocal Trump critics from within the president’s own party — including Massachusetts’ re-gift to Utah — run as a Democrat. I don’t even want them to take on the president in a primary. We already saw how that ends.
Instead, I’m asking only that one of these allegedly responsible Republicans — each of whom has unleashed hell upon Trump in the form of a sternly worded speech/tweet/press release/raised eyebrow — run as a third-party candidate. It’s time for one of these supposed independent thinkers who just can’t abide Trump’s dangerous rhetoric to put their considerable monies where their mouths are.
Romney has referred to the president a “con man” and a “fraud.” Flake, an outgoing senator from Arizona, has decried “the coarseness of our leadership.” And Sasse, a Republican senator from Nebraska, has said he thinks about leaving the party every day because of Trump.
That all sounds great, guys, truly. But if you want to earn brownie points for standing up to Trump, you’re going to have to do more than talk and tweet about it.
You’re going to have to Nader the guy.
In the 2000 election, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader got nearly 100,000 votes in a Florida contest decided by a few hundred. And in 2016, Jill Stein managed the same feat — gathering more votes than the margin — in key swing states.
Already, the Jill Stein people are typing their e-mails to me, pasting in charts and graphs and exit polls that unconvincingly prove none of this is their fault. OK, fine, save your energy. I’m not blaming anyone for 2016 (or 2000). No, my scheme is strictly forward-looking, and it’s one that people who were voting third-party before it was cool should be able to get behind.
For politicians who like to think they have principles, power, and spines but don’t want to actually do anything, this job is perfect. I’m not looking for someone who could actually be elected president here. Keep your celebrity candidates — your Oprahs and your Schwarzeneggers and your Toms Hank. Because if that the-only-thing-that-can-stop-a-bad-guy-with-a-TV-show-is-a-good-guy-with-a-TV-show plan works too well, we end up with Forrest Gump in the Oval Office. A marginal improvement, sure, but we can do better.
That’s why we need someone who can win over all the suburban dads still lying to their wives about who they voted for in 2016. All we have to do is create a safe, semirespectable place for them to politely set their votes on fire.
To make that happen, all that any of these never-Trumpers needs to do is mount some kind of vaguely credible independent candidacy. Get T-shirts, yard signs, a few TV ads, and enough name recognition to ride the support of confused poll respondents right into the debates. Give a few speeches about restoring civility and good manners and tax cuts for people who own several boats. Come up with polite-sounding names for taking away people’s health care and rounding up immigrants. If someone named Dmitry calls the office, hang up immediately.
Next thing you know, Mitt is harvesting 15 percent of the vote in Michigan behind a campaign made up entirely of a single appearance at an outlet mall. In that scenario, the Democrats could nominate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s worn-out shoes atop a stack of Karl Marx paperbacks and still coast to victory.
This should be easy. If Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who was last elected to public office in 1998, could get almost 4.5 million votes, imagine how much someone with name recognition, a strong jawline, and several million dollars could peel away. You’re telling me Ohio Governor John Kasich — who was wandering around New Hampshire on Thursday, by the way — couldn’t double that?
This mission is not destined for glory. You will not win. You will probably get an even more offensive new nickname. And you will be deeply unpopular on, say, Breitbart. But you’ll have stood up for what you say you believe in. And that’s all you’ve ever wanted to do.
. . . Right?