Will a third political party emerge?

Some are suggesting that the Republican Party could split into principled conservatives and Trump populists. The next four years will also reveal the depth of the divisions within the Democratic Party. How hard will the progressives in the party challenge Joe Biden and the moderates? Or maybe we will see a unification of Republican moderates and Democratic moderates.

Whatever the case, I found Sriram Laksham’s interview with presidential historian Jeffrey Engel to be informative. Engel directs the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Here is a taste of the interview, published at The Hindu:

Laksham: If appears that people in the Republican party are torn between sticking with Trump or standing for the “real” Republican party. Do you think that there’s going to be a third major political party forming in the near term?

Engle: I’m glad you asked that. That’s what history suggests. Remember that one way to understand the entire Trump presidency and candidacy is as a civil war within the Republican party. That Donald Trump ran against the Democratic party, but also ran against traditional Republicans — the George W. Bush-Mitt Romney wings of the Republican party. Obviously he was successful in controlling the party and then ultimately winning the presidency, but those people haven’t gone away. And I think that what we’re seeing is quite likely a moment where the Republican party, I think, as a brand is going to continue moving forward.

That doesn’t mean everybody who’s in the Republican party is going to continue under that brand, which suggests — especially given that the people who are most antagonistic towards Trump are by and large towards the centre of the political spectrum and there is of course a centre wing of the democratic party as well — that there is a ripe moment here for a coalescing of these two into a new political party.

Now, before Democrats get very excited about that, I should point out that every previous time in American history we’ve seen one party collapse, it takes the other party down with it over the course of the next several election cycles, just because it completely realigns the interest groups and the coalitions and the alliances within the broad electorate. So I think that there’s a good chance of the Republican party is in its death throes. As we currently see it, I think Republicans will continue. I don’t necessarily know that their party is going to continue as is currently formed.

Read the entire interview here.