The Conservative Two-Party Strategy and the Third Party Option

Sarah Palin continues to make headlines following her July 3rd announcement that she will be resigning as governor of Alaska. Needless to say, most mainstream Democratic and Republican commentators were glad to see her go, but struggled to find sense in the move, which resulted in the proliferation of speculation and prediction as to her motives and future political ambitions. Over the weekend, an "exclusive" interview with Palin in The Washington Times emphasized her intention to "stump for conservative Democrats": "I will go around the country on behalf of candidates who believe in the right things, regardless of their party label or affiliation." The news was received with glee in both conservative and liberal circles. Right wing radio talk show host Tammy Bruce called the comments "very encouraging," writing that they:
lead one to believe that she is indeed planning to do what she must: build an independent conservative movement and take this nation back from the liberals which now control both parties.
Some liberal bloggers responded strategically: "Ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease...." Ironically, however, none of this is actually "news," as Palin's comments to The Washington Times do not go beyond what she explicitly stated in her resignation accouncement. As I noted in 'politics abhors a vacuum,' Palin then declared: "I will support others who seek to serve, in or out of office, for the right reasons, and I don’t care what party they’re in or no party at all." However, the reiteration of this statement has some Republicans very worried that Palin may engage in serious third party and independent activism. None other than Rush Limbaugh:
The one thing that does slightly worry me about this is this whole third party business. Yeah, it's remote but it's still a possibility out there and there are a lot of people pushing a third party and that's -- Third parties, they lose, they just lose. Third parties never end up with a congressional or Senate candidates. It's just not the way to go.
Though many conservatives are clearly excited by the possibility - thus revealing the extent and depth of their frustration with the GOP -, as Limbaugh states, a serious third party or independent campaign by Palin is still unlikely. In conformity with their (un)official electoral strategy, liberal Democrats have their fingers crossed hoping that this possibility comes to fruition. Meanwhile, something entirely different may well be afoot, namely, the execution of a conservative two-party strategy. Consider the following timeline:
July 3rd: Palin announces her resignation and intention to support conservatives whatever their party affiliation may be.
July 5th: The Washington Times publishes a story on Newt Gingrich in which the former House Speaker suggests that conservatives build, "a center-right majority in Congress and the state legislatures — regardless of party identification — even if that means the heretical idea of Republicans actively promoting and backing conservative Democratic candidates."
July 12th: The Washington Times publishes their story on Palin, emphsizing that she may "stump for conservative Democrats."
The Washington Times is clearly pushing the two-party strategy, perhaps in order to marginalize the voices on the right calling for third party activism. Would liberals allow conservatives to infiltrate the Democratic Party before they would support third party candidates likely to attract voters away from the GOP? Some are already behind the idea of spoiling for a fight. Reflecting on Frank Rich's column arguing that Palin "broke the GOP, now she owns it," Delaware Liberal focused on "the dangers of a two-party system":
Time for a viable third party, because this much power in the hands of a small minority is dangerous. Just by running as a Republican, Palin is launched into the political arena denied to third party candidates . . . She’ll ride the “R” brand for her own ends – reaping the benefits of “balanced reporting” from the MSM and automatically being included in every debate. Yet again, Palin will receive something she didn’t earn. And that instant elevation into the major leagues is nothing to laugh at. Palin (R) will start on an equal footing granted to a two party system.

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