How RFK could smash the two-party system In American politics, upset has become the rule


MARCH 11, 2024

The surrender of Nikki Haley — long drawn-out but long expected — has set both of America’s major parties on the same course: a limp coronation, conducted through process of elimination. Donald Trump’s path is clear, competitors fallen away, while Joe Biden is also slipping through effectively unopposed, happily ignoring token challenges by Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson. But the frictionless progress of both candidates through their party’s internal processes is concealing a hidden truth about this year’s election. Many  Americans don’t want Joe Biden or Donald Trump. They see the race as a horror-reality show featuring two geriatrics who seem doddery, unwell, and angry at being told so. It is increasingly possible that they support independent candidates who could deprive both Trump and Biden of the votes needed to win the presidency. America could end up with a hung presidential election.

How would this come about? The Constitution requires that a victorious president wins at least 270 Electoral College votes, which they must gather from some combination of the 50 states. It now looks possible that neither mainstream candidate will manage that. For a start, the “Never Trump” and “Never Biden” voters are on the rise. Americans are now keen to explore almost any alternative, and independents are offering one in the form of the “No Labels” movement as well as Robert Kennedy Jr’s campaign. Both have received relatively little coverage so far, partially because of the juggernaut status of the Democratic Party and the GOP, but also because third-party candidates rarely do well in American elections. But, given the staggering sense of frustration nationwide with Biden and Trump and the absence of a unifying figure, an independent candidate could have a historic opportunity.

If neither Biden nor Trump reaches the required 270 Electoral College votes, the Constitution dictates that the voting shifts into a “contingent election”. This means that the incoming House of Representatives will decide the winner based on whoever can form a coalition of red and blue states and win 26 of them first. The Senate would select the vice president. Given that most Republican or Democrat politicians are hardly able to look at each other, let alone agree any deals, it seems unlikely Biden or Trump could forge that coalition. But Kennedy or the as-yet-unnamed No Labels candidate, who actively cultivate the idea of returning to centrist bipartisan solutions, potentially could, should the presidency slip into the arcana of America’s 18th-century constitutional schematics.

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