The presidential election of 1912 was one of the only cases where one of the top-two competitors didn’t represent a major political party -- the Democrats or the Republicans. Although a Democrat took the White House, a member of the Bull Moose Party trailed behind, receiving nearly 30 percent of the popular vote.
Former president Theodore Roosevelt served from 1901 to 1909 as a Republican but decided to run again in 1912 since he was infuriated with how his successor was running the country. At the 1912 Republican National Convention, Roosevelt found himself isolated from GOP supporters, as William Howard Taft -- the president at the time who was running for reelection -- consumed a strong backing for the Republican nomination.
With a lack of Republican allies and an urge to run for presidency, Roosevelt decided to launch a third party -- the Bull Moose Party -- which polarized the Republican party. Bull Moosers opposed typical conservatism and called for social legislation and active federal oversight of the economy.
Although Roosevelt didn’t win the presidency, he did place second to Democratic Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey.
Could History Repeat Itself?
The upcoming election -- one that will transform the political landscape regardless of the outcome -- is just over three months away, and President Donald Trump is drowning in the polls. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is up 7.8 percent in RealClearPolitics’ national poll average, with Biden absorbing support from key swing states.
It’s clear -- Trump is losing bipartisan support due to his handling of the coronavirus and the economic turmoil crushing the US. Millions of Americans are sick, coronavirus deaths have surpassed 150,000, businesses have closed down and the unemployment rate is in the double digits.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has even said to GOP colleagues in the Senate to campaign independently of the Trump administration, according to CNN. Top Republican officials encourage Republican Senators to “distance themselves from the president” since they are fearful of a “devastating election for their party.”
"These vulnerable senators can't afford to explicitly repudiate Trump," a top Republican on Capitol Hill told CNN. "They just need to show they are independent on issues important in their states."
More Republican separation from Trump comes after a tweet from the president on Thursday, proposing to delay the November election, causing a twirl of lawmakers on Capitol Hill to disapprove of his actions as president. McConnell blatantly refused to accept such a statement. GOP Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) scoffed at Trump’s proposition.
With Trump’s overwhelming disapproval ratings and Biden emerging as the potential next president, traditional Republicans don’t have any ties to remain loyal to Trump. However, if Trump does win in November -- which is still likely, considering the 2016 election results -- Republicans who abandoned him will probably suffer during his next term because of their lack of loyalty.
If Trump doesn’t win in the upcoming election, will he run for president in 2024? Perhaps.
How It Could Happen:
He’s known to commit to the unexpected and surprise his supporters, so it wouldn’t be completely shocking if he ran for president four years from now, if Biden wins the election in November. But, in 2024, will traditional Republicans support Trump enough to grant him the nomination for the Republican party?
Hypothetically, if Biden is elected, Trump would end his presidential term with a tarnished reputation for bringing the US into a plummeted pit of health and economic downturns. Due to his poor handling of the pandemic and inconsistent behavior as president, Trump might decide to form his own third party based off of “Trumpism” ideals in 2024, similar to what Roosevelt did in the 1912 election.
Roosevelt couldn’t rally support from his former Republican colleagues, so he established Bull Moosers, who embraced his ideals as president. Trump -- one of the most influential presidents in modern history -- formed “Trumpism” ideals that are now advocated for by media allies, various populist political analysts and other Republicans who don’t thoroughly align with traditional GOP beliefs.
“Trumpism” chimes anti-immigration, anti-free trade, populism and America First economics. Trump has also practiced big-spending -- despite the party being more fiscally conservative -- in the coronavirus relief package and in building the wall at the US-Mexico border.
Republicans won’t have any desire to support the current president in years to come if he doesn’t win the reelection bid, which would encourage him to ditch and initiate his own party, perhaps based off of “Trumpism.”
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.