- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Glenn Beck said on Monday that he could support a third-party challenge if Republicans nominate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to run for president against Barack Obama. “If I had a gun to my head, I’ll vote for Mitt Romney,” he explained. “If it’s Newt Gingrich, and there’s a third party, and it’s Ron Paul. … I might consider Ron Paul as a third party.” This position is nuts. Obviously Mr. Beck needs to generate attention for his new GBTV venture since giving up his popular Fox News platform, but promoting ideas that would lead to an Obama second term is reckless and bad for America.

Make no mistake about it, a third-party presence from the right in the 2012 election would bring about conservative defeat and marginalize the movement for years. Recent history shows that splitting up a party leads to ruination for that party and its main constituent components. Billionaire Ross Perot took advantage of discontent with President George H.W. Bush after “41” broke his “no new taxes” pledge and ran under the Reform Party banner in 1992. Mr. Perot’s 18.9 percent of the vote was larger than Bill Clinton’s 5.5 percent margin of victory; and again four years later, the 8.9 percent garnered by the Reform and Libertarian parties was more than what Bob Dole needed to beat Clinton in 1996. Most Perot voters had supported Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 and voted for George Bush I in 1988. Even the tiny table scraps perennial Green Party candidate Ralph Nader took cost liberal Al Gore Florida and thus the presidency in 2000.

Thankfully, there are lots of reasons Texas Rep. Ron Paul - a libertarian hero - won’t make the third-party mistake. The most obvious is that he can’t win with the GOP house divided. More to the point, however, is the result of breaking up the elephant herd would be to guarantee four more years of an Obama White House, which would be a disaster for one’s pet policies anywhere on the conservative-libertarian spectrum.

Politics in a republican system is about electing the best option you can get. Denying that and making the perfect the enemy of the good would ignore the reality of the give-and-take fundamental to democracy and essentially amounts to living in la-la land. Ron Paul is a smart, experienced politician and understands that. He also knows making an independent bid would be bad for his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a rising star who has unlimited potential as a national leader and perhaps could be a party standard-bearer himself one day. A third-party candidacy by Ron would sew up an Obama victory and poison the GOP well for Rand’s future.

There’s too much at stake next year for conservatives to harbor impure thoughts about third parties. With national debt at $15 trillion and counting, America’s position is too precarious to safely weather another Obama term of unrestrained growth in government spending and hits to our credit rating. Pat Buchanan’s Reform Party run in 2000 revealed the impossibility of cobbling together a winnable right-of-center bloc outside of the Grand Old Party. Nobody’s perfect, but any of the challengers - especially the two frontrunners, with experience in international business and national politics - would be infinitely better than what we have now. Splitting up the Reagan coalition of social conservatives, defense hawks and green-eyeshade fiscal minders makes Republican defeat inevitable.

Brett M. Decker is editorial page editor of The Washington Times. He is coauthor of the new book “Bowing to Beijing” (Regnery, 2011).