The New Jersey capitol. Centrists there have created a third party just...

The New Jersey capitol. Centrists there have created a third party just in time for November’s elections. Credit: Getty Images/Jeff Zelevansky

Political hoopla out of New Jersey.

Centrists there have created a third party line to great fanfare — the Moderate Party — just in time for November’s elections.

Some politicos and opinion writers are already predicting that the party will go national.

Don’t hold your breath.

Republicans disenchanted with Trumpism have been trying for more than six years to put a viable center-right party together. They’ve learned the hard way just how carved in stone America’s two-party system has become. I was once among them.

It would take tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to establish an organization capable of challenging the Big Two, they’ve learned — think mom-and-pop startup challenging Coke and Pepsi — and existing political donors are generally locked into one side of the aisle or the other. So are the vast majority of political professionals who would risk their careers to aid in the creation of a major new national party. Like it or not, inside American politics, you’re on one side or the other. There is no in between.

Multibillionaire Mike Bloomberg realized this after years of considering an independent presidential run. The former New York City mayor and his talented political team could find no viable independent path to the White House. He elected to run as a Democrat instead, even with all his resources.

On paper, a middle-of-the-road party makes perfect sense.

In a June Gallup Poll survey, 27% of Americans self-identified as Republican, 27% identified as Democrat, and 43% said they were political independents. Why not create a party that caters to that plurality, the thinking goes.

But the data is deceptive. When pushed by Gallup, 46% of those independents said they lean toward the GOP, while 45% lean toward the Democratic Party. That aligns with lots of private polling I’ve seen. Most independents predictably support one party or the other at the polls; only a handful are truly persuadable year over year. 

An aside: The survey reminds one of “The Troubles” in Ireland circa 1997. Hong Kong was resubmitting itself to Chinese rule that year, after a century-and-a-half as a British colony, and lots of well-heeled Hong Kong Chinese were looking to emigrate. 

The suggestion was made to relocate 100,000 souls from Hong Kong to Northern Ireland to dilute the animosities between Catholics and Protestants there. An Irish member of Parliament laughed off the suggestion, explaining that, within a decade, Ireland would see the Hong Kongers evenly split — 50,000 pro-Protestant and 50,000 pro-Catholic. That’s how intractable things had become.

But in the U.S., arguments in favor of a center-right or center-left party continue to proliferate, as the GOP moves to the populist right and the Democratic Party moves to the woke left. Some believe that a middle-ground party would force Republicans and Democrats back into the center. Maybe so, but that's easier imagined than done. 

The New Jersey experiment faces another major obstacle: Unlike in New York, candidates are prohibited from running on more than one ballot line there, so anyone running as a Moderate would have to forgo appearing on a major party line. That’s a heck of an uphill fight. 

Expect the Garden State’s Moderate Party to die on the vine, as nice as it may sound to dreamers.

Opinions expressed by William F. B. O’Reilly, a consultant to Republicans, are his own. 

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