Romney has a duty to run as an independent in 2020

There's talk of John Kasich challenging President Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. That may or may not happen, but the Republican rank-and-file right now is too crazy to turn their backs on Trump, and I don't see that changing. Their success in ignoring the evidence of his incompetence and emotional and intellectual unfitness for the White House convinces me beyond any doubt that the Republican party is done as a venue for the politics of sanity.

The Democratic party is just as bad. When Joe Biden is the most rational guy in the crowd- when a joke like Al Franken can even be seriously discussed- that pretty much tells you all you need to know. Bernie Sanders? Elizabeth Warren? More extremist nonsense. Same with less overtly reality-adverse residents of the Twilight Zone like Tim Kaine and Andrew Cuomo. We're not going to get common sense or sanity from the Democrats, either. From all appearances, 2020 will once again present voters with a choice between ratifying the agenda of either the tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists, racists, Know-Nothings, Islamophobes and narrow-minded populists of the Right or that of the equally unthinking social Frankensteins, ideologically intolerant counter-authoritarians, intellectually nihilistic feelocrats, and arrogant anti-religious bigots of the Left.

The only place where there's any reasonable chance of tolerance or rationality or ideological flexibility or a willingness to compromise is going to be found is outside the two-party system. The prospects even there are bleak. Even though more of us today are registered as independents than as either Republicans or Democrats, by every poll and every reasonable measurement it will take somebody pretty well-known and widely accepted as presidential timber to win against the two major parties.Right now, I"m in Evan McMullin's corner, and although the talking heads continue to disregard him I have no doubt that barring the emergence of somebody with an appreciably better shot he'll be on the ballot in all fifty states and the District of Columbia in 2020, and do a great deal better than he did in 2016.

But barring a miracle- and I should say that as a Christian, I believe in miracles- Evan will have a tough time winning, even if, as in 2016, he's the only candidate on the ballot fit to be president. I doubt that Ben Sasse or Lindsey Graham or Kasich- all fine men- would have a much better chance. Only one name comes to mind as somebody who would have a real shot as a third party candidate.

The need was clear in 2016, and I think Mitt Romney had a duty to run as an independent back them. Especially if he'd made the decision early enough, I actually think he would have beaten both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and be president today. In a race with Trump and Hillary (or Trump and anybody the Democrats are likely to nominate next time out, with the possible exception of Joe Biden), it would be hard to see how any reasonable person could fail to see Romney as the only reasonable choice.

More people might mistake Joe Biden for a viable alternative to Romney in 2016 than the other Democratic options, but I think they'd be wrong. There's no mistaking Joe's experience, but I don't see him as worthy of serious consideration for some of the same reasons Donald Trump is less than ideal. He's a bit too much of an eccentric- to be a bit cruel, a blowhard- to really fit behind that particular desk. In Paul Ryan's phrase, he lapses a bit too easily into "crazy Uncle Joe" mode. True, the gaffes would be without malice and largely a matter of speaking first and thinking only later,f but by 2020 I think we will have had more than enough exposure to presidential foot-in-mouth disease, and I think our resistance may be up a bit. Somebody who inspires confidence would be a nice change.

Jon Huntsman, our ambassador to Russia and a former governor of Utah and presidential candidate, is a big enough man for the job. So is Kasich. But I just don't think either has made a big enough national impact to take on both major parties and win. Unless there's somebody I haven't thought of (and no, I don't mean Oprah, who has actually been mentioned as a possible candidate!), Romney is really the only person who fits the bill.

Maybe Condy Rice, or Colin Powell. But I see them as even less likely to run than Romney is.

So while I hope I'm wrong, I think that leaves it up to Mitt if American is going to elect a president in 2020 who can lead us out of the extremism, polarization, and general miasma of hate that has so poisoned our national politics. And while I don't think he's going to run. I continue to think that it's his duty. He's uniquely situated to lead us out of this mess.

He's probably had enough. In 2012, he had to contend with the Great Democratic Slander Machine, and that can take something out of a person. In 2020, he'd have to deal with Trump's army of delusional alt-right paranoids, too. It's a daunting prospect, and I can understand his reluctance.

But he has no political future in the Republican party. Neither do people like Huntsman or Lindsey Graham. Neither, I think, does Ben Sasse. The Republican party belongs to the haters and to those who rationalize their way into siding with the haters. It has no place for reasonable people who think for themselves. The Democrats haven't had a place for such people for a very long time. But while Gov. Romney and I pray to different gods. I will continue to pray to mine that he sees his duty, and does it.

And if he doesn't, I'm with Evan- or whatever other sane and competent person will stand up for reason and compassion and civility and the values embodied in the Bill of Rights. I still don't see how it's my duty to choose between two equally unacceptable candidates, neither of whom is fit to be president when I have the option of choosing to vote for even a "spoiler" who is actually worthy of the office.

I  am not ashamed of having voted for the only qualified and decent candidate in 2016 no matter what the odds against him, and I will not be ashamed of doing so again in 2020  if the alternative is another pair of major party pygmies. But I do think that in 2020, as in 2016, those who chose instead to vote for either of two authoritarians who are equally unfit for the office just because one of them can win will have great cause for shame.

Caricature by DonkeyHotey