Each Friday we have an opportunity to take a wild ride with Peggy Noonan in the stream-of-consciousness observations that The Wall Street Journal chooses to call a column. She often waxes oracular, and this week she goes full Delphic, offering a “prophecy” of a post-2016 third party composed of Republicans who dislike Donald Trump and Democrats who think Hillary Clinton’s way too lefty-left.>
[The new party] will be pro-growth, moderate on social issues, more or less neoconservative in its foreign policy. It will be smallish but well-heeled. It will try to hold together and grow.
It will, it appears, be the Party of Peggy Noonan and the People She Knows.
Now if Bernie Sanders was going to be the Democratic nominee, this sort of talk would be common. A Sanders-Trump matchup of left-wing and right-wing populists was, after all, the premise that reportedly would have led Michael Bloomberg — surely one of the People Peggy Noonan Knows — into making a third-party bid.
But barring some black-swan development among the Democratic primary voters of New Jersey and California, Sanders is not going to be the Democratic nominee, which is why Bloomberg isn’t running and also why there’s not really any Democratic counterpart to the Republicans itching for a third party. Indeed, said Republican itching for a third party are mostly people who are proudly to the right of Donald Trump, not “centrists.” And it’s unclear what Democrats Noonan is thinking of who would abandon a Clinton-led Democratic Party for something more centrist and neoconservative. Is she talking about the coal miners of West Virginia, led by third-party presidential candidate Joe Manchin or Earl Ray Tomblin or somebody?
Noonan’s not clear about this, but hints that Hillary’s desire to keep the Democratic Party together will make her lurch far left and maybe even invite Bernie Sanders to become her running mate. This, presumably, would lead to the Centrist Revolt.
You have to figure Noonan’s real motive here, until her mind wandered onto a tangent about Trump’s running mate, is to make sure that Hillary Clinton’s hard-won primary victory over Bernie Sanders does not spoil the false-equivalency argument that HRC is as “extreme” as Trump. We are going to hear an awful lot of that from conservatives from here on out: Hillary Clinton may own the body of the Democratic Party, but its heart belongs to Bernie, and that’s ultimately all that matters. It’s the argument that will, in fact, lead many Republicans back into the Trump camp despite all their misgivings. And I offer a prophecy of my own: Peggy Noonan will be among them.