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The Patriot Party: Not Trump’s First Third Party Flirtation

It’s been circulating recently that outgoing President (now Former President Donald Trump) has been considering trying to start his own third party. The only detail that is known is that he would want it to be called The Patriot Party.

It would not be Donald Trump’s first dalliance with third party politics. In October 1999, on Larry King Live, he announced he was creating a President exploratory committee to run in the Reform Party – encouraged by then-Governor Jesse Ventura, himself a sitting third-party governor. The Reform Party attracted a lot of attention in that cycle, as it had matching funds and established ballot access.

Gov. Ventura first tried to recruit former Connecticut Governor Lowell P. Weicker Jr., who was elected after running on The Connecticut Party line and then became an Independent after leaving the Governor’s mansion. Trump was the next choice, having publicly flirted with running for office as a Republican despite being a self-described liberal on social issues.

Trump mentioned Oprah Winfrey as his ideal choice for Vice President. Even then, he was enamored of Rudy Guiliani, calling him “the best Mayor in the history of New York City”. Woody Harrellson was reportedly a supporter in 1999, but more recently he told a story about going to dinner with Ventura and Trump later on that was less than glowing.

Trump would go on to win the California Reform Party Presidential Primary over a group of perennial candidates and former Congressman John B. Anderson and the Michigan Reform Party Presidential Primary, facing no opposition.

Donald Trump eventually dropped out of the race, with most commentators speculating he did not feel he could defeat eventual nominee Patrick Buchanan, who ran for the Reform Party despite years of flirting with the then-US Taxpayers Party, which would later become the Constitution Party.

Young politicos and casual observers would be shocked to find that in 1999/2000, Donald Trump was consistently in the news advocating for single-payer healthcare and lambasting Patrick Buchanan for being too close to elements of right-wing or racist fringe.

Time will tell if former President Trump is done with third party politics. Stay tuned.








  1. wolfefan wolfefan January 24, 2021

    Well said, Michael. I too have viewed the Trump presidency as a missed opportunity for a long time. He could have been a truly transformative leader, if he only had the wit and the vision.

  2. Michael Hackmer Michael Hackmer January 24, 2021

    I do not think it is a leap for me to say that former President Trump is not interested in doing the work it will take to create an alternative to the Republican Party. Nor is he really interested in leaving the Republican Party.

    So, what is going on?

    From what we have seen of the former President during his time in office, he will use the threat of a third party to manipulate others, maintain a high profile and raise money. This is Trump’s only option to dissuade enough Republican Senators from voting to convict him at trial. A conviction will do too much damage to the Trump brand, which is really all the last few years have been about for Donald Trump.

    It took time, but enough people have caught on to the fact that Trump is a self-centered two dimensional thinker focus solely on elevating the Trump brand. He is more bluster than bold. Throughout his life, his achievements were based on a foundation of tough talk and money. But as recent events and a closer examination of the last four years have shown, behind the talk, the threatening letters and the armies of lawyers, Trump’s presidential legacy is one of little direct action or policy success.

    In my opinion, the Donald Trump presidency is one of the greatest missed opportunities to put people first in our history. We need an outsider in the White House. We need a true independent and futurist. We need a President who leads, but with a servant’s mentality. Instead of putting people first, President Trump only sought to put himself first. He injected himself into every issue to create a fissure or faction he could exploit. And that is still how he operates today.

    When Trump started his presidential campaign, I wrote a few times on Facebook that he reminded me of the Emperor Commodus, portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in the 2000 movie, Gladiator. Commodus was not a moral man. He was ambitious, and craved power and adoration. He used the power of the mob, but much like Trump, did not like the people who made up the mob; they repulsed him. Commodus also was an embittered person who demanded loyalty, but constantly felt as if people did not love him like they should. The parallels are many.

    In the end, we all know there will be people who will join the Patriot Party, because that is where Trump loyalists are going or threatening to go. The Patriot Party as an organization may even field some extremist candidates in the future as a result of this growth in membership. But make no mistake – this is not Trump’s calling or mission.

    Donald Trump is not going to leave the Republican Party until he has exhausted its value to him. Until the Senate has voted on his impeachment, he needs the GOP and its deep bench of donors and influencers. And if he is acquitted, he will need the Republican Party even more to fight the other charges that come out against him.

    A third party threat from former President Trump will only last as long as it is effective. But it will never be his final destination.

    And if the President is convicted by the Senate… And enough Republicans demand he be banned from seeking office… Trump will have no reason to publicly be in politics any longer. Instead, he will need to take his brand to another arena.

    Michael Hackmer is National Secretary of the Reform Party National Committee and Chairman of the Reform Party of Virginia. The opinions expressed in this comment are his own.

  3. Richard Winger Richard Winger January 23, 2021

    After the 1980 election, the John B. Anderson Party was only on the ballot in Kentucky, plus it had ballot access for president only in Connecticut. In 1983 Anderson decided to try to start the National Unity Party. He spent lots of money on a party petition in Ohio, and a registration drive in California, but both failed. So he gave up. Then some ex-Libertarian Party people, including Eric O’Keefe, briefly tried to prop up the National Unity Party, but they also quickly gave up. Eric O’Keefe had been Libertarian Party national director in 1980 during the Ed Clark campaign. He, and Ed Crane, and the Koch faction left the Libertarian Party in September 1983 after their choice for the presidential nomination, Earl Ravenal, was defeated at the LP national convention that month by David Bergland.

  4. wolfefan wolfefan January 22, 2021

    I was referring to John Anderson. I think he blew in in 1984 and had a chance to redeem himself with the Reform Party. I think he most likely had more interest in and a better chance of building a lasting party than someone like Buchanan did.

  5. Be Rational Be Rational January 22, 2021

    Wolfefan …
    Do you mean John Anderson, 1980 POTUS candidate?
    He had no interest in building a viable party.
    His 1980 campaign left him with the National Unity Party, ballot access in many states and a viable vehicle for 1984. He didn’t want to run, but a serious group with a serious candidate, ballot access experience, and some significant funding appeared to keep it going. It was all up to Anderson to decide if this effort would happen – he controlled the ballot access and the continuance of the party depended on him. He pulled the plug at the last minute and the 1984 campaign was aborted. Anderson’s party then died.

  6. wolfefan wolfefan January 21, 2021

    This is where the Reform Party gave up, IMO. Nominating someone like Anderson, who was interested in building a viable party, would have been a big step up from a nativist like Buchanan and given the party better long-term prospects.

  7. Trent Hill Trent Hill Post author | January 21, 2021

    Just jumping back in – you won’t see daily articles from me or anything, but I’m happy to be involved again.

  8. NewFederalist NewFederalist January 21, 2021

    How good it is to see Trent Hill back posting articles!

  9. Richard Winger Richard Winger January 21, 2021

    The Reform Party is 2000 was qualified for general election funding for its presidential campaign. That is not the same as “matching funds”. “Matching funds” only relates to presidential primaries. There is nothing about general election public funding that has anything to do with “matching.” The amount of money for the general election is a percentage of the party’s percentage vote in the previous presidential election. Reporters make this terminology mistake very frequently.

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