There’s a meme floating around the Internet: If Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are in a boat and it capsizes, who wins?
A year ago, it was almost unthinkable that the Republican Party’s presidential nominee would be the bombastic real-estate mogul, especially given the party’s deep bench and the strength and talent of its field.
As many pundits have explained, Trump’s views and past statements belie the claim that he is Republican at all.
Lies, it seems, are Trump’s currency.
Even six months ago, it was laughable that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would not only still be in the race by now but would also be giving the likely Democratic nominee, Clinton, a run for her money.
Sanders is still drawing huge numbers of devoted supporters to his rallies and has vowed not to suspend his campaign before the party’s July convention in Philadelphia, further delaying Clinton’s attempts to claim the prize.
Clinton’s persistent troubles arising from her use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state continue to plague her and keep her “honest and trustworthy” ratings at embarrassing lows.
The Republican and Democratic parties are both in turmoil, sharply divided over the candidates who have survived the primary season.
And come November, American voters will face a choice between two of the most dishonest, disliked and corrupt candidates in modern political history.
Which is why the calls for a third-party run are not only compelling, but such a candidacy may represent the only acceptable choice for millions of Americans.
While many anti-Trump conservatives began floating the idea of an independent run after Trump started collecting delegates, support has increased in recent weeks.
Several names have been suggested, including an unabashed Trump critic, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and former Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, both Republicans.
But the most probable candidate for a third-party claim is Mitt Romney.
Romney’s name isn’t necessarily associated with victory — he failed to earn the Republican nomination in 2008 and lost a disappointing general election race to President Obama in 2012.
Criticized for his stiffness and capacity for making politically tone-deaf comments, Romney did not garner enough enthusiasm in his own party to defeat a strong incumbent.
But he quickly proved that charisma is not the equivalent of leadership or wisdom.
In the ensuing years, Romney has become a respected party elder, in part because, as writer David French explains, he’s been vindicated by events.
While he was roundly mocked for his declaration that Russia posed the greatest geopolitical threat to the United States, Romney correctly predicted the failure of Obama’s “reset” strategy with Russia and the subsequent rise of Vladimir Putin.
Perhaps more important, Romney possesses integrity, a virtue lacking in both front-runner rivals.
In March, Romney addressed the Republican Party passionately, detailing why Trump was not acceptable to represent it in the general election.
He opted not to endorse any of the candidates who remained in the field but made clear that even with Clinton as a rival, conservatives should feel uncomfortable voting for Trump.
To be clear, were Romney to stage a third-party run, he’d likely endure vilification within his own party. Still, a recent Washington Post-ABC poll tested a hypothetical three-way race and found Clinton getting 37 percent, Trump 35 percent and Romney 22 percent — without Romney even entering the race.
With so much at stake this election cycle and, sadly, no good choices available, little time remains for an alternative candidate.
Still, a Romney run would represent a better option for conservatives and a better option for America than either of the current candidates.
Cynthia M. Allen is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.