This combination of photos shows former President Donald Trump, left, and President Joe Biden, right. Biden and Trump are preparing for a possible rematch in 2024. But a new poll finds a notable lack of enthusiasm within the parties for either man as his party's leader, and a clear opening for new leadership. The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds a third of both Democrats and Republicans are unsure of who they want leading their party. Credit: AP Photo/File

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Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.

Okay, it’s an older meme, but it still checks out.

Back in 1996, Sen. Bob Dole was challenging incumbent President Bill Clinton for the White House. “The Simpsons” was one of Fox’s most popular shows and often lampooned public issues. Enter “Citizen Kang.”

Two cycloptic, tentacled aliens – Kang and Kodos – captured Clinton and Dole. In order to enslave the United States, they impersonated the candidates and threw out increasingly nonsensical pablum. “Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others,” was one such quip.

In the end, just before the election, Homer unmasks the invaders. But the imposters tell the citizens that, due to America’s two-party duopoly, they had to vote for one of them.

When someone suggests voting for a third party, they are invited to do so and “throw their vote away.”

Kang wins. His tyrannical rule forces citizens to build a death ray. When people complain, Homer retorts that it isn’t his fault; he voted for Kodos.

It seems like we are living this “Treehouse of Horror” episode.

No one expects any serious challenge to President Joe Biden’s pursuit of the Democratic nomination. And, right now, it appears people are betting heavily that Donald Trump will win the GOP nod.

Yet polls indicate most Americans don’t want either Biden or Trump to be president. Which is leading to pushes for alternatives.

Alternatives are easiest to find in the Republican field as other potential candidates enter the race. Many of them come from different segments of the party. Sen. Tim Scott is trying to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis secured his ground as the culture warrior, fighting Democrats and Disney alike.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum rises from the business wing as a “do-er” with an economic message, bolstered by bona fides from building a billion dollar fortune. And both  Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley have first-generation immigrant “American dream” stories.  

This diversity in experience and background is what led Sen. Mitt Romney to pen a plea in the Wall Street Journal imploring many of the non-Trump candidates to drop out of the race. His fear is that a balkanized field will let Trump corral enough votes to win the primary. And Romney has no use for Trump.

On the left, Biden will be the Democratic nominee barring something exceptional happening. Yet, with historic unpopularity, the idea of an alternative arising isn’t that far-fetched. Enter “No Labels.

The well-heeled group cheekily suggests they are offering a 2024 “insurance policy” against the two major parties. While they do not directly say it, it seems clear they are aligning with the popular poll – most Americans don’t want either Biden or Trump. So, if those two are the nominees, No Labels will make a “claim” on the insurance and offer a third option.

This places the Republican Party at a crossroad. Who will be the 2024 standard bearer, Trump or someone else?

We are almost to August, when the race will start in earnest. On the 23rd, Fox will air the first GOP presidential debate. The diversity of the Republican Party will be on full display. If voters keep an open mind, they might find someone worth a second look.

Otherwise, we may find out whether Kang and Kodos’ claim was right. Is a vote for a third party wasted after all?

Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan. He is in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine and was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.