The 2016 presidential election may become one of the most significant in American history, with two independent candidates attempting to hijack the major parties to win the presidency rather than wage third-party efforts.

The strategy makes sense. Third-party candidates haven't been close to winning the presidency since the Civil War, when the Democratic-Republican duopoly began. The closest anyone has gotten since World War II were when George Wallace won 13 percent of the popular vote in 1968 and Ross Perot got 19 percent in 1992.

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Today both Democrat Bernie Sanders, who for most of his political career was an independent with Socialist views, and Republican Donald Trump, whose past politics traveled wherever the wind beneath his entrepreneurial wings blew, are raking in enough votes in primaries and caucuses to suggest they could win a general election.

That is a much more disturbing notion for this country when it comes to Trump. He not only fails to represent the Republican Party's core values and ideals, he espouses demagogic, jingoistic, illogical, and uninformed views that have resonated with many desperate for change in Washington. Rather than bolstering this nation's greatness, however, a Trump presidency would guarantee its decline.

That's why stopping Trump has become the goal of many mainstream Republicans who know the party can do better than him. They may not agree that their party opened the door for Trump by hammering on America's faults to bash President Obama, but they want to deny Trump the nomination if they get the chance at the Republican National Convention.

To accomplish that feat they need a viable alternative. However, the most likely choices right now are either of the other two candidates remaining from the 17 that initially set out to become the party's nominee: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. They would like to prove they could successfully challenge Trump in Cleveland in July by making a strong showing in Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary.

Cruz, though, is almost as bad as Trump. He, too, espouses close-minded views contrary to what the rest of the world has always expected of America. Cruz's tea-party-inspired positions would further exacerbate the partisan divide that has kept government from finding solutions to the nation's most pressing issues. He opposes immigration reform, supports a flat tax, and would repeal Obamacare rather than mend its flaws.

Kasich is better than Cruz or Trump. Having served in the House during the Newt Gingrich revolution, Kasich has learned as a congressman and governor how to work across the aisle to solve problems.His disdain for extremism hasn't helped Kasich win primaries and caucuses fueled by anger, but by the general election voters may have had enough of insults and fiery rhetoric.

"It's time to stop fighting one another," Kasich said in an endorsement meeting Thursday with the Inquirer Editorial Board. His deliberate approach to solving problems, when compared with Trump's blather and Cruz's sermonizing, is refreshing. For example, instead of calling for all illegal immigrants to be deported, Kasich would grant legal status to those who register and pay a fine.

Of course, Kasich has other views that show he is more right-wing than moderate. He expanded Medicaid in Ohio but still insists the only way to fix Obamacare's flaws is to kill the law. He believes human behavior contributes to global warming, but opposes the climate change agreement that Obama negotiated with other world leaders. He wants to put more American soldiers' lives in danger by increasing the U.S. military's presence in the Middle East.

Kasich is clearly the best choice for Republicans trying to choose a nominee. But the general election is a much different matter.

Harold Jackson is editorial page editor for The Inquirer.