Published: Mon, 16 Jan 2017 00:00:00 -0500
Last Build Date: Mon, 16 Jan 2017 23:57:26 -0500
Sat, 07 Jan 2017 07:00:00 -0500Objectively speaking, 2016 was the Libertarian Party's best year ever. It was also a savage disappointment. On the positive side, the presidential ticket of two former Republican governors, Gary Johnson of New Mexico and William Weld of Massachusetts, received more than 4.46 million votes, amounting (as of press time) to 3.28 percent of the national haul, smashing the party's previous highs of 1.28 million and 1.06 percent, respectively. The L.P. nominee was on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the first time since 2000, and he outperformed the Green Party's Jill Stein in each one. "We are the only political party in the country that's growing," Libertarian Party National Chair Nicholas Sarwark crowed the morning after the election. "We've tripled our vote totals [over] 2012.…We control a bloc of the electorate that covers the spread in almost all if not all of the battleground states. We've beaten the other third party...in every single state." For the first time, the L.P. now has more than a half-million registered voters. The Johnson/Weld campaign raised around $12 million, according to internal accounts (the final Federal Election Commission reports have not yet been filed). That destroys the previous record of $3.5 million, set in 1980 (and $2.1 million of the 1980 total came from billionaire vice-presidential candidate David Koch). The national party pulled in nearly $3 million in additional donations this year, too. U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller of Alaska received 30 percent of the vote in his race, the highest such total in party history—especially impressive as he had both a Republican and a Democratic opponent. (Generally, if an L.P. candidate for any legislative seat gets double-digit percentages, it's because one of the major parties sat the race out.) GOP defections in 2016 also gave the L.P. sitting state legislators in Nevada, Nebraska, and Utah. All told, the party has come a long way since its founding in 1971, when a small gang of dreamers hoped it would become a vehicle to get press attention for libertarian ideas. Still, measured against expectations—let alone the basic standard that successful political parties must win elections—the Libertarian Party had its most disappointing year ever. "We wanted to win, and we didn't achieve that goal," Johnson's campaign manager, Ron Nielson, acknowledged shortly after the election. "We were hoping to get into the presidential debate, and no matter how hard we tried we could not achieve that goal. After that our goal was to get 5 percent, and for the last 45 days we pushed toward that effort, which was entirely achievable but for the fact that the election came down to such a tight margin between Clinton and Trump. That put pressure on third-party support, and a lot of Johnson support moved in the end toward Trump, or possibly chose not to participate." While 3.28 percent marked an all-time high for the party, it was also just a third of the campaign's highest polling average, which came in late July. All summer long Johnson had avoided the typical third-party fade, with such forecasters as FiveThirtyEight projecting a finish higher than 7 percent for months on end. But the plates came crashing down over the final eight weeks, prompting much anguish and fingerpointing among activists and supporters. "The Libertarian Party," wrote 2016 L.P. presidential runner-up Austin Petersen on Election Day, "has blown a chance that it may never have again in my lifetime." There was plenty of bad news to go along with Johnson's late collapse. One of the party's sitting state legislators, Utah Sen. Mark Madsen, did not run for re-election and will be gone in January. A second, Nevada Assemblyman John Moore, suffered what might be a historic mangling for an incumbent, finishing a distant third place with just 7 percent of the vote. (The third legislator, Nebraska Sen. Laura Ebke, faces re-election in 2018.) The party still has precious few elected officials, and many of those are in officially nonpartisan jobs. The races that Libertarians w[...]
Fri, 06 Jan 2017 12:32:00 -0500Stop the presses. Turns out it wasn't Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and Evan McMullin that cost Hillary Clinton her spot in the Oval Office, it was the fact that a significantly greater number of registered Democrats than Republicans just stayed home rather than cast a ballot for the former secretary of state. Of the approximately 100,000 registered voters who took a post-election SurveyMonkey poll, over 3,600 were non-voters, according to FiveThirtyEight. Unsurprisingly, about 90 percent of registered Democrats and Republicans voted for their party's candidate, and the data also shows a preference for unaffiliated voters for Clinton—which is partly why the conventional wisdom narrative immediately formulated around the theory that third party voters had selfishly denied Clinton her rightful ascendance to the presidency. But hang on. All the ballots cast for third party candidates combined only amounted to a little more than about 7,000,000, yet according to the SurveyMonkey poll, 35 percent of registered voters who didn't vote self-identified as Democrats. Self-identified Republicans who didn't vote amounted to only 32 percent of the total. FiveThirtyEight summarizes the consequences here: That means that had the non-voters cast a ballot in accordance with their party identification, Clinton's advantage over Trump nationally would have expanded by about 2 to 3 percentage points. That almost certainly would have been enough to flip enough states for her to win the Electoral College. Throughout 2016, polls indicated that voters found Trump and Clinton to be the least popular major party presidential candidates in history, and this latest poll confirmed that dislike of both candidates was the biggest factor for non-voters in deciding to opt out of the choice. The SurveyMonkey poll also showed Trump and Clinton earning favorability ratings in the low 30s among non-voters, and only in the low 40s among people who actually voted for one of them. Clinton was unable to motivate key Democratic demographic groups to vote for her. The poll found that non-whites amounted to about 42 percent of non-voters, but just 25 percent of voters. Worse for Clinton, black voters abandoned her in dramatic numbers. In 2016 black non-voters outnumbered black voters—a reverse of 2012's results—and 46 percent of black voters under the age of 30 (who tended to favor Bernie Sanders to Clinton far more than older black voters) did not vote in this past election. Trump, for his part, was able to turn out significantly higher numbers of white voters without a college degree than Mitt Romney did in 2012, which FiveThirtyEight writes is "pretty remarkable that a group of voters that is shrinking as a percentage of the population made up a larger share of the electorate in 2016 than in 2012." It's unlikely this inconvenient (for Clinton supporters) data will change any minds about which non-compliant voters cost Clinton "her turn" in the White House. After all, almost two decades later Democrats are still blaming Ralph Nader for costing Al Gore the 2000 election, but have engaged in precious little soul-searching over the fact that Gore lost his own state or that more Florida Democrats voted for George W. Bush than Nader by a factor of 12:1. But the data is there in case Democrats ever want to consider that candidates matter, and not just the candidate you're running against.[...]
Wed, 21 Dec 2016 06:00:00 -0500The unprecedentedly bizarre presidential election we have just survived taught us many unpleasant lessons. Among the most startling was the extent to which, even in a year dominated by voter revulsion at the two leading candidates, the two-party mindset nonetheless continued to maintain a powerful magnetic pull on the actions and reactions of so many people. Consider Bill Maher's treatment of Colin Kaepernick. The San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback created a national stir in August by refusing to stand for the National Anthem, explaining: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.…There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder." There were follow-up controversies about Kaepernick wearing game socks that portrayed cops as cartoon pigs, about the correlation between anthem protests and plunging NFL TV ratings, and about his truly terrible performance on the field in two blowout losses. But what infuriated the HBO comedian to the point that he called Kaepernick a "fucking idiot"? This: After the first presidential debate, the QB noted that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are "proven liars" and suggested that the election was about "the lesser of two evils." Also a "fucking idiot" in Maher's view: Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, who unlike Clinton and Trump has positions similar to Maher's on civil liberties and war. But after The New York Times in September published a scare story about how Johnson-leaning millennials might throw the election away from the presumably entitled Clinton, supposedly independent-thinking comedians of all stripes had a unanimous message to their fans: Don't even think third party. Stephen Colbert called Johnson "laughable." HBO's John Oliver said the Libertarian was "around 80 percent sure that he's running for president." And all three comics were just as harsh on Green Party nominee Jill Stein. Fewer and fewer voters are buying into this dreary us vs. them shtick—the percentage of people who self-identified as "independents" at mid-September of an election year has increased since 2004 from 29 to 35 to 38 to 40, according to Gallup—but that still leaves three-fifths of the adult population with a Pavlovian impulse to mobilize against the Other Guy every time someone bangs the "most important election of our lifetimes" gong. Human hearts, no matter how damaged, wrong, or plain cruel, can always be changed. More challenging is to uproot what might be called the ghost architecture of the two-party system, the hidden edifices that trap us in a political duopoly. Ballot access laws, the bane to every third party's existence, are written, enforced, and interpreted by politicians with primary affiliations to the Democratic and Republican parties. In September, Florida's Division of Elections, which reports directly to GOP Gov. Rick Scott, ruled that independent conservative candidate Evan McMullin, who had been nominated legally by the Independent Party of Florida, would nonetheless not appear on the November ballot. Why? Because, in a reversal of an order given five years before, the state suddenly decided that qualifying political parties had to be one of the 13 officially recognized "national parties" in the eyes of the Federal Election Commission, even though states obviously have the legal leeway to set their own election guidelines. "Now that the [major] parties are suffering in Florida and are less powerful," Ballot Access News guru Richard Winger told Politico, "the state feels it can change the rule with impunity." Blocking out a candidate who takes most of his support from Republicans was a blatant attempt to protect the GOP in a state known for its election-swinging potential. Did I mention that Gov. Scott ran a Trump-supporting SuperPAC? The two major parties, through their surrogates at the Commission for Presidential Debates, control which outside competitors get to participate in nationally telev[...]
Fri, 16 Dec 2016 13:10:00 -0500
As political pundits who missed the Donald Trump phenomenon grapple with Hillary Clinton's loss in the presidential election, some have lashed out at third-party voters, whom they blame for costing Clinton victories in the key swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
Putting aside the problems with this argument—the most obvious of which is that voters who picked Libertarian Gary Johnson or the Green Party's Jill Stein weren't guaranteed to unanimously break for Clinton had they been deprived of another choice—the "spoiler effect" is one that regularly plagues third parties in American elections. Voters often feel compelled to choose the "lesser of two evils," a phrase never more apt than in this year when Americans disliked both Clinton and Trump at record-high levels.
But what if a simple change to the way we vote allowed Americans to vote their conscience and choose the lesser of two evils? And what if this change could improve the quality of the candidates and elevate the level of discourse?
Our guest on today's episode of the Reason Podcast argues just that.
Richard Woodbury is the chair of the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting. Ranked choice voting, wherein voters are allowed to rank candidates from best to worst rather than voting for only one just passed in the state of Maine by voter ballot initiative, making it the first state to adopt this electoral reform. Woodbury served as an Independent in the Maine House and Senate for five terms, during which he introduced ranked choice voting legislation, though it never passed during his tenure. By trade, he's an economist who works for the National Bureau of Economic Research.
On today's episode, Reason TV's Zach Weissmueller spoke with Woodbury about the mechanics of ranked choice voting, how and why it passed in Maine, why third party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein endorsed the ballot measure, and how wider implementation of such a reform could transform American politics for the better.
Click below to listen right now via SoundCloud.
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Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:01:00 -0500According to Gail Collins' latest column in The New York Times, Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the 2000 election and thus enabled the Iraq War because unlike George W. Bush, Gore would have never invaded Iraq. "Case closed," Collins so authoritatively puts it. While attacking 2016 Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein for her quixotic campaign demanding recounts in crucial swing states lost by Hillary Clinton by very small margins, Collins outdoes herself in dispensing conventional wisdom that wilts under just the barest of scrutiny. Collins muses that "it's definitely possible" Clinton could have received every vote that instead went to Stein and seethes at Stein's insistence that most people who voted for her would have just stayed home without the Green Party on the ballot. Collins writes: We had heard something similar from Ralph Nader, whose presence on the ballot in 2000 probably cost Al Gore Florida, and the presidency. On many of Nader's issues, Gore was not great. But the point of the American system of democracy is that in the end, you often have to take the responsibility for choosing the better of two unlovely options. And if Gore had been elected, we wouldn't have invaded Iraq. Case closed. Hoo boy. First off, Ralph Nader may have earned far more votes in Florida than Gore would have needed to defeat Bush (and thus, win the presidency) in the Sunshine State, but more than 12 times as many registered Florida Democrats voted for Bush than Nader. Further, Gore didn't even win his home state of Tennessee, which if he had, would have been enough to win the presidency and make Florida's tally irrelevant. But just like in 2000, when Democrats and sympathetic Top Men and Top Women in media refused to consider Gore ran a terrible campaign, Collins and others want to pin Donald Trump's stunning electoral victory on disobedient voters who rejected the two-party duopoly which produced the two least popular candidates of all time. Examining exit poll data in the wake of the 2016 election, I noted the lack of enthusiasm for either major party candidate among third party voters: CBS News' exit poll posed the hypothetical question of who third party voters would support if the race were only Clinton and Trump, and both [Libertarian Party candidate Gary] Johnson and Stein supporters appeared to support Clinton over Trump by about 25 percent to 15 percent. But 55 percent of Johnson's supporters would have just sat out the election, as would 61 percent of Jill Stein supporters. According to New York Times exit polling, a whopping 63 percent of voters who declined to cast their ballot for the two major party candidates said they would have not voted at all in a two candidate race. Second, it's a howler that Collins is so certain ("Case closed") Gore wouldn't have invaded Iraq, considering he was one of the few Senate Democrats to vote in favor of the first Gulf War, uber-hawk Joe Lieberman was his running mate, and he had spent his entire legislative career as a liberal internationalist consistently supporting military interventions on humanitarian grounds. Gore also defended air strikes in Iraq as Vice President and, as a candidate for president, supported the U.S. policy of removing Saddam Hussein from power which President Clinton made official with the signing of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. Reason's Matt Welch also found some evidence straight from Gore's mouth boasting of his hawkish bona fides: In 1996, when Republican nominee Bob Dole criticized Clinton for lobbing cruise missiles into Iraq, Gore retorted, "Sometimes the U.S. has to take unilateral action when our interests are at stake." In May 2000, speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference, Gore bragged on being an Iraq hawk and stressed that "it is our policy to see Saddam Hussein gone..." We can play "alternative history" games all day, but it arguably makes less sense to insist Gore would definitely not have invaded Iraq[...]
Mon, 21 Nov 2016 11:35:00 -0500How much dissatisfaction was there with the major parties' presidential candidates this year? Enough that we're likely to hit a popular-vote milestone not seen since 1980 and an electoral-vote milestone not seen since the 19th century. Enough that in one state, someone who wasn't even on the ballot collected nearly 6 percent of the vote: • Bernie Sanders finished third in Vermont, with 5.68 percent, even though he wasn't running. All sorts of non-candidates picked up write-in votes in Vermont, including seven ballots for Willie Nelson, one for Louis CK, one for Richard Nixon, and one for "R. Paul." (Rand, Ron, and Ru can fight it out for that one.) Either two or three ballots were cast for God, depending on whether you include the vote for Jesus; I'll let the theologians debate that one in the comments. But the big write-in success was Vermont senator and former Hillary Clinton challenger Bernie Sanders, who got 18,218 votes—18,219 if you count the person who wrote in both Sanders and Joe Biden. That's 5.68 percent of the state's total, more than either Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party (3.14 percent) or Jill Stein of the Greens (2.11 percent). Sanders, you'll recall, ceased to be a candidate before the Democratic convention and spent much of the fall campaigning for Clinton. • Jill Stein has now surpassed 1 percent of the national total. When I last posted about the third-party results, Stein had .96 percent of the national total. Since then her tally has risen to 1.02 percent. If that holds, two third-party candidates will have surpassed 1 percent this year. (The other is Johnson, whose share now stands at 3.28 percent.) That may not sound significant, but it is exceptionally rare. The last election where two different alternative tickets managed to do that well was way back in 1980, and the last one before that was in 1948. To find a third example you need to go all the way to 1916. • Chances are high that one or more alternative candidate—or non-candidate—will show up in the Electoral College totals too. Before Election Day, a Democratic elector in Washington declared that he would not vote for Hillary Clinton even if she carried the state. Another elector in the same state was publicly mulling a similar protest. There was a lot of debate about whether they would actually stick with such a plan if it meant handing the election to Trump. Well, that debate is now moot: Trump appears set to carry the Electoral College no matter what the Washington delegation does. And the Democratic slate did win Washington. So there's a strong chance that we'll see two Democratic electors defect to Sanders, Stein, or someone else. (There is also at least a small chance that one or more Trump electors will refuse to vote for the Republican nominee.) It isn't unusual for a solitary elector to break with the pack this way. That's happened in six of the last 12 elections. But it's extremely unusual for more than one member of the same Electoral College to vote for a presidential candidate other than the one they're pledged to support. That hasn't happened since the 19th century. • Who finished last? Enough with the alternative candidates who did unusually well. Who did really, really poorly? Strictly speaking, last place is a vast tie between a bunch of write-ins. But limiting ourselves to the candidates who actually appeared on the ballot, the person presently bringing up the rear is Frank Atwood of the Approval Voting Party, whose platform holds that you should be able to vote for as many different candidates as you like. According to the U.S. Election Atlas, Atwood currently has just 335 votes. Atwood himself might not be among them: Last October he told the Littleton Independent that he "will most likely be voting for Gary Johnson."[...]
Wed, 09 Nov 2016 14:05:00 -0500Now that Donald Trump is president-elect, despondent Hillary Clinton supporters need someone to blame. Of course, they could blame the Democratic Party for willfully tipping the scales in favor of ensuring the nomination of a candidate who The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald aptly described as "a deeply unpopular, extremely vulnerable, scandal-plagued candidate, who — for very good reason — was widely perceived to be a protector and beneficiary of all the worst components of status quo elite corruption." They could also blame the lack of enthusiasm for either candidate, which produced a far lower-than-expected turnout, particularly in swing states. They could blame the fact that Clinton only won 65 percent of Latino voters—despite running against a candidate who has threatened mass deportation of undocumented immigrants whom he described as "rapists" and "criminals," and who promised to build a Mexican-financed wall on our Southern border. At least 27 percent of Latinos voted for...Trump! There were other voter problems Clinton ran into, which likely dwarf any effect third party voters had on denying her the presidency (not least of which because it's ridiculous to assume third party voters would automatically go to Clinton). According to CNN's exit poll data, Clinton won "union households" with 51 percent to Trump's 43 percent—a shockingly low number for such a historically Democratic base. Clinton lost independents 48-42 percent in favor of Trump (unfortunately, CNN doesn't list independent candidates in national data, offering only "Other/No Answer," which scored 10 percent of the independent vote). Clinton was only able to win voters under the age of 30 with 55 percent to Trump's 37 percent, while 8 percent of young millennials went into the the all-encompassing "Other" category. While Clinton won the group overall, it is highly relevant that the Democratic nominee lost 10 percent of self-described "liberals" to Trump, with 6 percent responding "Other/No Answer." But self-reflection is hard and blaming the deliberately marginalized voices of third party voters by the Democratic and Republican parties is easier. There's no shortage of available takes focusing exclusively on the fact that votes for third party candidates (mostly the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson, the Green Party's Jill Stein, and independent conservative Evan McMullin) exceed the differential between Trump and Clinton's vote tallies in a number of states, including some swing states. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow—who when Reason's Nick Gillespie's asserted on Real Time with Bill Maher that she was a Democratic partisan replied, "Dude, I'm not even a Democrat"—said of third party voters last night, "If you vote for somebody who can't win for president, it means that you don't care who wins for president." In Maddow's world, this isn't "punching down" at the tiny percentage of voters who rejected the two least popular presidential candidates of all time, it's that serious-minded independents should only ever vote for the two major parties they refuse to join. This thinking is in line with the conventional wisdom that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000 because of the razor-thin margin between the two major party candidates in Florida. Of course, such logic falls apart when you consider that almost 13 times as many registered Florida Democrats voted for George W. Bush as they did for Nader, and that liberals-for-Bush exceeded Nader's total vote by a factor of more than three. CBS News' exit poll posed the hypothetical question of who third party voters would support if the race were only Clinton and Trump, and both Johnson and Stein supporters appeared to support Clinton over Trump by about 25 percent to 15 percent. But 55 percent of Johnson's supporters would have just sat out the election, as would 61 percent of Jill Stein supporters. According to New York Times exit polling, a[...]
Wed, 09 Nov 2016 11:55:00 -0500Yesterday's presidential election produced the strongest showing in 20 years for third-party and independent candidates. Not all the ballots have been tallied yet, so some of the numbers below may be slightly off from the final totals. But at this point all the alternative candidates put together have received more than 5 percent of the popular vote. The leader of the second-tier pack, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, has (at this point in the counting) 4,012,871 votes, or 3.23 percent of the national total. That's much less than he was polling a couple months ago, but it's far better than any other presidential result in the party's 45-year history. It's also better than any other alternative candidate since Ross Perot's campaigns of 1992 and '96. On the state level, we didn't get to see some of the more extraordinary possibilities that had been tossed around before Tuesday. (No, Evan McMullin did not carry Utah.) But the second-tier candidates did do stronger in some places than others, giving us a map—multiple maps—of where our binary party system is doing the poorest job of representing the full spectrum of political opinion. Here's how the third-, fourth-, and fifth-place finishers fared across the country: Gary Johnson. Not surprisingly, Johnson did best in New Mexico, the state where he was governor from 1995 to 2003: He got 9.3 percent of the vote there (and in some counties hit double digits). He got 5 percent or more in seven other states as well: North Dakota (6.3 percent), traditionally third-party-friendly Alaska (5.9), Oklahoma (5.7), South Dakota (5.6), Montana (5.6), Wyoming (5.3), and Maine (5.1). He got at least 1 percent of the vote everywhere. His weakest showing was in Mississippi, where just 1.2 percent of the voters backed him. That's still more than double his total there in 2012. Jill Stein. As I write, Jill Stein of the Green Party has 1,192,344 votes, or about .96 percent of the national total. That's the Greens' best showing since Ralph Nader's campaign in 2000. Stein's highest percentage on the state level came in Hawaii, where she collected 2.9 percent of the ballots. She also managed to top 2 percent in Oregon (2.4 percent), Vermont (2.3), and—more surprisingly—Kansas (2.0). She did not outpoll Johnson in any state. Evan McMullin. McMullin, a conservative running as an independent, was on the ballot in only 11 states, so it's not surprising that he finished behind Johnson and Stein. (His total currently stands at 443,298 votes nationally, or .36 percent.) But he did very well in one of those states: He was a strong third in his native Utah, collecting 20.9 percent of the vote and finishing second in several counties. He also managed to get 6.9 percent in Idaho, the only other state where he beat Johnson. He didn't get as much as 2 percent anywhere else, though he managed to clear the 1 percent mark in Minnesota (1.8 percent), Virginia (1.6), Arkansas (1.2), Kentucky (1.2), and South Carolina (1.0). It is no coincidence that McMullin did best in the two states with the country's highest Mormon populations. The only other candidate who managed to get more than 1 percent of the vote in any states was Darrell Castle of the paleoconservative Constitution Party, who is currently pulling 1.3 percent in Alaska, 1.1 percent in South Dakota, and, more surprisingly, 1 percent in Hawaii. In Nevada, where voters have the option of voting for None of the Above, that option pulled 2.6 percent. Did these candidates tip any states from Clinton to Trump? I've already heard some ruminations to that effect from angry Democrats ready to replay their scripts from 2000, but it's a hard case to make. Johnson initially drew both disaffected Democrats and disaffected Republicans, but toward the end of the race the polls suggested that he was pulling much more from the Trump camp. (Of course, I don't blame you if[...]
Sun, 06 Nov 2016 13:00:00 -0500The 2016 presidential race features two of the most disliked candidates in electoral history, which has given a boost not only to the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson, but to Jill Stein, a 66-year-old Harvard-trained physician from Massachusetts who's running on the Green Party ticket. "We have every reason to be terrified of Donald Trump in the White House," says Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. "But I don't think we should fool ourselves into thinking that we should sleep well at night with Hillary Clinton in the White House either. They're both dangerous and unacceptable in different ways." Stein is currently polling at about 2 percent, trailing Gary Johnson, who is on track to take about 4 percent of the popular vote. Stein, who sat down last week for an interview with Reason, says this election year presents an historic opportunity for third parties. "This is a realignment election," says Stein. "And you have this marriage of the Democratic and Republican parties now. And its important, I think, for Greens and Libertarians to be working together right now to just break through this stranglehold and be challenging them right out of the gate." Stein says that if only the U.S. were to adopt a new system of voting, Americans wouldn't have to make this choice between voting their conscience or the lesser of two evils. Stein and the libertarian Gary Johnson have a lot in common on topics like foreign policy, marijuana legalization, and same-sex marriage. But on economic issues, the two candidates couldn't be farther apart. For instance, Stein favors a single-payer health care system, which she claims would cost taxpayers nothing. She also says she would pour federal money into the clean energy sector and end our use of fossil fuels by the year 2030. Stein has been battling the perception that the Green Party is anti vaccine after she told the Washington Post that "there were real questions that needed to be addressed. I think some of them at least have been addressed. I don't know if all of them have been addressed" with regards to small amounts of mercury once found in childhood vaccines, despite a scientific consensus that there's never been a link between vaccines and autism or any other serious health problems. Stein calls the media coverage of her statements misleading and characterizes it as the "birther" issue of this election, claiming that she's only calling for reforms to the FDA, which she sees as corrupted by lobbyists. With the election just days away, both Johnson and Stein's poll numbers are slipping. One meaningful benchmark for both parties would be to win 5 percent of the popular vote. That would lead the Federal Election Commission to confer the classification of "minor party," which means they'd get easier ballot access and be eligible for matching public funds. "It's outrageous that people should be struggling right now with this questions of, 'Do I prefer a fascist or a warmonger?'" says Stein. Interview by Zach Weissmueller. Produced and Edited by Justin Monticello and Jim Epstein. Camera by Monticello and Alex Manning. Music by RW Smith. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.[...]
Sat, 05 Nov 2016 06:00:00 -0400I recently had a pleasant encounter with a great and outspoken American who, despite his libertarian leanings, supports Hillary Clinton for president. I congratulated him on making a tough call but allowed as how I was looking forward to casting my ballot for the Libertarian Party's flag bearers, Gary Johnson and William Weld. "It will be unadulterated pleasure," I offered, "as there is no opportunity cost." My correspondent fired back: "Opportunity cost is Trump gets elected." I stand by my recklessness. Here's where the curious nature of the American Electoral College comes in handy. Even where my vote—or the votes of my 100 closest, most easily influenced "inner circle"—might swing an election, there is simply no real chance that pushing either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton over the top in South Carolina, where I live, will determine the outcome of the presidential race. If Hillary wobbles to victory in my current state of residence, she would have already demolished The Donald in the Electoral College. Similarly, in Maryland (where our family lived until 2014), a squeaker for Mr. Trump would indicate that Ms. Clinton had been vanquished in a yuuuuuge landslide elsewhere. Now, it is extremely unlikely that any one person's vote will rock even one state's electoral outcome. In the closest state presidential election of the last half-century—New Mexico (no, not Florida) in 2000—the final margin for Al Gore came to 366. And even that did not swing the national prize. But set those slim odds of individual influence at the state level off to one (long-shot) side. Assuming that you live in a red or blue, and not a purple, state, you swing completely out of the loop. In its most recent election forecast, the prediction site FiveThirtyEight estimates that there is a 17.9 percent chance that Florida will decide the election (putting one of the candidates "over the top"). Next in line are Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the chances are 11.5 percent each, followed by Michigan at 8.7 percent and Wisconsin at 6.2 percent. When you account for North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Minnesota, Georgia, Nevada, and Iowa, you've eliminated all the states with as much as an estimated 2 percent chance to determine the outcome. Multiply that by the probability that one's own vote can throw one's state from Hillary to Donald or back, and the prospect that your vote will crown the next chief of state is neatly forecast as equal to 0.0. This safe harbor protects 67 percent of U.S. population, that portion living beyond the aforementioned swing states. This logic is not lost on the general public, which tends to vote for third parties more often in "one-party" states. Citizens realize that they are not trekking to the polls to cast the deciding national vote but to do their patriotic duty, taking pride in affixing an "I Voted!" sticker to their lapels and relishing the thought of canceling out some barbarian's vote (or their spouse's). But why not go commando and check the ballot for a person you'd actually prefer to see as president? In most states, the Electoral College makes this a guilt-free option. Consequential outcomes from individual presidential votes are so unlikely that Americans cast their chief of state endorsements while investing far less in research about their choice than the investigative effort they sink to select a smartphone data plan or their next Pokemon Go venue. This is straightforward: Decisions that affect actual results generally invite more attention than those that do not. It is called "rational ignorance." In another sense, it's liberating. Because your one tally will not change the nation's fate, you can afford to exercise your judgment worry-free. You are not at fault if Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton should win. Meanwhile, you will have indulged your conscience.[...]
Mon, 31 Oct 2016 12:10:00 -0400
(image) This weekend Donald Trump denounced Evan McMullin, an independent conservative candidate who's been polling well in Utah. After declaring that McMullin had gathered his overwhelmingly Mormon support by "going from coffee shop to coffee shop" (fact check: Mormons don't drink coffee), Trump declared that "if for some reason we lose Utah, that could have a very devastating impact" on his campaign.
That it could. Trump's been struggling in several swing states; the last thing he needs is to lose a place that's usually the most reliably Republican state around. And FiveThirtyEight currently gives McMullin a better shot at denying him Utah than Hillary Clinton has. He leads her in most of the state's recent polls, and he arguably has a better chance of picking up supporters from her column than vice versa. From the Clintonites' point of view, it would of course be ideal for the Democrat to claim the state's six electors. But if that's not possible, your average Dem would surely rather see McMullin collect them; at least that way they won't help Trump get the 270 electoral votes required to win.
So if you're a Democrat in Utah, who gets your vote? The fellow with a shot at blocking Trump? Or Clinton, the spoiler candidate?
Now if that Democrat asked for my advice, I'd tell him to vote for the person who's closest to his views. But I'm a guy who usually votes third-party. Every four years, I get an earful about how terrible this is, how I'm a foolish idealist who needs to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. (For the record: I don't think any of the candidates I voted for were perfect, and I don't think any of their major-party opponents were good.)
Well, now the shoe's on the other foot. If you're a Utah Democrat who has ever sneered that Libertarians and Greens vote immaturely—if you seriously believe that the grown-up thing to do is to hold your nose and cast your ballot for the lesser evil—then you'll have to think hard about how exactly their actions are different from voting for Hillary Clinton. If there's a serious movement from Utah's Democrats toward McMullin, he'll carry the state. If they stick with Clinton, Trump's chances of getting those six electoral votes are a lot higher.
It's no skin off my nose; I prefer Gary Johnson anyway. But I'll still take a little pleasure in being able to tell a Democrat, "Oh. So you're throwing your vote away."
Sun, 23 Oct 2016 11:21:00 -0400src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fgovgaryjohnson%2Fvideos%2F10153431976899364%2F&show_text=0&width=560" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> That's Scott Rigell, a Republican congressman from Virginia who broke party ranks to endorse Libertrian presidential nominee and former two-term New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson back in August. The mere fact of partisans such as Rigell splitting their votes is important, of course—it's a bold, even courageous example, and a necessary one for an era in which voter identification with the major parties is going down like the Titanic: . But Rigell's specific argument in the video is also important. In less than two minutes, he stresses that nobody has to accept the two unacceptable major-party candidates or the awful platforms they are espousing (protectionism, statism, overseas interventions, increases in the size, scope, and spending of government). There's a different way says Rigell. "We don't just have two choices. We have a third choice, a better choice....We can change things. We can change the system." Among the many ways "we can change the system" is by evacuating the duopoly in politics the same way that we've evacuated false binaries and harshly limited choices in all other aspects of our lives. We no longer allow, for instance, our options in automobilies to be dictated by the Big Three automakers and we're better off for it. On more important levels, we no longer our cultural choices to be forced on us by the three or four TV networks or a handful of book publishers, record labels, and film studios. When it comes to our most lifestyle choices and identities, we no longer submit to dualistic categories such as black/white, male/female, gay/straight as the only way—or even a particularly meaningful way—to structure our world. As Matt Welch and I argued in The Declaration of Independents, politics is a lagging indicator of where America is headed and always the last institution to change its ways. What we have been witnessing throughout 2016 is a damn-near perfect illustration of our thesis that the same sort of proliferation in choice and increasingly individualized options in our work, cultural, and social lives is coming to politics. Characters such as Scott Rigell are in the vanguard of that movement, if only because he dares to speak as a Republican what we all know to be true: The established parties can't even represent their own members any more. We need more, better choices in politics just as we needed them in cars and we'll get them sooner or later. And it's important to note that the push for more and better choices isn't simply limited to the historically string response to Gary Johnson this time around. The Bernie Sanders insurgency suggests that many in the Democratic Party feel cheated by that party's current iteration, as does a continuing lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton. That Trump won the GOP nomination is evidence of the same and so does relatively strong showing by late-to-the-race independent Evan McMullin and stronger-than-expected polling by Green Party nom Jill Stein. Something is happening here that is actually different than in the past, even though the winner of the 2016 election will be from a party founded before the U.S. Civil War. Former political consultant (he worked with both parties) and current ABC News analyst Matthew Dowd is framing a similar scenario to the one in The Dec. of Ind.: It is time we reject the messaging from the two major parties, and make choices in our own hearts that help bring the country together. If you don't feel good about either major party choice, then don't be shoved into choosing between what they describe as "the le[...]
Fri, 21 Oct 2016 12:17:00 -0400What if you really didn't have to accept that there are only two valid choices for a particular race, and your third-party vote actually mattered more than as just a protest? Maine voters may find out for themselves. On their ballot this November is Question 5, a ballot initiative that would institute ranked-choice voting for statewide positions like governor and for lawmakers on both the state and federal levels. In a ranked vote system, voters are invited not to just check off the box for their favorite candidate; they're allowed to rank each candidate in order of preference. If the winning candidate doesn't get a majority of the votes, there's an "instant runoff." The candidate with the least votes is dumped from the race and the votes are counted again. On the ballots of those who voted for the least-popular candidate, their second choice is now counted as their vote. If again the winning candidate still doesn't get a majority of the votes, the cycle continues until the top-ranked candidate doesn't get just the most votes but a majority of votes. No state here currently has such a voting system, but some cities do, and it's how Australia elects its lawmakers. Australia's complicated, preference-based voting system has resulted in several lawmakers who are members of smaller parties, including libertarian David Leyonhjelm. That is partly the intent of this system: To make it more possible for third-party candidates to break through the electoral duopoly, but only in situations where the majority of voters reject what the establishment offers. The editorial board of the Portland Press Herald endorsed Question 5 last week with the awareness that an increasing number of voters are refusing to identify as Democrats or Republicans: Our current system took shape when there were two strong parties that dominated the political process. Parties won elections by assembling coalitions and selecting candidates who had broad appeal. It was hard for fringe elements to break through. But even though Maine's political parties have been in decline for decades, they still have an outsized influence on the process. Nominees selected by the small number of committed partisans who show up to vote in June have enormous institutional advantages on Election Day in November. That puts the largest group of voters, those who are not active as either Democrats or Republicans, in a bind. They have no say in the selection of a party nominee, but they can't vote for a third-party candidate without risking a vote for a "spoiler" who fragments opposition and gives an extreme candidate a path to victory. What if, for example, you could vote for Gary Johnson as your first choice, but thought that Hillary Clinton would be much less dangerous as president than Donald Trump (or vice-versa)? You could make Johnson your first choice and Clinton your second. Thus, you'd be shutting down any arguments (or even your own fears) that a vote for a third-party candidate was ultimately helping Trump (or Clinton) win. Heck, given the unpopularity of Clinton and Trump and the way polls are going, it is likely that the winner in November will get a plurality of the votes, not a majority. A ranked system significantly favors third-party candidates in situations where voters are really unhappy with what the establishment has to offer. It's easy to imagine Johnson becoming the second choice for a good chunk of voters, and then imagine what could happen next if neither Clinton nor Trump gets 51 percent of the majority vote. It shouldn't come as a surprise then that Johnson supporter and former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic is a big endorser of this kind of voting system. And he puts his activism where his mouth is: He's the chairman of the Board [...]
Thu, 13 Oct 2016 13:30:00 -0400Hillary Clinton is almost certain to carry Washington state next month. But she won't necessarily collect all of its electoral votes. Robert Satiacum Jr., one of the Democratic Party's slate of 12 electors in Washington, has been mulling in public about whether he can bring himself to vote for his party's nominee. He may yet fall in line, and he may simply give up his seat in the Electoral College. But there's a chance he'll cast his ballot for Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, or some other person not named "Clinton" or "Trump." This is the other way a minor-party candidate can eat into the major-party nominees' Electoral College totals: In 21 states, it is legal for a so-called "faithless elector" to ignore the popular vote and cast a ballot for someone else. So while we're pondering the possibility that Evan McMullin might carry Utah or Gary Johnson might pull off an upset in New Mexico, let's take a moment to consider this other scenario. After all, a third-party candidate hasn't won a state outright since 1968, when George Wallace carried five states in the South. But in six of the 12 elections going back to then, faithless electors have voted for alternative candidates—or, sometimes, for people who weren't actually running for president at all: • In 1968, Wallace didn't just win those five states; he picked up a vote from a Republican elector from North Carolina. • In 1972, a Republican elector from Virginia voted for John Hospers of the Libertarian Party, making this both the LP's weakest year (they got only 3,674 votes on Election Day) and its strongest (it's the only time the party has broken into the Electoral College). That elector was Roger MacBride, who went on to become the Libertarian presidential nominee in 1976. • In 1976, a Republican elector from Washington voted for Ronald Reagan, who had narrowly lost the GOP nomination that year to Gerald Ford. • In 1988, a Democratic elector from West Virginia thought that her party's vice presidential nominee, Lloyd Bentsen, was a stronger candidate than Michael Dukakis. So she cast her presidential vote for Bensten and demoted Dukakis to VP. • In 2000, a Democratic elector from the District of Columbia refused to cast a ballot at all, to protest the fact that D.C. doesn't have a vote in Congress. Since nobody got her vote, I consider this a moral victory for Wavy Gravy. • In 2004, a Democratic elector from Minnesota flipped the ticket and voted for vice presidential nominee John Edwards—or technically, since spelling was not this person's strong suit, for "John Ewards." (Also that year, New York's entire slate of electors accidentally voted for some guy called "John L. Kerry" rather than Democratic nominee John F. Kerry. But this was just a typo, and the votes were ultimately assigned to the correct Kerry, so unfortunately it doesn't count.) With Clinton opening her lead over Trump in the polls, it's very unlikely that a faithless elector will actually keep a candidate from accumulating the 270 ballots needed to win the White House. But that same lead may make it more likely for such electors to defect in the first place. Regular voters are probably more likely to back third-party or independent candidates when the election looks like it's going to be a blowout: If the lesser evil is either sure to win or sure to lose, you might as well give your support to a protest candidate instead. When the Electoral College votes, more than a month after Election Day, that effect may be magnified: These people already know who won the popular vote and whether the margin is close. A Clinton-hating Democrat like Satiacum—or a NeverTrump Republican, which isn't exactly a scarce species these days—would feel even les[...]
Tue, 11 Oct 2016 14:20:00 -0400If current polling numbers hold, the Libertarian Party could surpass an important vote share threshold come November. If Gary Johnson and Bill Weld receive at least five percent of the popular vote, they'll be officially classified as a "minor party" by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). If that happens, the Libertarian Party's candidate in 2020 would qualify for public matching funds based on how much of the vote they receive. At RealClear politics, Bill Scher takes note of the possibilities: If Johnson snags 5 percent of the national popular vote, the Federal Election Commission will classify the Libertarians as an official "minor party," granting the 2020 nominee a lump sum of cash for the fall campaign, courtesy of the American taxpayer. (And don't you think for a second that the vehemently anti-big-government Libertarians won't cash that big government check in a heartbeat.) The exact amount of federal funds depends on the size of his vote, but Green Party officials – who have been chasing 5 percent for years – estimate that meeting the threshold would yield about $10 million. That may seem like chump change compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars major party presidential nominees routinely raise. But Johnson has gotten this far after raising only $8 million through August. The prospect of knowing the Libertarian Party's nominee is guaranteed $10 million will allow him or her to hit the campaign trail running, improving the odds of getting into the debates, winning an even larger share of vote and fortifying the party's place in the American political landscape. Isn't it a little bit odd for Scher to assert what the Libertarian Party would do in a snarky parenthetical aside rather than simply contacting them to ask? Scher's hardly an objective observer of the election from his home at liberaloasis.com. That's certainly no sin (read about my own lack of objectivity here), but it took me no time at all to contact the Libertarian Party and talk to party chair Nicholas Sarwark. The reality is, according to Sarwark, members of the Libertarian Party are not in agreement over whether to take the money, and it will have to be something hammered out if Johnson actually reaches the threshold. (Keep in mind this FEC fund Scher describes is made entirely from voluntary donations from taxpayers. The FEC notes in its guidelines "Money for public funding of presidential elections can come only from the Presidential Fund. If the Presidential Fund runs short of funds, no other general Treasury funds may be used.") "We would be delighted to have that conversation," Sarwark told Reason. "Right now we're just entirely focused on the election and having Johnson do as well as possible." In the event Johnson reaches the FEC vote threshold, Sarwark believes the most likely outcome will be that delegates to the Libertarian Party's 2018 national convention would need to hammer out a possible bylaw about whether a potential candidate should be permitted to accept the money. As a legal matter, Sarwark notes, it's the candidate who decides whether to take the money, not the party. So the bylaw would serve the purpose of attempting to bind a future candidate to the party's attitude toward whether to accept the grant. Another potential concern is that accepting the grant actually imposes a limit on fundraising by the candidate as part of matching these funds. While it might, at the moment, appear to be a boon for whoever comes after Johnson (it certainly was for Pat Buchanan following after Ross Perot with the Reform Party), if this Republican Party crack-up continues and more people see the Libertarian Party as an alternative, it actually might not be [...]