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Published: Thu, 27 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2017 04:20:00 -0400


Trump Ads Were More Policy-Focused, Less Negative Than Clinton's 2016 Election Ads, Find Wesleyan Researchers

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 06:30:00 -0500

Say what you will about Hillary Clinton, but at least she wasn't the candidate turning the 2016 election into a policy-light, personality-driven circus...right? Not so fast. Conventional wisdom may hold that Clinton ran the more serious and substantive campaign, but a new analysis out of Wesleyan University suggests otherwise, at least when it comes to campaign advertising. "Clinton's message was devoid of policy discussions in a way not seen in the previous four presidential contests," according to the Wesleyan Media Project, which analyzed election ads that ran between June 8, 2016, and election day. For the analysis, Wesleyan researchers coded Clinton and Trump ads—including those from their respective campaigns and ads from political action committies and allies—as being driven by policy, personality, or both. They found that more than half of Clinton's ads focused on Clinton's positive personal qualities or Trump's negative personal qualities rather than on policy matters, compared to a little over 10 percent of Trump's ads. Campaign advertising for Trump, meanwhile, was both more likely to focus on policy issues alone and to focus on a mix of policy and candidates' personal qualities, as you can see in the chart below.* The Wesleyan researchers also compared Clinton and Trump ads to those run in previous presidential election cycles, dating back to 2000. Clinton's personality-driven ads far outpaced those of either her Democratic or Republican predecessors in these past races. The candidate who comes nearest is Barack Obama in 2008, when around 15 percent of his ads lacked a policy message entirely (compared to around 10 percent of rival John McCain's ads). Throughout the period, Democratic campaigns were more likely to use personality-driven ads than were Republicans with the exception of the 2012 election, when Mitt Romney ran more personality-driven ads than did Obama. In general, the biggest proportion of campaign ads focused on policy messages. Check out more of the Wesleyan Media Project's analysis in the latest issue of The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics (open access through mid-April 2017). Interestingly, the 2016 election cycle saw less negative advertising than the last one, according to the paper. "For all of the vitriol in the 2016 presidential election (in rallies, the debates, on cable news programs), the tone of political advertising was actually less negative than it was in 2012," it states. "The 2016 election did, however, earn the distinction of the second most negative in the last decade and a half." Also notable: Nearly half of all Clinton campaign spots were negative, whereas more than half of Trump ads were "contrast spots, which discussed Clinton negatively but also provided information about Trump." Clinton's anti-Trump ads also emphasized her opponent's negative personal qualities rather than questionable policy positions, while "about 70 percent of ads from Trump and his allies that attacked Clinton contained at least some discussion of policy, and when there were contrasts drawn between the two candidates, those contrasts were almost all policy-based." * This post previously mistated the degree of difference and has been updated.[...]

A Walt Whitman Poem for Election 2016

Tue, 08 Nov 2016 17:15:00 -0500

Bitterly fought elections are actually not uncommon in American history. Consider the election of 1800 when Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied among Electors. In words that some might think could be applicable to a certain contemporary orange-haired presidential candidate, Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist, explained why he preferred Democratic Republican Jefferson: Mr. Jefferson, though too revolutionary in his notions, is yet a lover of liberty and will be desirous of something like orderly Government – Mr. Burr loves nothing but himself – thinks of nothing but his own aggrandizement – and will be content with nothing short of permanent power [struck: and] in his own hands – No compact, that he should make with any [struck: other] passion in his [struck: own] breast except [struck: his] Ambition, could be relied upon by himself – How then should we be able to rely upon any agreement with him? Mr. Jefferson, I suspect will not dare much Mr. Burr will [inserted in margin: dare every thing in the sanguine hope of effecting every thing –] ... In a choice of Evils let them take the least – Jefferson is in every view less dangerous than Burr. And perhaps even more apropos, there was the election of 1884, which the U.S. History website notes: The campaign was extremely bitter and focused on the candidates` shortcomings. [Democrat Grover] Cleveland, years earlier in Buffalo, had fathered an illegitimate child. He had taken full financial responsibility for his offspring and publicly acknowledged that he had made a mistake. Republican opponents, however, kept the matter in the public mind by chanting, "Ma, Ma, where`s my Pa? Gone to the White House. Ha, ha, ha." [Republican James] Blaine, on the other hand, was a good family man, but had apparently engaged in questionable investment schemes while on the public payroll. Much of the campaign furor revolved around the difference between private and public misdeeds. Democratic partisans used the refrain, "Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, the continental liar from the state of Maine! Similar sorts of taunts echo through Election 2016. In response to the distempers of that 19th century presidential contest, Walt Whitman penned "Election Day, November, 1884." Focus particularly on the last four lines. ELECTION DAY, NOVEMBER, 1884. If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show, 'Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado, Nor you, Yosemite—nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser- loops ascending to the skies, appearing and disappearing, Nor Oregon's white cones—nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes— nor Mississippi's stream: —This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name—the still small voice vibrating—America's choosing day, (The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadriennial choosing,) The stretch of North and South arous'd—sea-board and inland —Texas to Maine—the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California, The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and con- flict, The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict, Yet more than all Rome's wars of old, or modern Napoleon's:) the peaceful choice of all, Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross: —Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows: These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships, Swell'd Washington's, Jefferson's, Lincoln's sails.[...]

If Johnson Gets 5 Percent of the Vote, Would the Libertarian Party Take FEC Money?

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 14:20:00 -0400

If 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 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 in the party's interest to tie themselves down this way. There's a reason the Democrats and the Republicans don't avail themselves of this money anymore. Neither party has accepted any grants for the general election as yet, and the only primary candidate to accept matching funds was Martin O'Malley. Voluntary participation in[...]

The First Presidential Debate in 3 Minutes

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 08:45:00 -0400

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met for the first presidential debate last night at Hofstra University in New York. The major party candidates hoped to make their case to the record number of American voters expected to watch. Meanwhile, third party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, despite pulling a combined double digits in national polls, were locked out.

The lack of an alternative viewpoint to the Republican-Democrat status quo led to some familiar discussions. On security, Trump emphasized his support for bringing back and expanding New York City's defunct stop-and-frisk policy while Clinton focused on the need for more restrictions on gun ownership. Trump's failure to acknowledge that stop-and-frisk was both unconstitutional and ineffective in reducing crime was only matched by Clinton's failure to mention that gun violence is at historic lows despite soaring gun sales.

For libertarians in particular, the most egregious parts of the debate may not have been the disagreements, but the times when the candidates were aligned. They nodded in agreement when it came to opposing free trade accords, increasing spending and debt, and denying gun rights to people placed on government lists without due process.

Also, NBC's Lester Holt made a brief appearance as moderator.

Reason TV boiled down 90 minutes of agony to give you the three minutes that count. Watch the video above to see the candidates discuss these issues and more, along with some of the more egregious consultant-crafted zingers they delivered.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller and Justin Monticello. Music by Polyrhythmics.

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Norwegian Black Metal Artist Elected to Local Office Against His Will

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 13:05:00 -0400

(image) Elections by their nature bring out shameless self-promotion from politicians. From Hillary Clinton's constant touting of her own "historic" significance as a candidate to Donald Trump's egomaniacal ravings, many Americans could be forgiven for desiring more self-effacing office seekers.

So Norway may offer a ray of hope for humanity. In the small town of Kolbotn, just outside of Oslo, political neophyte and international black metal sensation Fenriz (founding member of the band Darkthrone)­ has been elected to the town council as an alternate representative—despite having run a campaign urging people not to vote for him.

In an interview with the music website CLRVYNT, Fenriz (birth name Gylve Nagell) explained that he reluctantly accepted an offer from Norway's Liberal Party to stand in the local election, despite having absolutely no interest in winning office. "Basically, they called and asked if I wanted to be on the list" of backup representatives, he told CLRVYNT. "I said yeah, thinking I would be like 18th on the list and I wouldn't really have to do anything."

Perhaps concerned that apathy and total lack of experience wouldn't be sufficient to thwart his chances, Fenriz then ran an outreach campaign consisting entirely of posters with him and his cat accompanied by a plea that people not support him.

Unfortunately for this founding father of Norwegian black metal, the plan backfired spectacularly. The residents of Kolbotn were apparently so taken with his self-denying attitude that they promptly voted him into office, much to Fenriz's chagrin. "I'm not too pleased about it. It's boring," he said. "There's not a lot of money in that, either, I can tell you!"

One potential fear is that his party affiliation could alienate his core musical constituency of rabid Darkthrone fans. Norway's underground metal scene has had a sordid history of virulent anti-Christianity, with some fans going so far as to actually burn down churches. Fenriz's Liberal Party, in contrast, advocates the more moderate position of peacefully abolishing the Church of Norway as the country's official religion.

Still, Fenriz's apathetic attitude toward government arguably makes him a natural fit for the Liberals, who want a smaller, less burdensome state. The party's website calls for a number of libertarianish policies from reducing regulation to abolishing Norway's inheritance tax.

Whatever comes of Fenriz's time in office, the level of popular support for someone who's this unenthusiastic about the prospects of wielding is cause enough for celebration.

Utah State Sen. Mark Madsen Switching Parties from Republican to Libertarian, Endorsing Gary Johnson for President

Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:17:00 -0400

At a press conference at 1:30 this afternoon in Salt Lake City, sitting state Sen. Mark Madsen, a Republican in Utah, will be announcing that he's switching his Party affiliation to Libertarian and endorsing Gary Johnson for president.


In an emailed press release announcing the planned press conference, Madsen is described as "a sitting two term state senator [Madsen actually in his third term, first elected in 2004] and former city council member from Eagle Mountain. His legislative record bears out his dedication to individual liberty. He has observed that the interests of bureaucratic agencies and the people rarely align. He believes in choice in health care and education. He is a champion of free trade and free market solutions."

At the press conference, the release says, Madsen will "discuss his experience at the GOP convention, his goals and priorities now, and his support for Libertarian nominees for president and Vice President, Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld."

More on this story as it develops.

Matt Welch reported earlier today on the defection of two sitting Republican state representatives from Montana, not to the Libertarian Party per se, but to endorsement of that Party's candidates, Gary Johnson and William Weld. They are "Daniel Zolnikov (R-Billings), a 29-year-old two-term state representative known for his civil libertarian work on surveillance and free speech" and "fellow State Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer (R-Mineral County)."

Welch with a complete list of known sitting legislators, Libertarian and Republican, publicly for Johnson/Weld. Madsen will now be the third sitting state legislator who switched Party affiliation in office to Libertarian, after Nevada's John Moore and Nebraska's Laura Ebke.

UPDATE: See this post for reporting on Madsen's press conference this afternoon.

Can Gary Johnson Be the New Ross Perot? The New Yorker Thinks So

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 21:10:00 -0400

For better or worse a thought leader of sorts for middle and even some highbrow American smartypants, the New Yorker (more or less the ur-source of why everyone you know hates the Koch Brothers) tells their readers this week that they should have some serious respect and regard for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson this year. Some highlights and summations from a piece by political journalist Ryan Lizza. He starts by laying out a best-case reason for hope for a strong showing with the same sort of linking Libertarian partisans have been doing this year: the unpopularity of Clinton and Trump has created an opportunity for Johnson to at least match Perot's impressive showing... For anti-Trump conservatives still searching for an alternative, Johnson may be the only option. On the left, anti-Clinton Democrats, including some determined supporters of Bernie Sanders, would prefer a candidate who is more socially liberal and noninterventionist than Clinton. Johnson's own explanation as to what's so bad about Clinton and Trump: "Hillary has to go out and she has to appeal to this 'everything's free, government can accomplish anything, what can you give us' constituency. She's doling it out as fast as she can. Trump is appealing to this anti-abortion, anti-immigration, 'bomb the hell out of them, lock them up, throw away the key' constituency." Reporter Lizza finds Johnson "charming and more transparent than most politicians—sometimes to a fault" with "a knack for putting a happy face on the rougher edges of libertarianism." He quotes Johnson crediting a lifelong vision of himself as a libertarian to a book (whose name he can't recall) he read when he was 18 "about what it means to be a libertarian." (The book specifically called What it Means to be a Libertarian, by Charles Murray, didn't come out until Johnson was already governor of New Mexico in 1996, so it can't be that.) He gets Johnson (part of the charming transparency Lizza eludes to) to say (perhaps jokingly) that he could illegally hook up Lizza with a marijuana product the company Johnson was CEO of between his Libertarian presidential runs, Cannabis Sativa, wants to sell. Lizza shows a Libertarian ticket happy to hype each other, with vice presidential candidate William Weld, former governor of Massachusetts through much of the 1990s, saying of Johnson that: "I thought he was just so cool that he would do these giant slaloms after doing an Iron Man triathlon and ski five hundred feet in the air and then land in a pail of water," Weld told me. "I mean, he is a serious daredevil." Lizza follows with a decent discussion of how and why third parties have been significant in the past, including Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, Strom Thurmond in 1948, and Ross Perot in 1992, a discussion that alas casts doubts on the idea that the L.P. will shake the world too much this year: what is the distinct issue that the Libertarians can expect to bring out giant percentages of the vote in 2016, analogous to Perot and the deficit, Thurmond and segregation, and Roosevelt and the progressive reform agenda? As Lizza sums up Johnson's agenda: Johnson wants to raise the retirement age for Social Security and to limit Social Security benefits for the wealthy. He wants to get rid of the I.R.S. and replace most of the tax code with a single consumption tax. He wants to abolish the death penalty, expand vouchers for private school, and drastically pull back the American military from its commitments around the world. "The unintended consequence of when you put boots on the ground, when you drop bombs, when you fly drones and kill thousands of innocent people—this is resulting in a world less safe, not more safe," he told the crowd. Sensible, and one could find issue polls that show support for those elements of his message, from social security to military commitments. But they don't seem to be the issues driving t[...]

Gary Johnson/William Weld: Can They Win Over Disaffected Republicans, Even in Weld's Home State?

Tue, 05 Jul 2016 19:11:00 -0400

Part of the theory behind why nominating two former Republican governors for the Libertarian Party presidential ticket was such a no-brainer idea for 2016 was that the Republican Party, theoretic home of a lot of American desire to see a small, affordable, Constitutional government, was about to nominate a maniac who many GOP faithful could not in good conscience support. The Boston Globe, from the land of L.P. vice presidential pick and former two-term Massachusetts Republican Gov. William Weld, does some reporting today trying to find some truth to that, and finds one former Weld chief of staff and a former state GOP chairwoman willing to go on the record as very glad to have an alternative to voting Donald Trump they can get behind. Then it deflates the presumption by mentioning that Weld's "political protege" and current Gov. Charlie Baker has not said he'd vote Johnson/Weld, and in fact says he'll be joining the likely near-majority not voting at all in November for president. And while the campaign has not yet provided specifics publicly, they told the Globe that Weld's promised fundraising prowess was, according to the Globe, going well. Then there was this sad quote, which might well represent many more voters than the quoted: "I think half the country has problems with either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, so a third-party alternative has appeal to them and to me," said Rob Gray, a Republican consultant who once worked for Weld. But he won't be voting for Weld. He doesn't want to waste his vote and fears that Johnson could serve as a spoiler who helps get Clinton elected. "I love the guy," he said of Weld. "But ultimately you have to make your choice between the two candidates who have a chance to win." Actually, collective choices about who to vote for defines who has a chance to win, and the winner would have won whether you vote for them or not. But those truths are hard to sell to American voters. In another bit of the surprisingly continual major media attention the L.P. ticket continues to earn, The Washington Post this morning gave a semi-comprehensive look at Johnson's issue stances for its readers, after noting two unusual things about Johnson as a Libertarian: his surprisingly high polling so far, and his willingness to shift away from a libertarian hardcore in some of his stances. Author Max Ehrenfreund highlights Johnson's belief in regulation over tort law as a solution to some environmental harms (though the article later points out Johnson is not currently supporting any specific federal action targeting global warming), and his willingness to use executive authority for some goals. That latter point is not necessarily a libertarian sin if the goal is to restrict government size and scope, though a respect for the constitutional structure of distinct executive and legislative powers is often called upon by the libertarian and libertarian-leaning, generally as a means of making sure one or the other does not overstep its bounds in a non-libertarian direction. The rest of the article does a decent job summing him up on the budget, taxation, abortion, criminal justice, and immigration, though foreign policy is ignored entirely here by the Post.[...]

Gary Johnson: America Gets to Know the Libertarian Candidate's Policy, and Family

Tue, 07 Jun 2016 19:15:00 -0400

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson's media campaign continues, as he fights to get himself so well known and discussed in political media that the polls can no longer justify ignoring him. (And getting into the polls, and getting at least 15 percent in five of them as chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates, will be key to getting into the debates, what Johnson often calls the "Super Bowl of politics.") Two big interviews this week in political-junkie journals The Hill and Politico highlight different parts of Johnson; the first more the radical policies, the second more the history of the man. In The Hill, Johnson discussed big elements of the federal government he intends to chop, from the National Security Agency to the Internal Revenue Service: "The NSA is a complete executive order as it is under [President Harry] Truman," Johnson said. "We could turn those satellites on what is supposed to be the enemy. The fact that they're pointed on us right now, doesn't that cause everyone a bit of concern? It should. Look, there's due process for spying, but due process is not blanket collection of all of our data.".... Johnson also said he would eliminate the IRS and lower taxes. "If I could wave a magic wand, we would eliminate income tax; we would eliminate corporate tax; we would abolish the IRS; and we could replace all of it with one federal consumption tax," Johnson said. "If we had zero corporate tax in this country, tens of millions of jobs would get created in this country for no other reason," he added. Johnson also suggested he would eliminate numerous other federal agencies — including the Department of Commerce, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Department of Education — if presented with legislation to do so. In a long interview with Politico, he got into great detail about his parents and his siblings (after the usual great, great, perhaps too great, emphasis on Johnson as the presidential candidate who is honest and direct about his appreciation for marijuana).  He praised his mother for, according to Johnson, being responsible for balancing the books for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. His father was in the 101st Airborne Division in World War II: He paratrooped into Normandy before D-Day....--you know, the Band of Brothers?...That was my father....Saving Private Ryan. That was the 101st. I mean, my father got bayoneted in the back at the Battle of the Bulge....He went through all of it. He was Band of Brothers. That was the story of the 101st, all the way through the war. His brother Scott is "the best cardiothoracic surgeon in the world, and I know that for a fact because he tells me that all the time....the head of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Texas at San Antonio, a big, big medical center." His sister is a retired schoolteacher. Johnson suggests in this interview (after much discussion of Trump's offensive foolishness on immigration) he might not have signed NAFTA, being for more pure free trade than the crony capitalism often embedded in international trade deals. He agreed with getting Osama Bin Laden, and suggests that should have been the core goal post 9/11 as opposed to starting more than one multi-year war.  Johnson also said one of the things that makes some libertarians doubt whether he instinctively goes for the no-government-action, leave-it-alone answer to policy questions, suggesting (after aptly pointing out that government intervention in the student loan market likely bears a great deal of responsibility for how expensive college is): I would really take a hard look at how students might, I don't know, receive some sort of benefit or reduced interest rate. I mean, if we can--if the Federal Reserve can bail out all the big banks, it seems to me that we might arrange lower interest rates for these loa[...]

Can David French (Or Anyone Else) Get on the Ballot for President this Year?

Wed, 01 Jun 2016 16:05:00 -0400

The notion of a new independent presidential candidate is in the news again with the trial balloon floated of running conservative commentator David French for president. I wrote back in January about the difficulties that Michael Bloomberg, rumored at the time to be thinking about it, would face in launching such an independent presidential bid. Again relying on information gathered in a paper-only copy  (it is online as well) of the indispensable Ballot Access News, edited by Richard Winger (who I would say had forgotten more than you'll ever know about third parties and ballot access except I have no evidence he's forgotten much), a list of states whose ballot access paperwork deadlines are earlier than two months from now. (Aug. 1 or later). Following each state name in parentheses is the number of signatures required to get on the ballot. Collecting them, in accordance to generally varying state requirements, can be complicated and expensive, but it is a problem that money and organization can solve. Deadine already past: Texas Deadlines in June: Illinois (25,000), Indiana (26,700), New Mexico (15,388), North Carolina (89,366) Deadlines in July: Delaware (6,500), Florida (119,316), Georgia (49,336), Michigan (30,000), Missouri (10,000), Nevada (5,431), Oklahoma (40,047), South Carolina (10,000), Washington (1,000) Of the August 1 or later deadline states, only seven of them (Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania) require over 10,000 signatures. I have not yet done all the math about electoral college votes involving the states least likely to make the cut by legal signature deadlines, and there could be and likely are local complications that make things not as clear-cut as the above might indicate, but those are the official facts as complied by Winger. I have heard rumor-y rumblings that Kristol and his team, if indeed there is a team, blithely assume that they can also sue their way through any existing timing barriers with ballot access laws even if they run afoul of them. This isn't a crazy dream, I am told by Winger in an email interview today. Some of his historical observations: • "Five states have had June petition deadlines held to be too early: Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, South Dakota, Kansas.  The lower courts were following Anderson v Celebrezze, which outlawed early petition deadlines for independent presidential candidates." •  "Robert La Follette didn't decide until July 4, 1924, to run as a progressive independent, and he got on in 47 of the 48 states, and the one he missed, Louisiana, was not a deadline problem."  • "Strom Thurmond in 1948 didn't decide to run until mid-July, and he got on in all the southern states, the only ones he cared about." • "In the early years of government-printed ballots in the US, the typical state deadline was October." • "The Libertarian Party wins about half its constitutional ballot access lawsuits....Minor parties and independent candidates have won 55 lawsuits against early deadlines, including in California a few years ago.  The old January deadline for a new party to get on the ballot is now July." What defines whether a ballot access challenge wins or loses? Winger writes that: The biggest and most important variable is which judge we get.  Some judges are instinctively sympathetic to underdogs and believe in the ideals of the founders.  Other judges are not. It is sad but very, very true.  We can have a weak case and get a good judge and we win.  We can have an overwhelmingly strong case and get a bad judge and we lose. Recently, a US District Court Judge in Arkansas refused to enjoin a new law that says a non-presidential independent must submit his or her petition in November of the year before the el[...]

Is Bernie Sanders Really Going "Scorched Earth" on Hillary Clinton or Is She Just a Terrible Candidate?

Thu, 26 May 2016 14:18:00 -0400

The conventional wisdom among staunch Democrats and much of the elite liberal commentariat is that the once-lovable insurgent campaign run by Vermont's most famous democratic socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders, is well past its sell-by date, and that it's time for him to embrace "party unity" and convince his supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton.  The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson says he "shares much of Sanders’ political philosophy" but that by keeping his word to his supporters that he will stay in the race until the nomination is clinched by someone (which means until the Democratic National Convention in July, because superdelegates don't cast their votes until then), Sanders is playing a "dangerous game." Like Robinson, Slate's Jamelle Bouie describes Sanders' bucking of the establishment as a "scorched earth" endeavor. Also in the Post, Dana Milbank compares Sanders to that all-time Democratic boogeyman who had the audacity to challenge the two-party system: Ralph Nader. The anxiety of mainstream Democrats will surely be exacerbated by Sanders' full-court press in California, where he continues to draw huge crowds, and where a primary victory for Sanders still wouldn't put him in reach of the nomination but would provide all the argument he needs to continue his efforts to radically transform the Democratic Party. A recent article in the New York Times suggests that Sanders' "newly resolute attitude" is "the cumulative result of months of anger at the national Democratic Party over a debate schedule that his campaign said favored Mrs. Clinton; a fund-raising arrangement between the party and the Clinton campaign; the appointment of fierce Clinton partisans as leaders of important convention committees," among other things. Sanders' deliberately outside-the-party-mainstream campaign intends to wring every last drop of legitimacy it can squeeze out of the primary process. Which is why in Kentucky the secretary of state agreed to his campaign's request for a recanvass of all the voting machines and absentee ballots in the state. In the best case scenario for Sanders, all this effort will net him is a single additional pledged delegate.  It's no secret that Sanders, his staff, and many of his supporters feel no sense of loyalty to a party he is only nominally (maybe?) a part of. Unsurprisingly, this makes party loyalists both angry and uncomfortable, because they need Sanders' legion of voters to stay within the party's tent and turn out on Election Day in November. But what really makes Democrats nervous is that Sanders has revealed something they don't want to admit: Hillary Clinton is bad at political campaigning.  This is the fourth political campaign Clinton has run, but only the second time she's faced a challenger backed by a significant constituency. In 2000, she ran for Senate against Rep. Rick Lazio, who had to scramble his bid together rather late in the process after then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani aborted his prospective run due to prostate cancer. Former Yonkers Mayor John Spencer was the sacrificial lamb thrown to the wolves by the state Republican Party in 2006, when he lost to Clinton by 36 percentage points. And we all know how Clinton's "inevitable" run for the presidential nomination went in 2008. But at least in 2008 defeated Clinton supporters could comfort themselves in the knowledge that they lost to Barack Obama — a young, handsome, gifted orator with the chance to make history as the first African-American president. This time around, the fact that their candidate has had to vigorously compete with a gruff and unkempt protest politician — one with no record of success getting legislation passed, a history of praising communist dictators, and a disquieting lack[...]

Johnson/Weld: The Libertarian Key to Republicans' Hearts? Johnson Already Polling 10 Percent from Fox News

Thu, 19 May 2016 17:35:00 -0400

William Weld, a former Reagan administration Justice Department official (bonus points for having resigned in protest in 1988 over Edwin Meese's behavior) and two-term governor of Massachusetts (he resigned from that in 1997 before his second term ended, seeking to be named Clinton's ambassador to Mexico, which did not happen thanks to opposition from Jesse Helms) is seeking the Libertarian Party's vice presidential nomination in alliance with another two-term GOP governor from the west, New Mexico's Gary Johnson. This Weld news is making some from the libertarian world outside the L.P.'s orbit happy. Cato Institute executive vice president David Boaz said in an email regarding the news that "across a range of issues, economic, social, civil liberties, I'd say Weld was the most libertarian governor in memory, except for Johnson...I think this is a huge coup for Johnson and the LP." Posts here at Reason by me and Jesse Walker take a more critical look at Weld's libertarian bonafides. There's a good chance the thinking behind the Weld pick had nothing to do with Libertarians or libertarianism. (Do note that the assembled 1,000 or so delegates expected at the L.P.'s national convention over Memorial Day weekend have to pick, by bare majority, both their presidential choice and then separately their vice president, so Johnson-Weld is not a done deal.) Likely it has more to do with crafting an unassailable "serious" ticket that both national media and voters (and donors!) can't reject for being organically incapable of governing, even if the specific names of Johnson and Weld don't mean too much. (My own cynical suspicion is that merely being a third party, not to mention being libertarian, might be sufficient for vast swaths of media and voters to discount the L.P. despite the pedigree of its nominees.) Even prior to the Weld news breaking, a new Fox News poll from a survey conducted from May 14-17 shows Johnson getting 10 percent, with Trump getting 42 and Clinton 39. A column today by Philip Bump in the Washington Post presents a close to best-case scenario for what a Johnson-Weld ticket might win for the L.P. Bump's thoughts appear under the headline "Did The Libertarian Party Just Stumble Upon a Viable Stop-Trump Ticket?" Bump has a complicated and to my mind not terribly likely scenario to lay out, but the fact that such a story is appearing pre-nomination in the Washington Post at all is more significant than the specifics of Bump's analysis.  But to sum up that analysis: But the [Johnson-Weld] ticket also accomplishes another goal of the third-party effort: It could shift the vote in some states that otherwise might be easy wins for Hillary Clinton....... If Johnson and Weld capture their home states (an "if" that should be in 89-point type, as we'll explain in a second), and if Trump manages to capture, say, Florida and Pennsylvania or Ohio, suddenly we end with no one having a majority -- and we're off to the House. The last time a non-major-party candidate won a state was in 1968, when George Wallace captured most of the Deep South.... So could a Johnson-Weld ticket snag some states? Well... Bump then goes on to, unintentionally, lay out exactly how unimpressive a public political figure William Weld in 2016 should reasonably be expected to be: Weld served as the governor of Massachusetts for six years, resigning in 1997 when Bill Clinton nominated him to be ambassador to Mexico. (The Senate rejected his nomination.) He moved to New York, his home state, where he ran for governor in 2006, losing the nomination to John Faso (who himself lost the race in a landslide). On the bright side for the Libertarians, though, says Bump: What Weld brings to the equation, then, is something of a base in the [...]

Libertarian Party: Can It Take the Ball and Run?

Fri, 13 May 2016 20:19:00 -0400

I've been keeping my eye on the L.P. since an Ed Clark TV ad in 1980 scared me (straight!) when I was 12 years old, and am reasonably certain that the amount and nature of press attention to the Libertarian Party in these weeks leading up to its presidential nominating convention in Orlando over Memorial Day weekend is unprecedented, and unprecedentedly willing to consider the possibilities the Party offers an America suffering from Clinton and Trump. Who is to thank? Doubtless decades of efforts of libertarian journalists and polemicists, cough cough. But also, thank the most nightmarish pair of "real candidates" America has offered since the last time, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I am as willing as the next libertarian to entertain counter-intuitive takes proposing that Clinton and Trump on some deep level aren't really any more awful than any given candidate ever since the Articles of Confederation were overridden, but the vibe is different now, and Clinton and Trump surely represent to the people who hate them (which is most of us for one reason or another) an apotheosis of what is so awful about their respective parties that is making many people notice that the "system" is failing us, big time. So, here come the Libertarians and here comes the chatter about the Libertarians. A survey of some of the latest: • Ex-Reasoner David Weigel at the Washington Post finds incumbent would-be L.P. nominee Gary Johnson a little shocked at how aggravating and nasty the fight to reclaim his throne has been: “It’s the most negative race of my career, by far,” Johnson told Weigel. Here's what Weigel got out of Johnson's most prominent competitors, antivirus maven and international man of mystery John McAfee, and "freedom ninja" Austin Petersen: “I like Gary Johnson as a person,” said McAfee in a phone interview from his well-guarded Tennessee home. “I do not see how his lackluster personality can help the Libertarian Party any more than it already has.” “Governor Johnson gets most of his money from special interests and the marijuana industry,” said Petersen, as he drove to western Pennsylvania for a fundraiser. “I’m trying to create a grown-up movement.” McAfee added later that Libertarians are foolish to go for the apparent value of "experienced executive" that Johnson has going for him, believing Trump is living proof that a "successful politician" is not what the American people seem to want right now. Petersen credits himself for being the "architect" of the rise of Judge Andrew Napolitano, on whose Fox Business News show Freedom Watch Petersen was a producer. Johnson in Weigel's story still clearly believes his experience, both within the L.P. and without it, make him the only sane choice compared to the volatile and controversial McAfee and the relatively untried Petersen. Passing him up might, as Weigel sums up, cost the Party its greatest chance at real political relevance in this most significant of years for political outsiders. • Marc Ambinder at The Week worries on the Libertarians' behalf that they have already blown it, for a confusing and rambling set of reasons. He starts making uneducated assumptions about alleged billionaires ready to fund the L.P., predictions that, before they even have a candidate, voters are not convinced to "give the party a second look." He makes an ironically self-reflective point about how "The media has begun to write its cursory stories, which only serves to convince libertarians that the fix is in: As long as you've checked the "we did cover the libertarians, once!" box, you can go back to the click-bait and ratings vehicle that is Donald J. Trump." Ambinder then assumes, based on nothing other than Johnson's pers[...]

Eccentric Tech Billionaire Peter Thiel Makes Strangest Move Yet: Becoming Trump Delegate

Tue, 10 May 2016 18:23:00 -0400

California's secretary of state office recently released an official list of pledged delegates for the state Republican Party. Many were surprised to find on it the name of original PayPal investor and tech billionaire Peter Thiel, whose apparent outing as a Trump supporter has been raising eyebrows and hackles. Thiel, whose politics mostly seemed to be anti-politics in the past to the extent he's described them at length, fecklessly threw a couple of million at an underperforming Ron Paul-supporting SuperPAC called Endorse Liberty in 2012. But Thiel also helped launch the libertarian-tinged Seasteading Institute (which seeks to create new lands free of existing governments rules on the high seas, the ultimate anti-politics cause), and created controversy in an essay for the Cato Institute's web site in 2009 in which he seemed to lament the political effects of giving the franchise to women and in general suggested that a healthy free economy and democracy might not be the best bedfellows. Thiel has not yet commented publicly on supporting Trump, though he did diss him somewhat to Daily Caller back in 2014, saying that Trump was "sort of symptomatic of everything that is wrong with New York City.” He also gave $2 million to a Carly Fiorina SuperPAC this cycle, Wired reports. In other news from the Trump delegate list, it initially included the name of white supremacist William Johnson, which also created huge controversy. The Trump campaign is now claiming that he's not really a Trump delegate and that was a database error; they meant to remove his name back in February, likely as a result of the controversy that arose over a set of Iowa robocalls Johnson's American National SuperPAC paid for supporting Trump on explicit white nationalist grounds. Daily Beast reports Trump did return a direct $250 donation from Johnson after the controversy broke. Before Trump backpedaled, Mother Jones wrote a long, detailed, and entertaining profile on Johnson and his love of Trump. (Johnson, like Thiel, also had a Ron Paul past. He was a Ron Paul donor, and back in 2008 even hosted a fundraiser for Paul and ran a Los Angeles based Meetup online group in Paul's support, and ran for an L.A. Superior Court judgship. I recall at the time other SoCal Paulites professed to not being familiar with his white nationalist beliefs, which are detailed in the above Mother Jones profile.)[...]

Gary Johnson on CNN: "On the Social Side of Bernie, I Get It"

Tue, 10 May 2016 16:16:00 -0400

Libertarian Party (L.P.) presidential hopeful Gary Johnson (the former Republican governor of New Mexico, who brought the L.P. its highest-ever vote totals in 2012 with 1.27 million) wants Bernie Sanders fans to know, hey, if they don't have their guy to vote for in November, take a close look at him.


In a CNN website write-up of a Johnson interview with CNN"s Chris Cuomo today, the candidate said of Sanders:

"When it comes to economics, we come to a 'T' in the road," Johnson said. "But on the social side of Bernie, I get it."

Johnson said that according to the nonpartisan online political quiz 'iSideWith,' the candidate he most aligns with is Sanders.

Acknowledging his mutual appeal with Sanders to disaffected, socially liberal voters, Johnson called Sanders' social values "very libertarian."

Johnson called the Democrats' likely winner Hillary Clinton the "ultimate technocrat." He also slammed Donald Trump for "saying some things that I just think are ridiculous and would disqualify any other candidate" and leaned on his record as a border state Republican governor to say Trump's immigration fearmongering and wall-building dreams are "crazy."

Johnson stressed, as he does often, that being involved in the national presidential debates after all the parties have chosen their nominees is vital to the L.P. candidate doing well. And given the Commission on Presidential Debates rules—which Johnson is challenging now in an unresolved lawsuit—that requires getting over 15 percent in multiple polls.

So far, he's only appeared in two national polls I know of, Monmouth in March, which gave him 11 percent, and a Public Policy Polling one this week in which he gets 4 percent.

The CNN news clip linked above containing the writeup of his Cuomo interview, strangely, contains video of a completely separate Johnson CNN interview, this one with Michael Smerconish, in which Johnson is a little slow on the uptake to sum up the Libertarian platform (but then does get out the ol' socially liberal, fiscally conservative, all about individual freedom and liberty with a recognition that most of our foreign interventions cause unwanted unintended consequences).

"I gotta get in the polls," he says to Smerconish, and he does. He ends with a near-desperate sounding plea on that point.

Smerconish interviewed a bigwig at Quinnipiac polling and completely failed to get him to answer whether his poll would ever consider including Johnson, in a quite evasive way. (Hat tip to Sebastien Fauste for sending me the link in the previous sentence to Smerconish's interview with Quinnipiac's Peter Brown.)