The third party alternative

May 25, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Campaign 2016 - President, Maryland Politics, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on The third party alternative 

For decades, millions of Americans have complained that their Presidential choices consist of someone more evil against someone slightly less evil. Since we don’t have compulsory voting, those people have taken the option to skip voting altogether, with Presidential election turnout in 2012 estimated at 57.5%. Put another way, “none of the above” trounced both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama as they each only picked up around 29% of the registered voters.

But the fact that neither Democrats nor Republicans seem to be completely pleased with their presumptive nominees has brought out those who believe the Libertarian Party is best poised to make a little bit of inroads among the voting population. This seems to happen every cycle, but by the time the votes are cast the Libertarians are usually stuck with between 1/2 and 1 percent of the vote, By comparison, independent efforts from Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 garnered a vastly larger percentage of the vote, and those of us who are a certain age recall liberal Republican John Anderson and his 1980 Presidential bid, which got 6.6% of the vote against incumbent Jimmy Carter and eventual winner Ronald Reagan. (Perot received 18.9% in 1992 and 8.4% in 1996, both times denying Bill Clinton a majority of the vote.)

Of course, with the unpopularity of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who both have significant shares of voters on the principled edges of their respective parties declaring their intentions to not vote for the nominee, there is the luster of an independent run by a conservative like Ted Cruz or a socialist like Bernie Sanders. The idea falls apart, though, thanks to early ballot access deadlines in several states and “sore loser” laws preventing defeated Democrats or Republicans from going back on the ballot a second time in a particular cycle for the same office.

So here in Maryland there are only four party lines: Republican, Democrat, Green Party, or Libertarian. Each has a place on the ballot, and since I’m nowhere near caring who runs for the Green Party my focus for this is on the Libertarian ticket, where their nominating convention will be held in Orlando this weekend. Their field of 18 recognized candidates actually exceeds the original GOP field, but for all intents and purposes the balloting is going to come down to three: Gary Johnson, John McAfee, or Austin Petersen.

Johnson has the highest profile, but I suspect the purists of the LP are a little leery of him because he ran and governed as a member of the Republican Party. He originally sought the GOP nomination in 2012, but left early on to pursue and secure the Libertarian nod, getting the LP past the million-vote barrier in a Presidential election for the first time. He’s already selected former Massachusetts Governor William Weld as his running mate, making it a ticket of two former governors.

John McAfee is the guy whose name is synonymous with computer software, and in some respects is the Trump of the Libertarian field. He seems quite brash to me and of the three I would give him the least chance of winning. But it’s a convention and anything can happen.

There are a number of conservatives openly rooting for Petersen to win (Erick Erickson is the latest) for various reasons, not the least of which is a platform which is rather tolerable to those Republicans disgruntled with Trump. (One example: “Encourage a culture of life, and adoption, and educate Americans about the ‘consistent pro-life ethic,’ which also means abolishing the death penalty.”) I could get behind the pro-life portion, although I differ with Petersen on the death penalty believing there are circumstances where one forfeits his right to life by committing heinous deeds. Another more in a mainstream libertarian vein (that I can agree with): “Allow young people to opt out of Social Security.” I give Petersen the outside chance of winning, but I suspect there’s just enough support for Johnson/Weld to give them the nod.

Regardless of who wins, though, the pattern will probably work this way: over the summer the LP will poll in the high single-digits and may crack 10% nationally in some polls. But sometime around October these campaigns reach a point where voters decide they really want to back the winner, not some guy polling 10 percent. They’ll forswear their allegiance to the LP for the chance to say, yes, I backed Trump or Clinton in the election. Or in a lot of cases they’ll just say, “screw it, I’m staying home because my guy has zero chance.” Given that the support for the LP seems to be coming more from the Republican side right now, that attitude could lose the Senate for the GOP.

So on Tuesday we will know just who the LP nominee is, and the #NeverTrump group will have to decide if he (or, the slight possibility of she) is worth losing party privilege over.

A heart-to-heart talk with the electorate

January 12, 2012 · Posted in Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012 - President, National politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on A heart-to-heart talk with the electorate 

Back when we began this process a year or so ago, here’s how I would have preferred to see the political landscape after the 2012 election, in order of best-case scenario to worst-case:

  1. A strong conservative President (in my case, the initial choice was Herman Cain) is elected and has enough coattails to increase the GOP advantage in the House and win 13 additional seats in the Senate (a 60-seat majority.)
  2. Same as #1, but with a simple GOP Senate majority.
  3. The Republicans take the House and Senate, but with a more moderate GOP standardbearer like Mitt Romney.
  4. A moderate Republican like Romney wins the presidency, but doesn’t pull enough Senate seats to place it in Republican control.
  5. The status quo from 2010-12 remains: House is Republican, Democrats keep the Senate, and Barack Obama is re-elected.
  6. Somehow the Democrats regain the House, keep the Senate, and Barack Obama is re-elected – a repeat of the situation from 2008-10.

Well, unless we have a candidate who comes from a brokered convention or someone like Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, or Rick Santorum pleasantly surprises me – or Ron Paul allows someone sane like John Bolton to enact our foreign policy – it looks like I’m down to my third-choice scenario at best.

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Well, there goes my vote…

I haven’t updated my sidebar poll to reflect this, but last night Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana announced he would sit out the 2012 Presidential race. In a letter to supporters (and reposted at the Indianapolis Star website) Pence announced:

In the choice between seeking national office and serving Indiana in some capacity, we choose Indiana. We will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

The “we” he is apparently referring to is his wife and family, but the decision by Pence will certainly dampen the spirits of at least a few people who were backing him on various Facebook groups and other conservative activists.

But in the long run, the decision makes sense. In our nation’s history, only three men have ran as a major candidate for President as a sitting member in the House, and just one succeeded (President James A. Garfield in 1880.) The last was Rep. John Anderson of Illinois in 1980, and he drew single-digit support as a breakaway Republican in President Reagan’s win. (By the way, Anderson ran as a centrist so you can see how well squishy moderates do against conservatives.) Aside from Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, who had both ran for President on previous occasions, neither of the other 2008 candidates who ran as House members (Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo) lasted long in the process.

On the other hand, running from a Governor’s seat has launched the national political career of four of our last six Presidents – Barack Obama and George H.W. Bush are exceptions. Since Pence is only 51, he has plenty of time to learn to govern on an executive level and could benefit from his predecessor (and current Indiana governor) Mitch Daniels.

So it’s not a complete surprise that Pence sits this one out, although I’m disappointed that my vote in the poll (yes, I’m the lone Pence vote at the moment) is thrown away. But the field for the 2012 Republican nomination needs to begin to form and who’s taking a pass is just as important as who decides to jump in.

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