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The Perils and Potential of Republican Apostasy in the Age of Trump

There’s no doubt that pretty much every Republican in Congress goes home at night and complains at length to his or her spouse about something President Donald Trump said or did, and probably so do most of the people who work in the White House, but they rarely air their grievances in public. They’re afraid that Trump will “tweet” something nasty and give them a taunting nickname, and are sure that most of their party’s loyalists will consider them traitors to the cause.
There have been a few Republicans who have been willing to voice the occasional disagreement with Trump, mostly farm state politicians whose constituents have seen their profits diminished by Trump’s wars, along with a couple of others who were heading to retirement anyway, but so far only Michigan Rep. Justin Amash has been so bold as to say that Trump has committed impeachable offenses. Trump quickly responded via “Twitter” that Amash was a “total lightweight,” but it doesn’t seem to have intimidated the congressman, who wound up getting a standing ovation at his first public appearance in Michigan’s third district since he proclaimed his Republican apostasy.
The crowd at Amash’s “town hall” meeting in Grand Rapids on Tuesday obviously included a lot of Democrats, many of whom probably previously hated his staunch conservatism, but there were undoubtedly some Republicans who also stood up and applauded. One Republican woman in a red “Make America Great Again” ball cap berated Amash for his disloyalty to Trump, and when the audience started booing her Amash pleaded that she be treated with respect and allow her to ask a question, which eventually turned out to be why Amash had become a Democrat. He responded that his record on such traditional Republican principles as fiscal conservatism is far more impeccable than Trump’s, and even the Democrats in the audience cheered. There was another Republican woman with a t-shirt emblazoned by something we couldn’t read who asked a similar question about Amash’s views on impeachment, and he responded with a brief restatement of his lengthy and factual and logical reasons for thinking Trump has committed impeachable offenses. He then rightly noted that the rebuttals to his arguments, including those from his party’s leadership, have all been ad hominem fallacies
Grand Rapids is the hometown of the late and vastly underrated President Gerald Ford, who took office in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal and epitomized an old-fashioned sort of Republicanism that stressed fiscal conservatism and prudence in foreign policy and the character of an office-holder, and Amash strikes us as a perfect Representative for the district. He’s far more libertarian than Ford was, which we quite like, and we hope he’ll fare well in his next campaign. He’s already got a more Trump-loving primary challenger, who will surely win Trump’s endorsement, but if he somehow survives the challenge he’s a shoo-in for the general election, as Trump wouldn’t dare endorse the Democrat.
If he doesn’t win renomination, which is quite possible, it’s not necessarily the end of Amash’s political career. He’s not ruled out the possibility of challenging Trump as a Libertarian Party candidate in ’20, and he’s already raised his name recognition for any races that might happen in the inevitable post-Trump era of Republican politics, when some record of resistance will surely be helpful.
Republican critics of Amash insist he’s a publicity-seeking grandstander, and ironically they do so in defense of the unabashedly grandstanding and publicity-seeking Trump, but we figure his risky stand is better explained by principle than pragmatism. So far the lengthy and detailed and well-documented arguments he’s laid out for Trump’s impeachment have only been rebutted by ad hominem attacks and cries of apostasy, and there’s always hope that the better argument will ultimately prevail.
If Amash somehow survives Trump’s “tweets,” or finds himself better positioned outside the Republican party, it might even embolden a few other Republicans to tell the public what they’ve been telling their spouses about Trump.

— Bud Norman

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A Rocky Road to An Electoral Decision

Being unable to bring ourselves to cast a vote for either of this crazy election year’s awful major party presidential nominees, we’ve lately been looking into possible alternatives. It turns out this isn’t a binary choice after all, no matter how many times we’ve heard that tiresome phrase, as we seem to have a wide range of options.
Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson will be on the Kansas presidential ballot, and he merits some consideration. He served two successful terms as a tax-and-budget-cutting governor of New Mexico, is proposing the sort of free market economic policies that warm our heart, and we figure that the legalized marijuana he advocates will surely come in handy over the next four years no matter how the race turns out. There’s also his eerie resemblance to the late character actor Sterling Holloway, a childhood favorite of ours, and his humble and easy-going personality and self-deprecating sense of humor are especially appealing when compared to those awful major party nominees. On the other hand he has occasionally been glaringly uninformed on important issues, hews to the Libertarians’ let-the-world-go-to-hell foreign policy, and he’s not at all libertarian on matters of religious liberty, so we kept looking.
Also on the Kansas presidential ballot is Green Party nominee Jill Stein. She seems a nice enough woman, so far as we can tell, but c’mon, she’s the Green Party nominee, which we call the Watermelon Party, because it’s green on the outside but red on the inside, so the search continues.
There’s also a widely popular write-in option on the Kansas ballot, which allows for literally millions of constitutionally eligible candidates, some of whom are surely better than either of those awful major party presidential nominees. Kansas only reports the write-in votes for those candidates who have applied and paid a nominal fee for write-in eligibility, and there only 21 of those, but we still like our odds of finding someone more suitable than those awful major party nominees in even that small number.
Among them is Andrew Basagio, who is running on “a quest to lobby the US government to disclose its teleportation secret so that teleportation can be adopted on a global basis to help humanity achieve planetary sustainability in the 21st century,” according to the web site of his “Project Pegasus,” which promotes his theories about time travel and the “Mars cover-up.” We’re not clear on what sort of shenanigans on Mars are being covered up, or by whom, and it all sounds a bit far-fetched, but time travel is an appealing daydream and in this crazy election year we can’t completely dismiss anything. Another option is Michael “Lev” Levinson, who is running “4 President then World Peacemaker” on a very beatnik free verse poem of a platform. That strikes us as kind of kooky, too, but given the major party candidates of this crazy election year we’re grading kookiness on a curve.
Also eligible for write-in votes in Kansas are the nominees of some more established political parties. The Prohibition Party has offered a candidate in the state every four years since 1872, and this time around it’s James Hedges, whose two terms as the tax assessor for Thompson Township in Pennsylvania made him the first party member to hold elective office since 1959 and give him more government experience than one of the major party nominees, and he seems a very sober fellow. We like almost all of his platform, but we can’t get around that Prohibition plank they seem so intent on, as we figure that beer will also come in handy the next four years no matter how this race turns out. The Socialist Party has been around since 1901, and got a significant chunk of votes when the legendary Eugene Debs was running from a prison cell, and you’d think they’d be ripe for a comeback in a such a crazy election that self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was a Democratic contender and both major party nominees probably belong behind bars, but this time around they’re running someone named Gloria La Riva, whose standing in solidarity with that recent Indian uprising over something or another up in the Dakotas, and she doesn’t seem to have the old radical chic pizzazz, and she’ll likely be splitting votes with the Peace and Freedom Party’s Monica Moorehead, whose web site for some reason features a La Riva banner.
Once upon a happier time in America Donald Trump was vying for the nomination of the Reform Party, that bunch of crazies created by the original nutcase billionaire presidential candidate Ross Perot, and this remains of that effort give us the option of Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente, who also has the nomination of something called the American Delta Party. His website notes that the Reform Party’s “history and significance in America’s political history is well known,” the American Delta Party “is focused on bringing positive political change to our country,” and their candidate is “focused on exposing the corruption of our political system and restoring integrity to our Democracy,” and it’s hard to argue with any of that. De La Fuente isn’t the only “Rocky” in the race, though, as there is also a Rocky Giordano with write-in eligibility. He’s the nominee of the Independent American Party, a self described “God fearing, gun carrying” “Sinner saved by grace,” by far the most normal looking person ever to run for president of the United States, and so far as we can tell his call flat-out call for a flat tax is the only thing distinguishing his vague proposals from that awful Republican’s vague proposals.
The old-school sorts of conservatives can also choose either Darrell Castle, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War and happily married family man with a successful law practice who is the nominee of the Constitution Party, or Tom Hoefling of the anti-abortion and frankly old-fashioned America’s Party, neither of whom have anything worth ridiculing in their brief internet appearances. All we could find about candidate Lynn Kahn is that her “vision is an America that works for everyone with no one left out,” which sounds reasonable enough, and so far as we can tell American Solidarity Party nominee Mike Maturin is also favor of policies that benefit the people, so that’s worth considering. There’s something slightly fetching about that J.J. Vogel-Walcutt woman, a self-described “scientist, innovator, passionate American, proud parent, lover of bright red shoes,” who’s write-in eligible, too.
There’s scant information about most of the rest of them, except for a couple of inconspicuous Facebook pages one’s name turning up only a few hundred dollars worth of contributions in a Federal Elections Commission filing, and other names turning up nothing at all, but we were pleased to note that Evan McMullin is also on the list. The more assiduous news readers know him as the fellow who has an outside shot of winning Utah’s electoral votes and perhaps sending this crazy election year into further craziness, which has lately been getting him some very mainstream press attention. He was a longtime Central Intelligence Agency operative in some very dangerous spots, a successful employee of the Goldman-Sachs investment company, is by all accounts a straight-arrow type in his personal life and an old-school conservative in his public life, and he’s widely touted by what’s left of the respectable conservative press. We like almost all of his proposals, and his plain-spoken way of putting them, and are quite susceptible to his pitch of conservatism without any of the vitriol and scapegoating and demagoguery and downright bullying boorishness that have become associated with this cause in this crazy election year.
There are a few other names we’d rather write in, such as Nebraska’s stalwart Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, but they wouldn’t show up on that final tally, and in this crazy election year that makes some small difference to us. It’s nice to know that such a random selection of just 21 names turns up at least one that’s clearly superior to either of those two awful major party nominees, though, and in times like these we’ll settle for that.

— Bud Norman

Crazy Possibilities in a Crazy Year

By all reliable accounts this past weekend’s Libertarian Party convention was quite an unconventional affair, replete with the party’s chairman stripping down to his underwear at the podium and the eventual nominee being heavily invested in the more-or-less legal marijuana industry, but in this crazy election year none of that is at all beyond the pale. The hypothetical ticket of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld was already poling at 10 percent before it actually won the  Libertarian nod, and in this crazy election year nothing that happened at the crazy convention seems likely to budge that significant number.
At least the party chairman didn’t boast about what was hidden by his underwear, as the Republican party’s presumptive nominee has done on a nationally-televised debate stage, and whatever quibbles one might with have the nominee’s dealings in a business that is still technically illegal according to federal law if not in the states where he is operating, it seems a rather small point in the post-legal age his thoroughly corrupt Democratic opponent and her lawless “Choom Gang” successor have wrought. The presumptive Republican nominee has run casinos and strip joints that were until rather recently illegal and social proscribed in most sane jurisdictions and still strike us as pandering to worse vices than marijuana use, and the crimes credibly alleged against the presumptive Democratic nominee involve national security, so that ten percent of the public willing to vote for someone they’ve never heard of might well persist even after they find out who he is.
At this point there’s no telling how that might affect what is shaping up as a close election. The Libertarian Party’s radically laissez-faire economic policy is the exact opposite of stubborn Democratic challenger Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander’s self-described socialism, but we expect that Johnson’s pro-dope stance will lure some of them away from from the presumptive Democratic nominee, who is so quintessentially establishment in this crazy anti-establishment year that she’s a former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State, and was awful in every single post. The Libertarians’ insane isolationist foreign policy is at this point no more worrisome than what the major parties’ presumptive nominees are offering, and unlike either of the major party nominees they’re at least for free speech if you want to gripe about it. In this crazy anti-establishment year there are a lot of otherwise Republican voters who are just tired of being bossed around, though, and aren’t nclined to be told “you’re fired” and “shut up” by some proudly bossy reality show star, so the Libertarians should peel off a few Republican votes as well, and even if both members of the ticket are twice-elected governors they’re still so far outside the mainstream they’re a deadlier  blow to the hated-on-both-sides “establishment” than either major party ticket..
In this crazy year it’s hard to tell how it will shake out, as there are bound to be other twists and counter-twists in the plot. The brilliant but ever-hopefudl Bill Kristol of the essential Weekly Standard is still clinging to some faint  hope that a third or fourth or fifth party deus ex machina will provide some plausible alternative to what the established two-party system has vomited up, and at this point in this crazy year one can only hold out such hope.

— Bud Norman

Another Plot Twist in a Crazy Year

For those of us still clinging to some some faint hope that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States, a few stories that appeared in the press Wednesday provided some straws to grasp at.
A couple of them were about polls showing that a significant percentage of the population would be willing to consider a credible third party candidate, which is not surprising given that all the other polls show both of the two major parties’ presumptive nominees are distrusted and disliked by significant portions of their own parties and unprecedented majorities of the country. One poll in New Hampshire had Mitt Romney earning 21 percent of the vote, within shouting distance of Clinton’s 37 percent and Trump’s 33 percent, which is somewhat more surprising given that Romney isn’t even running. A national poll found 58 percent of the country dissatisfied with the major party choices, 55 percent hoping for another choice, and 65 percent of the country “somewhat,” “pretty,” or “very willing” to vote for that third candidate. An eye-popping 91 percent of the under-30 set want a third choice, and the pollsters conclude that a credible third-party candidate would start out with 21 percent of the entire vote.
At this this late date it would be difficult for an independent candidate to be on enough state ballots to affect the election, and the few minor but-oh-so-sincere parties that have been diligent and organized enough to maintain that access usually nominate people who have been so far outside the political mainstream they have never held public office, but another story suggests this crazy election cycle might yet provide another exception to the usual political rules. The Libertarian Party won’t choose a nominee until its convention later this month, but the heavy betting favorite is Gary Johnson, a former two-term and well-regarded governor of New Mexico, the odds went up further on Wednesday when it was announced that ,his running mate would be William Weld,  a former two-term and and well-regarded governor of Massachusetts, and if the party chooses this quite credible ticket it will be right there on the ballot in all 50 states.
It sounds crazy, to be sure, but as we grasp at such straws we can at least console ourselves that this has thus far been one crazy election cycle. This is a year when the Libertarian Party’s ticket seems likely to have a vastly more proven budget-balancing and government-restraining record than whatever the Republican ticket of a four-times-bankrupt-casino-and-strip-joint mogul and whatever he lackey he chooses as a running mate, and the Democratic nominee’s indefensible record as a First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State pretty much explains the national and bi-partisan “anti-establishment” mood that propelled the Republican to his nomination and could easily be exploited by a couple of former two-term governors running on a third-party ticket. The media might love this plot twist as much as they’ve loved all the presumptive Republican nominee’s surreality show, two or three capitalism-loving billionaires and a whole lot of disgruntled small donors and a small but diligent and well-organized and oh-so-sincere activists who have managed to keep their party on the ballot in all 50 states could provide a lot of further publicity and a plausible if improbable claim that to that hypothetical starting-out 21 percent of the vote.
At that point the craziest election cycle of our lifetimes, which includes the crazy three-way race of ’68, might get crazier yet.

–Bud Norman

Looking Back Longingly

Way back in our teenaged days we had a summer job collecting signatures to get the Libertarian Party on the ballot in Kansas and Missouri, and the pay was not bad by ’70s high school kid standards, the work was interesting, and we liked the cause. Now that we’re looking around for some presidential candidate to vote for other than the Republican nominee for the first time in our adult lives, and suddenly feeling nostalgic even for the ’70s, we’re giving the Libertarians another look.
After ten years of second-rate public education and all the social engineering and other governmental bullying we’d already endured, not to mention all the Watergate hearings we’d raptly watched and the recent footage of the evacuation helicopters lifting off from the embassy in Saigon and the impending election of Jimmy Carter, the Libertarian Party had great appeal to our youthfully rebellious selves. We were already reading Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek and trying to slog through Adam Smith’s more archaic prose, and we’d lived through wage-and-price controls under a Republican administration and could already see the coming “stagflation” and Misery Index that a Democratic administration would surely bring, so the party’s free market purism made perfect sense. The Libertarians were mostly an unchurched lot who didn’t want religion imposed on them, but we had no desire to impose our religious beliefs on anyone, and indeed one of the tenets of our religion was that it must be freely chosen to do anybody any good, and they were also passionate about religious freedom and not at all the types to impose their non-religious beliefs on anyone. They were passionate about all the essential God-given and Constitutionally-protected freedoms, as we were, and then as now neither of the major parties were reliably stalwart about them.
The Libertarians were admittedly radical, and of course that had some appeal to such surly young ’70s punks as ourselves. They wanted to do away not only with all that Great Society nonsense that kept getting us beat up through junior high, but also to get rid of all that New Deal nonsense our beloved grandparents had voted for and our beloved parents had accepted as ineradicable facts of life with their votes for Eisenhower, and it didn’t bother us a whit. We had no confidence at that point that the government would be able to keep its promises to those of us at the very tail end of the already obviously awful Baby Boom generation, and figured we could do better with noticeable sums the government was already taking out of our meager summer job paychecks. Our surly ’70s punk cynicism extended to those hippy dippy teachers we’d already encountered, who were as bullying a bunch as we’ve met in a lifetime full of bullies, and we figured that if the government would limit itself to arresting and trying and imprisoning rapists and robbers and such as well as keeping the Commies at bay and a very few other things necessary to promote the common welfare we could handle the rest, and we appreciated that they thought so as well.
Although the Libertarians were the very antithesis of communism they were averse to doing anything about it until those Cuban paratroopers from “Red Dawn” started falling from the sky, which was a problem for us even in our younger days. We were also already reading Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov and Havel and all the samizdat writers, and the vindicated-by-history Reader’s Digest and National Review, and for idiosyncratic reasons we hated communism and every other collectivist ideology that would crush the individual who stood in its way, and our by-then long experience of bullies informed us that more collectively strong response was required.
That same summer we worked for the Libertarian Party we were rooting for Ronald Reagan’s insurgency campaign against Republican President Jerry Ford, and we even drove up to Kansas City to hang around the convention center where it fell short. The defeat made the Libertarians all the more appealing, but when the determinedly anti-commie and as pure-as-you’re-gonna-get free market capitalist and traditional values guy who didn’t seem all that interested in imposing them on anyone Reagan did win the nomination and the presidency we found what seemed a natural home in the Republican party and remained there until Tuesday night.
The Democrats are even worse than in the ’70s, which is saying something, so of course we won’t be voting for any of those. The Republican candidate is the worst ever, though, and promises to leave all those entitlement programs untouched and boasts of his very impure crony version of capitalism and has publicly threatened to punish his press critics and has no values at all and is quite willing to impose them on anybody and is in general the worst sort of bully we’ve ever encountered, so we won’t be voting for him, either.
Which prompts our reconsideration of the Libertarians. So far as we can tell they’re still free-market purists, which still makes sense to us. Those entitlements that the major party candidates both claim they can still somehow save still don’t seem worth saving, and we note that the Medicare trustees have pin-pointed that program’s collapse to the very year we’ll turn 65, just as our surly and cynical ’70s punk selves predicted. We’re almost certain to have to fend for ourselves in our old age, but we’ll still appreciate that the Libertarians thought we could do so. These days the social issues are at the point where the conservative survivors of the culture wars are being rounded up and lined up against a firing squad, and so far as we can tell the Libertarians are still passionate about religious liberty and disinclined to impose their mostly unchurched values on some Christian baker or photographer who who doesn’t want to go along with the collective’s momentary notions of morality. We have no idea where the party stands on some creepy male individual’s right to hang around women’s locker rooms, but both major party nominees are cool with that, so how bad could they be?
There’s still that crazy isolationism, but at this point neither of the major parties seem any better. The Democrat is that woman who offered the “re-set” button to Russia’s revanchist dictator Vladimir Putin, the Republican has openly expressed his admiration for his fellow bully and his campaign manager and top foreign policy advisor are both business partners with the former KGB agent, and meanwhile he’s threatening all our North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners that they’ll have to agree to his really great deals or he’ll let the whole thing go, so how bad could even the Libertarians be?
They’re a friendly and fun lot, too, these Libertarians. We still fondly recall traveling to Kansas City with a couple of older party workers to gather signatures that memorable summer, where we pleased to learn that Paul McCartney was playing a concert that evening at the old Kemper Arena. The older fellows rightly figured that the crowds outside the event would be amenable to signing a petition to get the Libertarian Party on the ballot, and when we arrived we found three long lines that we each began to pester. Meeting up at the pre-determined spot we were proud to say that we’d garnered some 100 signatures, the older fellow boasted of 120 or so, and the oldest said that he’d only gotten 10 signatures but had scored scalped tickets for everyone and a bag of marijuana. The concert was most enjoyable, and although we didn’t accept their generous offers of a toke we must have gotten what the kids call a “contact high,” because we remember thinking that Linda McCartney sounded great. Two summers later our summer job was interning for Republican Sen. Bob Dole, and it was also a good time, and we got to hang out with two future governors of our state and a lot of other very bright people, including one fellow who was proudly a member of the Prohibition Party, which some still appears every years on the Kansas ballot, and which we’ll also investigate, but we still fondly recall our Libertarian days.
The party hasn’t settled on a nominee yet, but the odds are he will again be former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. With both of the major party nominees being widely despised, and Johnson being almost entirely unknown, we give him an outside shot. He’s also an outspoken advocate of legalizing marijuana, and if he gets any traction with the issue we expect both major party nominees will soon also be on board, and given the more likely outcomes of this election some legal weed might come in handy.

— Bud Norman