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Vive La France, Or What’s Left of It

The big news on Sunday was from France, of all places, where what’s left of the global establishment prevailed in a presidential election over the rising global anti-globalist populist movement. No one in France expects the election will herald a glorious new age in that long-declining country, given that it was a choice between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, but the rest of the world is still debating what it might mean everywhere else.
Emmanuel Macron won by a comfortable 66-34 margin, which is even more comfortable than all the much-maligned polls had predicted, by running as a putatively independent candidate was was “neither left nor right.” He was a longtime member of the Socialist Party, which is one of the two major parties and the closest equivalent of the Democratic party, but had shed the party label when the Socialist incumbent reached an eye-popping 4 percent approval ratings, and would be considered far-left by even current American standards, but he could plausibly claim the centrist position in France. He’s a former investment baker who’s more comfortable with free market capitalism than Democratic runner-up and self-described socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, more unequivocally pro-North Atlantic Treaty Organization than the Republican president, and takes a pro-free trade position while promising restrains on all the regulatory meddling from Brussels.
Macron is also 39 years old, making him the youngest leader of France since Napoleon Bonaparte, which has been a while, and he’s got a 64-year-old wife, which the polls show endeared him to a certain demographic of the French electorate. All politics is local, too, and France is so far outside our locality that we can’t imagine what other oddball issues might have played a role in the election, but so far as we can tell from this far-off vantage point his biggest advantage was that he running against Le Pen.
All the international media described her as the “far-right” candidate, which is accurate enough in an international context, but that doesn’t translate well into American. She was outspokenly opposed to unfettered immigration from the Islamic world and stridently insistent the immigrants conform to traditional French values, and opposed to the infringements on French sovereignty imposed by the European Union, and didn’t cotton to all the free trade involved, so even much of the talk-radio segment of America’s conservative media embraced her as one of their own. The old conservative hands who still write down their words noted that she was until recently the candidate of her father’s National Front Party, which advocated not just nationalism but an industry-socializing and all powerful socialism, and had only renounced the party affiliation because its Vichy roots and unabashed racism polled poorly, and that she wasn’t any kind of conservative recognizable by American standards.
Everywhere in the international media from the center-right to the far-left is celebrating Macron’s victory, but from here on the plains it seems another premature celebration. Macron’s economic prescriptions don’t seem any more likely to fire up the long-moribund French economy than those of his successor with the 4 percent approval rating, and his blithe attitude toward all those undeniably troublesome Muslim immigrants will likely add to that unprecedented 34 percent that a “far-right” candidate just earned in oh-so-enlightened France. The similarly commonsensical Geert Wilders has also lost in Denmark, where the Muslim problem also brought out a signifiant minority, but the “Brexit” vote that pulled Great Britain out of the European Union and the election of President Donald Trump in America, of all places, suggests that the international center is still being pulled in a nationalist direction.
Our hope is is that Macron will take a calculatedly centrist position on immigration, that political parties all around the world will be similarly commonsensical and not leave the nationalist-socialist types to address it, and that France and the rest of us will continue to limp along that rocky path of freedom.

— 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