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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

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The Exponential Possibilities and Faint Hopes of a Crazy and Octagonal Election Year

The most tiresome cliche of this crazy election year is that it’s a “binary choice,” which is meant to hector that landslide majority of Americans who find both of the major party presidential candidates unfit for the highest office in the land to nonetheless choose between the two. A failure to vote for one is a de facto vote for the other, the arguments goes, and its logical corollary is that a vote for neither is somehow a vote for both of those awful people.
Even in this crazy election year it’s highly likely if not yet entirely certain that one of those awful and unfit major party candidates will become president, so the argument has some merit, yet in another very real sense it is utterly untrue. When we wander over to the local Lutheran Church to cast our votes next fall the presidential ballot will also include a Libertarian and a Green and probably a Constitutionalist, and here in Kansas there’s always a Prohibitionist nominee on there, and it might also include some fellow we’d never heard of before today named Evan McMullin. When you throw in the very real possibility of that meaningless write-in vote we’re thinking of casting for Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse that’s at least eight possibilities, and we think that’s an octagonal choice but we’re not sure what the proper mathematical term is for an election with so many choices.
That McMullin fellow seems an intriguing possibility for a vote or two, based on one day’s reading of the news. So far as we can tell from the initial reports he’s a former Central Intelligence Agency official who shares our grave doubts about both the Republican and Democratic nominees’ foreign policy instincts, along with much of the rest of the erstwhile Republican Party’s foreign policy brain trust, as well as our objections to the Democrats’ typical liberal bossiness and the atypical authoritarianism of this crazy election year’s Republican nominee. He’s a bachelor, which would ordinarily raise alarms but somehow doesn’t in a crazy election year when the Republican nominee’s third wife can be seen stark naked in sapphic poses on the front page of the same New York City tabloid that has endorsed him and the Democratic nominee’s husband is the notorious cigar-trickster Bill Clinton. He’s already got a relatively well-funded “Super PAC” supporting his candidacy, he’s a Mormon from Utah, and except for a successful stint at the hated-by-left-and-right Goldman Sachs bank, which also has ties to the major party campaigns of this crazy year and the past several election cycles, he’s thus far scandal-free.
None of which gives any hope that he’s not just another Don Quixote tilting at windmills, but in this crazy election year we’ll consider whatever quixotic possibilities we can get, and whatever small way they might screw up that “binary election.” The relatively penurious “Super PAC” backing McMullin might wind up outspending the Republican this time around, and the national press will happily provide some of that “free media” that the Republican has long relied on in order to cut a few percentage points into the Republican’s poll numbers, and in the event of a unusually close election an upset win in the clean-living Mormon state of Utah could deprive either of those awful major party candidates an electoral majority and send it to the House of Representatives, where the erstwhile Republican majority might yet come up with someone more or less acceptable.
In an eight-way race where no one is particularly popular there are all sorts of possibilities. McMullin is already too late to get on the ballot in several states, but in those states where he does show up he’ll probably draw votes from people who would have reluctantly voted for the Republican if it truly had been a binary election. The Green Party nominee Jill Stein will probably get a similar number of votes from people who would have reluctantly supported the Democratic candidate if not given the option, and the Libertarian Gary Johnson will probably wind up denying a ore less equal number of potentially decisive votes from both of the major parties. The Constitutionalists and the Prohibitionists and the rest of the quadrennial cranks will also have their slight quixotic effect, and at this point we can only hope it all adds up to some providential vote of the erstwhile Republican House of Representatives and a more acceptable outcome..
There’s no discerning what vote might best bring about that miraculous conclusion to an otherwise disastrous election year, and in case it’s a long shot. The smart money bets that one of those two awful major party candidates will be the next president, and that either one of them will start out as the most unpopular president ever and go downhill from there, and it’s just too, too confusing to us to figure out which would be the worst outcome for such erstwhile Republicans as ourselves.
The most likely outcome, of course, is that one of those two unfit major party nominees will be the next president. In either case we’re quite sure that either will be as awful as the landslide majority of Americans expect, and at this point we’re mostly concerned that some principled opposition to both will be around in the aftermath with some integrity intact. In any case, we’re glad there’s some faint hope left that at least it’s not a binary choice.

— 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

Trump Takes a Pledge

The Republicans got some good news today when Donald Trump at long last signed a pledge not to run as an independent candidate for president if he is not the party’s nominee, in which case he would surely have handed the Democrats a winning plurality and another four years in the White House. Now the party’s main concern is making sure that Trump isn’t the nominee.
Trump’s pledge might yet prove as reliable as his many wedding vows, but at least any quixotic third-party campaign he could conceivably attempt will start as a broken promise. This will presumably drain some of his support away, perhaps even to the point that he doesn’t do any more damage than moderate Republican John Anderson’s independent bid did to Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory back in ’80, and although the current Republican field might be lacking in Ronald Reagans one is grateful for such small consolations. There’s other good news for the Republicans to grasp to, as well, what with all that bad news about enough Democrats signing on the that awful deal that gives Iran a nuclear bomb and $150 billion, the dismal decline in the stock market, the soaring murder rates of black Americans in the cities where the “Black Lives Matter” movement has held greatest sway, the manifold problems of illegal immigration that Trump has so cannily exploited, the growing public skepticism about the “global warming” alarmism that is driving Democratic politics, and cumulative effect of so many issues where the Democrats are opposed to clear majorities of public opinion should provide the party with such an opportunity that only such a extraordinary buffoon as Trump could miss the chance.
Even with Trump sitting atop the opinion polls about the Republican race, we still regard his chances as improbable, although we can’t say implausible, even though we’d like to say it was impossible. Currently the rest of the top three is comprised of Dr. Ben Carson, the former chief of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, and Carly Fiorina, one-time secretary at a small insurance company and former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard, both of whom should fare better among any Republicans pining for an amateur politician. One can’t help noticing that Carson is black, and has a compelling up-fraom-the-ghetto-to-performing-brai-surgery story, and he’s obviously a more sincere contrastive and Christian than Trump. Fiorina also has a made-for-TV story to tell, she’s delightfully ferocious in interviews and debates, and is at least as solid as Trump in her conservative bona fides, so if the public truly is pining for its first woman president she’d be a much better choice than the one the Democrats seem to have settled on. Carson is soft-spoken and humble where Trump is loud and bombastic, Fiorina projects the same aura of hard-tacks competence that Trump aspires to and doesn’t need a rich father or cronyism to achieve it, and eventually the Republican primary voters and caucus-goers will notice that some of those politicians have been pretty good governors and senators.
Still, we can’t write off Trump. Not in a country where fellow pro-wrestling performer Jesse Ventura and “Terminator” star Arnold Schwarzenegger were elected governor, and where an erstwhile community organizer and undistinguished Illinois legislator and one-third term Senator was twice elected president, and where a movie about “Niggaz With Attitude” is the runaway hit of the year.

— Bud Norman