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Friday, June 03, 2016

Go Ahead, Throw Your Vote Away

Gary Johnson and William Weld
In one of the best Simpson's "Treehouse of Horror" vignettes, set during the election of '96, the aliens Kang and Kodos impersonate Bob Dole and Bill Clinton and run for president. When they are revealed to be hideous monsters, they shrug and say that the American people have to vote for them. "I'll vote for a third party!" one man shouts. Either Kang or Kodos roars, "Go ahead, throw your vote away!"

There has long been a kind of romantic fantasy about third party candidates. The founding fathers didn't want parties at all, but soon enough, during the election of 1800, they were there. Since the Republican Party was founded in the 1850s, the two major parties have been them and the Democrats. Occasionally a third part will break through, such as in 1912, when Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party actually finished second, but that was more about the man than a party. The last third party candidate to actually win electoral votes was George Wallace in 1968.

However, third parties can wreak havoc. It's arguable that Ross Perot's campaigns in 1992 and 1996 helped Bill Clinton. Perot didn't win any states but in 1992 he got 19 percent of the vote. In 2000 Green Party candidate Ralph Nader only received 2.74 percent of the vote, but 1.63 of the Florida vote, which certainly siphoned votes from Al Gore, who lost the election by far less than those votes.

This year, with the presumptive nominees two of the most unpopular people in the nation, thoughts and daydreams may again turn to the candidates on the farther right of the ballot. They will never get elected, unless something catastrophic happens (it seems that both Trump and Clinton have a chance to be indicted this summer or fall), but we can imagine voting for them, until crunch time.

The Libertarian Party seems appealing, and will probably do the best of the non-majors. They just had their convention and once again Gary Johnson will be their nominee, with William Weld as his running-mate. Both men were governors of states (New Mexico and Massachusetts, respectively) and I think the U.S. would survive quite nicely if they were running things. Libertarians are wacky people though (one fellow danced in his underwear at the convention). As a Facebook meme goes, Libertarians are like cats--they presume independence though they are completely dependent on others. I like their commitment to freedom of expression and privacy, but their belief in the free market on everything is a bit childish. I mean, we drive on public roads, have a tax-based military, police force, fire departments, etc. Privatization is not the way to go. Sure, governments often badly run things--the saying goes, a government could botch a two-car funeral, but at least the government's outward intention is noble--to serve the people. The free market is all about shareholders. Do we want our roads built by people who only want to make money? No.

The Green Party has not selected yet, but it appears that Jill Stein, who also was the nominee in 2012, will repeat. She is a doctor. I would imagine her beliefs align strongly with mine-in fact, I was thinking about voting for Nader in 2000, just for the hell of it. But just for the hell of it got us George W. Bush. Also, I can't imagine Nader, or Jill Stein, who have never had any kind of government position, as being able to run something as large as the United States of America. It's the toughest job in the world. I also can't imagine Stein being Commander in Chief. While Trump might lead us into every war imaginable, Stein might be the opposite. Could she have done what was necessary during World War II?

Finally we have David French. Who? Well, the Never Trump Republicans, led in print by columnist Bill Kristol, wanted to put up a conservative alternative to Trump. Names like Mitt Romney and Senator Ben Sasse were thrown around. Who did they come up? A lawyer and writer for the National Review. Kristol has put French's name out there, to the resounding sound of crickets. Where would French get the money? No one knows who he is, and to get his name out there requires advertising, and that requires money. French hasn't decided to run or not. I suggest he do himself a favor and pass.

The idea of a third party starting with the presidency is backwards. Should someone like Johnson be elected, how would he work with a Congress in which both sides are against him? It would be complete obstructionism. The way for a third party to take hold is from the ground up. There are a few Green Party people in legislatures here and there. They can try for Congress and go from there, and once they have a toe-hold, run for bigger offices. Although I think Johnson is a capable man and would make an okay president, he would have a hell of a time getting anything done.

His only chance is to get the requisite poll numbers required to be included in a debate (should they happen--they don't have to, and Trump may refuse). Perhaps, in that case, Hillary Clinton and Johnson could debate to make Trump look foolish. It's all fun to think about, even if it won't happen.

1 comment:

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