Archives for posts with tag: Gary Johnson

I have been arguing that the Libertarian Party needs to dissolve, give up. For years. I’ve made my case many times. Why? Well, American are not libertarians, on the whole. And Americans still support the two-party system . . . with their votes, if not their full soulful effort or actual party membership. Further, Americans seem to grant only a short grace period for a new party to take form. If a new contender does not gain traction right away, it is dismissed as a Losing Cause. And the fact that the major parties have set up huge barriers to entry means that opposing them is an almost Sisyphean task.

Why try? Over and over? The rock up the hill, only to be defeated each time?

And yet, this outing, the Libertarian ticket didn’t do too badly.

This, in a sense, should be no wonder, given that the ticket sported the most prestigious candidates in this year’s presidential race — the most governing experience, the only experience cutting government programs — and what I think of as “not bad” ideas.

And yes: Much was indeed arrayed against them. The private/public-be-damned Commission on Presidential Debates balked at their inclusion. The VP candidate betrayed his commitment by focusing only on the Evil of Trump, witlessly missing the sheer horror posed by Trump’s main opponents, “old friend” Hillary. And then there were a few charming “gaffes” that the media played up as if Gary Johnson had spoken of grabbing a woman in the petticoat junction, or called half his opponents’ followers “deplorables.”

The following notice is off LP.org:

Yesterday Libertarian for president Gov. Gary Johnson won 4,013,780 votes, the highest vote total for an alternative party presidential candidate since Ross Perot in 1996.

Perot, whose net worth was over $3 billionaire [sic] in 1992 dollars, became a household name that year after he bought 30-minute prime time infomercials to boost his first presidential campaign. He was subsequently included in the presidential debates.

Perot received 8,085,402 votes in his 1996 bid.

The rationale for continuing to support the Libertarian Party thereby got a little stronger — despite the inanity of LP Chair Nicholas Sarwark’s comments on the night of the vote. We can forgive party hacks their hackdom. Besides, the man did better at running a political convention than any other I’ve witnessed in my lifetime . . .this other man’s antics on the floor of the 2016 Libertarian Party Convention notwithstanding:

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I’ve Got the Cognitive Content Discontent — er, Blues

This year’s Democratic and Republican candidates for the presidency, duly selected in their respective party “conventions,” make quite a pair. Both are desperation moves, signs of the times. That is, they both indicate the intellectual senescence of the two major parties.

After two-hundred forty years of abusing the Constitution, the most corrupt candidate in recent memory (Hillary) vies with the most corrupting candidate (The Donald). America, land of the depraved and the home of the freaks.

Hillary is there because of . . . inertia. That is, because she wants to be there, because she’s a woman and a Democrat, and because the vaguely Left of Center in America sports neither wit nor conscience. Just a pathetic, untrustworthy bleeding heart — and a spleen of self-righteousness.

Donald is there because . . . none of the other candidates could be trusted to shake things up like the non-Left/anti-Establishment demands things to be shaken up. And because he pisses off and scares the Establishment.

And so the Democrats chose to empty their intellectual storehouse and shovel the last of their human capital into the rat-hole of the crony-capitalist corporate state while the Republicans (and interloping Reagan Dems and independents who stormed the open primaries) chose to throw a bomb into the open wound of America.

Pretty much the same holes, actually.

But we cannot quite blame the voters. Or party members.

Why? I mean, why not?

This is an easy one. They have been played for years by the “journalists” of the now-rapidly decaying mainstream media.

Hillary and Bill Clinton became nothing less than the darlings of said major media, and the Democracy — or its closest continuer from Jacksonian times — little more than the favored in-group of the major media (and academic) intelligentsia.

And because these things are so, journalists have been covering for this corrupt, deeply sick couple for years, preventing any sensible judgment on the part of rank-and-file Democrats. And the entertainment industry, especially in the illustrious personages of Comedy Network news satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, have poisoned public discourse by engaging in mostly vacuous (if occasionally trenchant) mockery. A very biased mockery. The American Left and Right now see each other as Evil and Stupid. And hardly anything more.

Meanwhile, the legitimate news media (so-called) pretends to be non-partisan. It’s a laugh. It’s a chuckle. It’s a snort of Coke through the nose. But these college-educated “journalists” aren’t idiots. They maintain plausible deniability by focusing relentlessly on the horse-race elements of elections.

This “horse race” fixation appears “fact-based” and not directly about issues (so offering up less occasion for revealing bias). It’s obviously “news,” if not often very important. And the relentless coverage has a barely hidden side-effect: it allows journalists to surreptitiously act as gate keepers of the election, by managing “winnability.” This has become the American version of the Mandate of Heaven, and the media is almost entirely responsible for this fixation, in the process even further narrowing the range of discourse in America.

The exact mechanism by which journalists act as gate keepers — precisely how endlessly asking candidates  “how can you win?” and “how much money have you raised?” emphasizes the gate keeper function — is a tad complex, and I won’t get into it here. But followers of the news biz understand the process without elaborate flow charts. In a rather underhanded manner, while pretending to be non-partisan and “unbiased,” journalists favor certain candidates (and parties) over others.

Yes, yes, I know — they basically fell for the manipulations of Trump. They didn’t protest much, other than verbally. They gave him the coverage he needed, and their expressed demurrals fed the Trump phenomenon anyway, playing into his hands. But the whole reality TV show of it also played into theirs, because they really did not want the Republicans to select a  candidate that Hillary Clinton might find difficult to beat in November 2016.

Trump, you see, was always “a story.” If something of a joke. The issues upon which the future of the republic rests? Those just get in the way of putting another corrupt Clinton into the White House.

Are journalists really this cynical?

Yes.

Well, almost. As in cult leaders and politicians and the very best salesmen, the real dishonesty starts with oneself.

But the putatively pure souls of folks in the major media are not something I care to deal with at length. These paragons are mostly lazy, mostly incurious people who merely desired an easy way to feel good about themselves using the realm of politics as the foundation  for their carefully nurtured self-righteousness.

Read about them in Mencken. They have only gotten worse since his time, after which the word biz was “professionalized” by collegiate credentialism.

So here we are

The hierarchies of the two major parties are utterly corrupt, having betrayed their constituencies repeatedly. And the American voters know it. Their standard-bearers this year are utterly corrupt. And the American voters know it. The major media is not only corrupt, but also on the way out, with newspapers dying fast and the “three blind mice” of ABC, CBS, and NBC becoming less and less relevant year by year.

And the voters are . . . ?

Well, if not wholly corrupt, at least desperate. Which may be why CNN is holding multiple Libertarian and Green Party “town halls” — an astounding break from past practice. The norm had been, after all, to marginalize and shut out those on the margin. Mock them, condescend, laugh at their “wacky” proposals, and move on.

Perhaps the folks at CNN have realized how fragile the post-World War II political equilibrium now is. Perhaps they understand, belatedly, that they are partly responsible for the current mess, and are looking for intellectual cover.

Or perhaps they are just flailing about for extra viewers. Even grifters and con artists have been known to try honesty and virtue on the ignominious way down. At least, you might say, as a play for pity.

Weld-Johnson

The moderates are coming!

The most droll irony of this election, however, has been brought to us by the Libertarian Party. The Libertarians sport the most radical platform in American politics, but of late have been nominating rather uncharacteristically non-radical candidates. Former Clinton scourge Rep. Bob Barr, for example. And former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.

Johnson was bequeathed the baton in 2012, and received more votes from American voters than had any other Libertarian in U.S. history. (Though, admittedly, the vote count was still disappointingly low, even under the percentage of the total vote that Ed Clark won in 1980.) This year he was once again elected to bear the Libertarian banner. And, immediately after receiving the honor, he begged the LP conventioneers to pair him up with his hero in governorship, former Massachusetts head honcho William Weld. After much anguish and in-fighting, the Libertarian conventioneers went in all the way. The two now often appear in front of interviewers and crowds together, P and VP for the LP ticket.

Much can be said about this dynamic duo, pro and con. I like the both of them — not as libertarians so much, but as moderate politicians with some common sense. Paul Jacob, the “This is Common Sense” citizens’ activist, dubs Johnson a “moderate libertarian” and Weld a “libertarian-leaning centrist.”* And Beltway libertarian/classical liberal Walter Olson explores the centrist element of these candidates at greater length:

In Europe liberal parties, often seen as the nearest analogue of libertarian, are often perceived in just this way as occupying centrist/middle positions between labor or revolutionary parties on the left and blood-and-soil or religious parties on the right. European liberal tendencies vary but often they’re secular, business oriented, pro-trade, modern, internationalist but not militarist, and interested in meliorist reform rather than street politics or national crusades. Sound familiar?

So on general principle we shouldn’t assume that if you squeeze the libertarians out of the GOP coalition, they’ll pop out on the far right. (Or far left.) They might pop out in the center instead, as Bill Weld clearly has and Gary Johnson shows signs of doing as well.

I think it is more fundamental than even this. Libertarianism, like classical liberalism, has never been a creature of the Left or the Right, not really. It has always provided a moderating principle.

Indeed, better than socialists and conservatives, the individualist liberals have consistently offered a more moderating, balancing principle for civilization. I have long looked at libertarian principles as refinements of practical, mediating mores that have been discovered in the course of civilization’s cycles of evolution and decline.

Liberty is a perennial principle for a reason, and more in line with the Aristotelian mean than other principles.

The “deal” of a civilized morality, as understood by individualists, is to balance the vast social cosmos of competing interests upon the Schelling Point of the non-initiation of force — of liberty —  thus providing the mid-point equilibrium for humanity in constant potential conflict. We settle on liberty as the first principle of justice the better to avoid and resolve conflict. And, consequently, it provides that most amazing platform for mutual advance: voluntary coöperation. This is classical liberalism at core, libertarianism in its quiddity.

Libertarianism is not an extremism. It is a centrism.

Even the most radical-seeming notion of modern libertarianism, the so-called “anarcho-capitalism” of Murray Rothbard and David D. Friedman — which is, by the way, mostly just a repackaging of Gustave de Molinari’s 19th century proposal of “competitive government,” and of Benjamin R. Tucker’s “plumb-line” anarchism, individualist anarchism sans crank economics — was once, back in the 1970s, designated “middle of the road” by one of its more sophisticated enthusiasts. (Or at least so goes my memory of the book, which is subtitled “A Right Wing Alternative,” after all. So, caveats.)

Libertarians may seem radical, even to themselves. But, at heart, the libertarian idea is not to scare everybody off with a complete remaking of society, but to moderate the rough edges of political governance with that non-radical idea of non-aggression.

So, in selecting two moderates, more “libertarianish” than strictly libertarian, this year’s Libertarians have given America a way out of the current debacle.

Graph it and go

In previous installments (such as my May 3 post, “Realignments”) of the Matter of 2016, I have suggested that the Trump phenomenon must be seen, in part, as a takeover of the GOP by authoritarian-leaning independents.

On the famed “Nolan Chart,” I mapped the realignment as follows, reading left graph to right graph:

GOPcomplexion

To make this clearer, let me (hastily) redraw this, distinguishing the Trump center (brown-orange) from the Johnson-Weld center (green):

NolanChart-newCENTERS

No matter where Trump really belongs on this familiar ideological map, the new people he has pulled in to support him come not from “the right” as such, but from the statist, authoritarian part of the population. The new center navigated by Johnson-Weld borders the libertarian sector, but it does remain moderate, neither very far left nor right.

Just like libertarians. And totalitarians. Neither left nor right, but extremes on the moderate axis.†

What if the Electoral College flunks out?

While Libertarians have offered a slate that can appeal to moderates, and thus shake up the political landscape, the sheer inertia of the two-party system almost guarantees the success of Clinton, if not Trump. Of course, a startling-to-the-masses revelation about one or both of the candidates — like, say, Clinton being very ill and not in her right mind, as many now speculate, or Trump revealing that his whole candidacy was a lark, a whimsical stunt — could place a lot of votes in Johnson’s tip jar.

And were Gary Johnson included in the presidential debates, he might so far outshine his competition that he could snatch victory away from Hillary to . . . well, could he really win a popular vote? It seems unlikely.‡

More likely, if Johnson-Weld capture a state like Utah (which in Rep. Mia Love’s district has them at 26 percent), and the Johnson and Stein campaigns take enough votes from the Democratic candidate, now in the lead, the Electoral College could offer up to Congress no majority winner.

At that point, it goes to the House to vote for the President, and to the Senate to vote for the VP. The Twelfth Amendment instructs the House to immediately, after the official presentation before Congress of a stalemate (majority-free) Electoral College vote, select a President from the Top Three, which would, one would think, include the R, D, and L party candidates. (Jill Stein seems a non-starter, as she will not be on all ballots.)

In that scenario, the next president of the United States might be the one most qualified by experience, and least disqualified by flagrant abuse of power and privilege. Yes, there is a possibility that the Republican majority House will make Gary Johnson the next Commander in Chief. The House is not in any way bound to select the plurality winner in either the popular vote or the Electoral selection.

House members would not hesitate at all, I think, were William Weld  on the top of the LP ticket. But reason might prevail, even in the case when Gary “I used to smoke pot regularly” Johnson is in play . . . and a moderate, rather than a Clinton or Trump wild card, might be selected.

In modern life, the best option is often the long shot.

 

twv

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* Jacob also calls Hillary Clinton a spokesperson for “the neo-con left,” which is about a perfect characterization, I’d say.

† Alas, a better graphic demonstration of my moderating vision of liberty will have to wait for another day.

‡ Hillary having to step down before the election, leaving her weak flower running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, to take her place — that could throw everything into chaos. And Mrs. Clinton does have two looming issues: legal on many fronts, and medical. For all I know, she being the recipient of so much telepathic hatred, her head could explode on stage, Scanners style.

 

 

Screenshot 2016-05-04 13.56.01

I do not usually waste this space with predictions and snap judgments. That is what I use Facebook for. But perhaps now, as America slides into a chaotic election year where anything and everything seems up for grabs, I will yammer in my usual Facebook manner.

First, I do not trust Trump, and I wonder about anyone who does. But then, I do not trust Hillary or Kasich or much of anybody else. So, my Trumpophile friends, do not take this personally.

I would never vote for him, as I have repeatedly said, for the same reason I would never vote for Bernie Sanders: he is a protectionist.

The Tyranny of SocialismI do not vote for protectionists. It would be like letting a Flat Earther teach geography to your children.

Sanders is of course worse than a mere protectionist. He is a socialist, which Bastiat or Guyot (I forget which one!  — oh, it has to be Yves Guyot) noted is just protectionism taken to the extreme of absurdity. I have many friends enthusiastic about Sanders. I shake my head as one shakes one’s uppermost orb in awe of the ignorance of even one’s best friends.

He may actually wrest the Democratic nomination from Hillary. It will be a long shot, but stranger things have happened in conventions. The fact that Hillary is being investigated for high crimes and misdemeanors should mean something to Democrats. But they sold their souls to power long ago, so it has not yet sunk in that Hillary could actually lose to Trump on grounds that normal Americans care about: corruption, honesty, competence.
Socialist Fallacies
Into this strange brew will be thrown third party challengers. Whenever the race seems certain, minor party challengers rush in to collect the consequent windfall protest votes. The Libertarian Party, my favorite gang of political junkies, has been quixotically slamming heads to walls for decades to maintain ballot status in a system rigged on several levels against them. And the Libertarians have something none of the other minor parties possess: ballot status in all or nearly all of the 50 states. And some territories. And, I gather, the District of Columbia.

Usually, the Libertarian candidate gets a few votes. Last election, Gary Johnson got more than just a few, though hardly enough to really matter.

But this year, whoever gets the LP candidacy slot has a chance to make a showing never before possible. Not because it is not a close race this year, but because Trump and Clinton have such huge negatives, and, if Bernie nabs the Democracy’s wreath and runs to the main ring, his negatives would soar as well. He is a socialist. A self-professed socialist. A fucking socialist. In America. Should he win, as I indicated an hour or so ago, he would put an end to American Exceptionalism, reducing America to another wannabe tit-sucking European state. The Servile Society would flower in full, and I would be eying the brochures to Chile or Bali or India or even corrupt post-Communist China.

To be an American individualist living under a Socialist president? I really would have to think about it, even if that puts me in the mirror camp of the star of the execrable Girls, who says she would leave America were Trump to be elected.

Hey: if Trump becomes president, I wouldn’t be shouting hosannas. But I wouldn’t leave. A front-row seat to the circus could compensate for such a horrid turn of events.
The Outcome of Individualism
Meanwhile, two LINOs and three minor figure diehard Libertarians vie for the wreath of Liberty. John McAfee is an astoundingly persuasive speaker, and half his answers to questions are magnificent. Alas, the other half are wretchedly bad. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is growing into the role of Imp Against the  State, calmly (most of the time) and casually making the case for a freer society and more stable government. He seems to have more appeal, and seems more ready than McAfee and the Real Libertarians to garner the possible huge reservoir of protest votes that now leaven the bubbling stew of the current polity.

If Gary Johnson runs, but cannot break 10 percent, just give up, Libertarians. Dismantle the party and try something different.

Hours ago I surveyed the current field of major party candidates in the context of two challengers, both of whom hope (almost certainly in vain) for contested conventions.

And in my hurry to marshal a dozen thoughts into as few words as possible, I forgot to mention one important thing: the realignment of the Republican Party could happen contested convention or no. If Trump breezes through the rest of the primary season, and into a successful crowning ceremony in Cleveland next July, he may very well change the nature of the GOP. In fact, it is more likely to occur under a Trump sweep.

Why? Because, unless Trump wins the presidency and governs in a manner more-or-less acceptable to libertarians, social conservatives, Main Streeters and neoconservatives — surely an impossible task — his win will signal the breakdown of the Republican Fantasy.

What is that fantasy? It is the Reaganite vision, wherein social conservatives, business people, free-marketers and neocon warriors all get what they want, and that getting is compatible . . . that these four groups are four great groups that group best together.

What could happen is that Trump brings in moderate Democrats and independents into the Republican fold, sending others hither to the winds.

I suspect that, if Trump is true to his rhetoric, it will be the libertarians, and possibly the neocons, who will make for the exits. That will leave the Republican Party a more nationalist and protectionist — but perhaps less imperialistic — force in modern politics.

You are familiar with the quadrant view of political ideologies, between Authoritarians, right-wingers (pseudo-conservatives), left-wingers (pseudo-progressives) and Libertarians. Right now the authoritarians are partially on the outs. If Trump succeeds, the shift  in the complexion of the GOP would almost certainly move more authoritarian. Here is a good example of the chart, with my perception of the current complexion of Republican constituency, and then with a possible future, more Trumpian:

GOPcomplexion

Of course, one of the things about Trump is: he is unpredictable. He is The Mule.

And as such, who knows, really, how he would govern?

On the other hand, if Trump wins the nomination but loses the presidency, would the more authoritarian voters he pulled in change the permanent complexion of the Party of Lincoln? It seems doubtful, but considering how unsuccessful the coalition has been, despite its obvious persistence, its unraveling sure seems inevitable.

Another thing I neglected to mention concerns the punishing vote.

We spend a lot of time in politics talking about what people are for: for this, for that.

But Obama got in office in part out of a reaction against Bush in particular and Republicans in general. Voters — especially the marginal, independent voter — voted Democrat to punish Republicans. Who truly did need punishing.

Will marginal voters reverse themselves, and punish the Democrats, who really should be punished?

By talking to Democrats, I’d guess no. But the logic of the marginal voter suggests that punishing Democrats may indeed be a factor, and may lead to a lot of Trump votes in November. Remember: democracy’s chief success and function is not the expression of any general will, but the peaceful removal of individuals and groups from power.

Trouble is, it won’t be a simple two-party field in November, and there is almost as much Hillary Hate as Trump Hate. This suggests to me not only that many current Bernie Sanders voters will vote Trump, but a not-insignificant number will protest and vote Libertarian. As in the Libertarian Party and its presumptive nominee Gary Johnson, on the ballot, I am told, in every state in the union. And Johnson may finally take those quasi-libertarians who usually vote Republican. The question then becomes, of the punishment-prone voters, how many will vote Trump and how many will vote Johnson? Could Johnson help Hillary get the election?

Or could the eventual Electoral College make-up send the election to the House of Representatives?

We live in interesting times.

 

twv