Tag: Gary Johnson

Election 2016: VI. Gary Johnson

This is the sixth part of a seven part series I will do this week making the case for and against each of the major candidates, with a wrap-up on the weekend. I did this in 2012 and I will observe the same ground rule I did then: making the case for a candidate means making the case for a candidate, not a case against the opponent. That’s the subject of later posts. So “he’s not Hillary” is not a reason I will list for voting for Trump and “she’s not Trump” is not a reason I will list for voting for Clinton. Each one of them will get their own special post all to themselves about they don’t deserve our votes.

Today, I’ll look at the case for and against the man I voted for in 2012 and will most likely vote for this year: Gary Johnson.

For the first time ever, the Libertarian Party has a chance to make some real noise. The extreme unpopularity of the two major candidates has Gary Johnson polling at about 10% and threatening to have a Perot-sized impact on the race. Young people, in particular, are taken with Johnson, who is currently outpolling Trump and could possibly overtake Clinton. Numerous analyses have indicated that this is the biggest reason for Clinton’s tumble at the polls: young voters moving to Johnson and Stein.

The reason to not for Gary Johnson is pretty straight forward.

A vote for Johnson may spill the election to Clinton or Trump (although it’s not clear which). This is the biggest reason I’ve heard for not voting for Johnson. I’ve heard it from the Right and from the Left (Krugman had a particularly silly column today on the subject). If you honestly think that one of these candidates is going to bring about the apocalypse and the other won’t, this is a big reason not to vote for Johnson.

Johnson is a small-government conservative who favors marijuana legalization and a United States that is less involved with foreign countries. I know it sounds weird, in this election, to make the case against a candidate based on, you know, issues but those are the biggest reasons one might vote against him: if you fear isolationism, support the War on Drugs and want a bigger government, Johnson is not your guy.

There are some other things you could say against him: he doesn’t have foreign policy experience; he’s an admitted marijuana user (who has given it up for the campaign); he has been out of government for more than a decade; he hasn’t got much of a personality (although I find that to be a blessed relief). But for me, the main reasons one might vote against him arex his potential as a spoiler and his stance on the issues.

The reasons to vote for him?

Johnson-Weld is easily the best of the four tickets. Donald Trump has no experience in government. His running mate is one-term governor who had a very good chance of being unelected this fall. Clinton’s experience, as I noted, is less impressive the more you look at it. Her running mate was a moderately successful governor of Virginia.

By contrast, Johnson and Weld were both twice-elected Republican governors of blue states with strong records of fiscal restraint. Johnson, in particular, vetoed the hell out of spending in New Mexico (although he was often overridden). Both are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Neither has been tainted by scandal. And they are running a clean issues-oriented campaign. They have now received more endorsements than Trump, including the New Hampshire Union Leader, which broke a century-long streak of endorsing Republicans. And every endorsement says what I said above: they are experienced governors who can get things done but have shown no compunction about facing down their legislatures when they think it’s important. They do have a few positions I don’t like, such as the Fair Tax. But overall, this is best ticket I’ve seen on a ballot since Reagan-Bush. No, that’s not a joke.

If they had a shot at winning, this would be no contest. But they are polling at around 10% and likely to perform a bit under that. They have not been invited to the debates (despite polling around where Perot was in 1992), which puts a crimp in any plan to upset the leaders. So it is very likely, barring a spectacular meltdown by one of the front-runners, that they will win. So, ultimately, this may end up a protest vote.

But in this case, a protest vote might be more important than ever because:

A strong libertarian vote would scare the parties. Ross Perot’s 1992 success was a big reason we had a balanced budget in the 1990’s. That was his signature issue and garnering 19% of the vote scared the crap out of both parties and let them know what the American people wanted.

Johnson doesn’t have as much of a signature issue, however, so it’s not clear what message would be sent other than, “We hate you both.” But a strong libertarian movement would, while not necessarily empowering the Libertarian Party itself, create a formidable voting block that has to be reckoned with.

The popularity of Johnson among young people is one of the most positive political trends in the last decade. I really hope he can sustain it because young liberty-oriented people would grow up to a motivated liberty-oriented voting block. And God knows we need that right now.

A strong libertarian showing would deny either candidate a mandate. If Gary Johnson polls well, the winner of this election will have less than half the vote. If he polls extremely well, they could even poll under 40. Such a low showing would deny either candidate a mandate for their agenda (although both would claim it anyway). They would find themselves in the same position Bill Clinton once did: weak, opposed and without a mandate. Bill was a slick enough politician to get what he wanted done anyway (while he still had Congress, at least). Neither Clinton nor Trump are the equal of Slick Willie. And they will face a determined Republican Congress.

This “lack of mandate” stuff is not just inside the beltway politician talk. It’s real. It’s the biggest reason why the parties agreed to lock third parties out of the debates after 1996. They realized that if Perot-scale showings became routine, we would have a series of weakened Presidents governing without a mandate, if you can imagine such a thing.

The reason to vote for Gary Johnson, oddly enough, is the same reason many people voted for Bernie Sanders. It has the potential to shake up the system. And this system badly needs shaking. Donald Trump isn’t the one to bring real change. He’s the vomitus of a sick system; a political insider pretending to be an outsider. Hillary Clinton isn’t the one to bring real change, either. As my friend Maggie McNeill said, Hillary couldn’t be more establishment if she had a concrete foundation and were wired for electricity. Johnson, on the other hand … could be.

Best of Lee: Brownie Moment

This was one of my favorite Leeisms:

I’d like to take a moment to coin a new phrase: Brownie Moment. A Brownie moment can be defined simply as the moment when a supporter of President Bush is smacked in the head by reality and loses any and all faith in the president from that moment forward. As you may have surmised the term comes from Bush’s recent comment regarding former FEMA head Michael Brown’s leadership in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

This was my Brownie moment. I understand that in the world of politics leaders often have to say things they don’t mean, or shake hands with dictators and scumbags, and do a lot of morally repugnant stuff. But when Bush said that I realized that after surveying the impotent, incompetent response of the federal government he truly, honestly believed that Brownie was doing a heck of a job. That sealed it for me. I’d been turning sour on Bush for a while, but I was still generally supportive of him. When I heard him make that remark, however, that was it. That was my Brownie moment.

I bring this up in light of the Miers nomination. There are a whole lot of head-scratching Republicans gazing at each other wondering what the hell just happened. Could Bush really have nominated this woman to the Supreme Court? Yes, my friends, he just did. I imagine there are a whole lot of conservatives out there today who have just had their very own Brownie moment.

I bring this up because it seems like a lot of Republicans are having “Trumpie Moments”. A lot of Republicans have been endorsing Donald Trump. This is not unusual, of course, parties endorse their nominees. Duh. But it’s come under extra scrutiny this year because Trump is not an ordinary candidate. He’s brash. He’s politically incorrect. The things he says are controversial and often have no relationship with the truth. He contradicts himself, sometimes in mid-sentence.

But Republicans have still endorsed him. Partly because they don’t want to be told what to do by the elite media. Partly because they see defeating Hillary as the most important thing in this election. Partly because they’re hoping he’ll become more Presidential as time goes on. Partly because they think this is an act and he’ll either govern moderately or just rubber stamp their legislation. And partly because they genuinely support him.

But with Trump’s poll numbers plunging, his tone not moderating, a bad money situation developing in the RNC, new polls indicating the House and Senate may be at risk, and indications that Trump is already planning a post-election TV network, a lot of Republicans are backing away from their endorsements or saying they won’t support him. Larry Hogan, Richard Armitage, Rick Snyder, John Kasich, Mark Kirk and Fred Upton are the most prominent names of what is becoming a stampede.

I think a lot of people are having “Trumpie Moments” right now. They’re realizing that his caustic tone isn’t an act, it’s who he is. They’re realizing that he’s bringing the same financial disaster to the RNC that he brought to his businesses. It’s getting so bizarre — Trump is apparently wanting to push hard in traditional blue states like California, rather than swing states like Ohio — that some people are openly wondering if he’s tanking the election. There’s enough defection right now, that Gary Johnson is polling in the low 10’s. If he gets to 15%, he’ll get into the debates (in theory; I suspect the media will find an excuse to keep him out).

This is bad. We can deal with President Clinton and a Republican Congress. But we can’t deal with President Clinton and a Democratic Congress. There’s four and a half months to go and a lot can happen. I make absolutely no predictions. But a year ago, I thought the Republicans would easily sweep this election and get another chance to be conservative. Now, we’re looking at the possible total crackup of the GOP and a Democratic sweep.

And yeah, I know some people are going to say that’s great, that the GOP needs to be burned down. These people are fools. I’ve quoted Charles Cooke before but it’s worth quoting again:

But the idea that it hasn’t effectively and consistently opposed President Obama’s agenda is little more than a dangerous and ignorant fiction. Had the GOP not been standing in the way — both from 2008, when it was in the minority everywhere, and from 2010, when it regained the House — the United States would look dramatically different than it does today. Without the GOP manning the barricades, Obamacare could well have been single payer, and, at the very least, the law would have included a “public option.” Without the GOP manning the barricades, we’d have seen a carbon tax or cap-and-trade — or both. Without the GOP manning the barricades, we’d have got union card check, and possibly an amendment to Taft-Hartley that removed from the states their power to pass “right to work” exemptions. Without the GOP standing in the way, we’d now have an “assault weapons” ban, magazine limits, background checks on all private sales, and a de facto national gun registry. And without the GOP standing in the way in the House, we’d have got the very amnesty that the Trump people so fear

I would add, as I noted before, that Obama wanted to spend $2.5 trillion that the GOP refused to spend, including $700 billion in 2015 alone.

It’s scary what Hillary Clinton would do, pulled to the far Left by Bernie Sanders and unfettered by a GOP Congress. The White House may or may not be a lost cause. As I said, we’ve got four months left. But the House and Senate are not lost causes. And the GOP needs to go all out protecting them. And any conservative or libertarian who values divided government should get on board.

LP Goes with Johnson/Weld

Well … at least one party didn’t completely shit the bed:

Libertarians on Sunday selected a presidential ticket headed by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who lit into presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump on immigration and a range of other issues.

At the party convention in Orlando, Florida, Johnson got his preferred running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, in a weekend gathering that drew sharp contrasts with the major party candidates — Trump and Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee.

As a matter of politics, this is the strongest ticket the Libertarian Party has ever run. In fact, it’s a massively superior ticket to either of the two major parties. In the past, I’ve voted Libertarian knowing it was a protest vote; that it was probably good that the Libertarian candidate didn’t have a real chance. But Johnson-Weld would actually do a good job in the White House. If they were the GOP ticket, I’d vote for them without hesitation. They have way more experience, way more accomplishment and way less baggage than Trump and Clinton combined. After years of watching the Libertarian Party shoot itself in the face, I’m pleased they finally did something right.

Current polling shows Johnson at about 10% but I expect a more realistic goal is something like 1-5%. Johnson is benefiting both from disaffected Republicans and a media that wouldn’t mind seeing Johnson hurt Trump. In the end, however, the repulsive thought of President Clinton II will make most Republicans vote for Trump. And the repulsive thought of President Trump will make most Democrats vote for Clinton. I would say the ultimate limit would be taking New Mexico with a thin plurality, but that’s very unlikely. But a few percent is enough to potentially tip an election and certainly enough to put a scare into the two major parties. As a practical matter, it might unfold like the Virginia Governor’s race — the Libertarian pulls enough support so that the Republicans can blame them for a Democratic victory, rather than blame their awful nominee. The Virginia governor’s race has another eerie parallel — the Democrat winner, McAuliffe, is now under investigation by the FBI for being a corrupt clown.

Of course, I can already hear the clarion call that a vote for the Libertarian Party is a vote for Hillary Clinton. That’s only true if you assume Libertarians would vote for Trump and that the GOP is somehow entitled to Libertarian votes. I don’t agree with either assertion. Libertarians spent a lot of elections holding their noses and voting Republican because while they disagreed on cultural issues, they agreed on economic ones. But Trump is not an economic conservative in any sense of the word. He is one of the most anti-liberty candidates I’ve ever seen on a ballot. He has inveighed against every part of the Bill of Rights and advocated for a far bigger, far more powerful government. The GOP, I think, is hoping that he’ll get bored and just do whatever they want him to. That was the gambit behind his list of SCOTUS nominees, which was basically cut-and-pasted from prominent conservatives. It’s tempting but it’s also dangerous. Front-man or not, Donald Trump would still have the power of the Presidency at his command. And the last time we had a President who was disinterested in the nuts and bolts of policy, we wound up hip deep in two wars with an economy in flames and a $1 trillion deficit. And Bush surrounded himself with reasonably smart people; Trump is surrounding himself with crackpots.

A vote for Trump is not a vote against the establishment. Trump is the establishment, someone so embedded with politicians that the Clintons literally attended his wedding. He’s out there right now raising money from the typical monied interests, hobnobbing with the typical Washington insiders and advocating for typical expansions of government power. A vote for a third party would sting the establishment way more than a vote for Trump.

Still. It’s five months until the election. I am not absolutely committed to a candidate yet. There are positions Johnson holds that I don’t like. But from where I set at the edge of May, he’s the least bad option.

Update: I mainly wrote this from a perspective of Republicans vs. Libertarians, since that’s my background. But that’s only half the story here. If the Libertarians are smart (not guaranteed) they will try very hard to go for disaffected Democrats as well. In fact, they should push hardest to pull Democrats away from Clinton, including Sanders voters. Hillary Clinton is a crony capitalist, an anti-civil libertarian and a war hawk who will stomp on about 70% of what Democrats claim they stand for. If you’re any flavor of Democrat — liberal, moderate or conservative — the Libertarian ticket is massively superior to the Democratic one. And it’s time the Libertarians made that point as loudly as possible.

I Side With

Not surprisingly, the latest faddish website to identify your ideal candidate shows me aligned with Gary Johnson. Probably the biggest disagreement I have with him is on the Fair Tax, which I oppose.

More revealingly, my poll results show little space between Obama and Romney, who come in at 62% ad 64%, respectively. But therein lies a problem. You have to take their expressed views as reflective of what they will actually do. This is less of a problem with Obama, who has actual policies in place; although he still claims to be ramping down the War on Drugs while he ramps it up.

But Mitt Romney? Who knows what the hell he believes? The Mitt Romney running right now would cut taxes and increase spending and possibly go to war with Iran. The Mitt who governed Massachusetts would do neither. So my match with Mitt is much more uncertain.

Wasting Your Vote

On “Ask a Libertarian Day”, Matt Welch and Nick Gillepsie addressed the issue of whether a vote for Gary Johnson is a wasted vote:


In 1992 and 1996, I voted Republican and was happy about it. In 2004 and 2008, I voted Libertarian was even happier about that (I lived in Texas, so it didn’t matter anyway). The only vote I’ve ever felt I wasted was in 2000 when I voted for George W. Bush. We don’t need to get into that again.

2012 is a little different. I’ll be voting in a swing state and there’s every chance the election will be close. So, in this case, voting for Gary Johnson could swing the election. And I’m sure a number of you also live in swing states like Missouri. So this election will be a real decision.

The question is not whether a protest vote is worth four more years of Obama. The question is whether four year of Romney will be that much better that it’s worth not voting Libertarian.

Obama’s New Best Friend?

Before I get into the meat of the post, a quick question, does anyone really think Iowa means dick? All this hand ringing going on about the cataclysmic effects if Paul wins Iowa, who cares? Santorum is surging in Iowa, who cares? Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll, who cares? Huckabee won in the last go around, now he has a show on Fox, hardly a springboard for success or a momentum builder. Iowans have the pulse of America about as much as Cambridge liberals, and offer equal insight (or lack there of) on where the country is at.

Now, on to Gary Johnson deciding to bolt the GOP and run as a third party candidate on the libertarian ticket:

Frankly, I have been deeply disappointed by the treatment I received in the Republican nomination process,” Johnson said in a statement released by his presidential campaign. He named GOP candidates Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman, saying they have “no national name identification” yet are allowed to participate in debates.

He has a point in his obvious short shrifting in the debates, and counters all that nonsense I’ve been reading here of late on how Fox News is soooooooooo bias, considering that Fox was the only hosting network that included Johnson in their debate. You can’t gain traction without exposure and you can’t get exposure if you are not included in the debates, he was doomed at the outset, pity.

Personally, I am conflicted about the notion of a third party in general. I am as disaffected with out current two political parties as anyone, and taken as a whole they comport themselves pretty much birds of the same feather. Platforms aside, it is not what they say but what they do and both have been poor stewards of the people’s welfare, and which crys out even louder for term limits and the infusion of fresh blood on a regular basis. If more choices present more freedom then a third party, or even a fourth or fifth, should provide the folks a better megaphone for what they want. But reality tells us different. Yes, Ralph Nader does provide us with an example of how a third party can shape an election (I can still here the wailing and weeping from 2000) but has it ever happened before or since? Maybe Teddy with his second go around with his Bull Moose Party, costing Taft the election against Woodrow Wilson. Maybe Ross Perot, OK, maybe there are a few examples, but seriously, how bad can Johnson’s third party bid hurt the GOP?

On the flip side, if anyone here has followed elections in Israel or other nations that have multiple parties, do we really want a president who had the support of 38% of the nation? Multiple party national elections often end up this way, the guy with the highest percentage wins and most often it comes down to plurality over majority, yuck. Sometimes it can work if two or more minority parties lobby together to weld their power and influence over the plurality party, but that can’t happen here, Congress is still run by two parties.

Historically, Libertarian candidates haven’t made enough of a dent to spoil the chances of a major-party candidate, but they tend to “disproportionately hurt Republicans,” says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

True, but Green, Progressive and Communist Party candidates siphon from the left. The fact of the matter is that Gary Johnson’s bid will hurt the GOP candidate, no doubt about it, to what degree though? Even the most optimistic of GOP prognosticators admit, begrudgingly, that with their best man running his best race and bringing his A game, it will be a close election, with the headwinds pointing towards which ever way the economy is going. And even with their best man, that man will have to hoist an apathetic party on his back and carry them. Most Republicans, much like with McCain last year, will hold their nose and vote GOP, if only because 4 more years of Obama is too gruesome to even entertain, But if my sentiment is reflective of many, getting me on board and wildly enthusiastic is going to be an uphill battle. It is never a good sign when your constituents are rooting for a brokered convention and many are.

I Didn’t Create A Single Job

You wanna know why I like Gary Johnson? This is why I like Gary Johnson:

Presidential candidate Gary Johnson took a slightly unorthodox approach regarding job creation on Thursday. “I didn’t create a single job,” said the former Governor of New Mexico.

His statement came in response to a National Review article that complimented Johnson on his record as governor, saying that when compared to the other governors running for president, the rate of job growth was highest under his watch.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Johnson said in a statement. “We are proud of this distinction. We had a 11.6 percent job growth that occurred during our two terms in office. But the headlines that accompanied that report – referring to governors, including me, as ‘job creators’ – were just wrong.”

“The fact is, I can unequivocally say that I did not create a single job while I was governor,” Johnson added. Instead, “we kept government in check, the budget balanced, and the path to growth clear of unnecessary regulatory obstacles.”

It’s like Ron Paul without the crazy.

Johnson is absolutely right, of course. Government is not a magic wand — it does not create anything. What it does is create the conditions under which creation can happen. Some of that involves government doing things — keeping the environment clean, building roads, funding peer-reviewed basic research, enforcing the law.

But mostly it involves not doing things, such as Bush 41’s decision to not subsidize HDTV. I strongly believe that the future of our economy is in technological innovation, especially on the energy side. And I also thing the best way to strangle that innovation is for the government to be picking the winners and losers.

I really hope Johnson is in the next debate. He’ll add an element of liberty-oriented conservatism that is sorely lacking.

Debate Thoughts

I sort of watched tonight’s debate, joining in about half an hour in and catching up on my RSS feed while listening. Here are a few thoughts. First, the candidates:

  • Herman Cain seems to have peaked. He wasn’t nearly as persuasive as he was in the last debate and he had difficulty on the Muslim loyalty question. He really needed to stand out tonight and he didn’t.
  • Michelle Bachmann is a serious candidate — far more serious than Sarah Palin. She’s better on the issues, smarter and more confident in her knowledge. I don’t like her positions at all. But I think she could end up as a vice-presidential candidate. I was surprised by how well she carried herself.
  • Much as I like Ron Paul, he seems tired and not nearly as refreshing as he was in 2008. There are times when he’ll say something that makes me cheer and I hope he sticks around for a while. Think of him as the libertarian conscience of the GOP.
  • When it comes to Rick Santorum, I’m not objective. The guy just annoys the fuck out of me.
  • Tim Pawlenty seems like a nice guy and his candidacy reminds me a bit of Huckabee’s. But he seems to keep getting lost in the crowd. Every time he spoke, I was like, “Oh, yeah. T-Paw is there. Huh.”
  • Newt occasionally said something interesting to wistfully remind of his early days, when he seemed likely to transform our government. As as Presidential candidate, he’s toast.
  • Mitt Romney is clearly the front-runner even though his rivals don’t seem to realize it. He was poised and presidential. He made me cringe when he got into social issues. But I still think he will win the nomination if his organizational skills are anything. He and Pawlenty were the most sane and are therefore the most likely to win the nomination. Despite the rantings of the Left, the GOP does not nominate demagogues for President. McCain, Bush, Dole, Bush, Reagan, Ford, Nixon, Goldwater, Eisenhower … all of these guys were in the conservative mainstream.
  • The one guy who I most missed was Gary Johnson. Johnson really impressed me in the first debate and I think his voice would have been wonderful in this one. He’s a saner version of Ron Paul.

    As for the issues … well, there wasn’t a lot of time to get into substance and the moderator seemed uninterested. In that situation, the debate degenerated into talking points. The culture war issues distressed me, especially the support for the Federal Marriage Amendment — the GOP’s current attempt to replace the so-called Southern Strategy as their cultural albatross. They seemed to be all over the place on the economy. The only thing I heard clearly was that whatever Obama was doing was wrong. That’s not a policy. The only one who seemed to really have a grasp of the issues was Romney, but that probably has more to do with his polish as a candidate.

    Hopefully future debates will allow longer answers and get into substance. A better format with this big a field might be to have two four-way debates among the eight candidates. Toss an issue out and let them go at it for half an hour. Then we’ll see who knows his ass from his elbow.

    Coburn on the Move

    Tom Coburn is on the warpath against the NSF for supposed wasteful spending on scientific research, citing such wasteful programs as running shrimp on treadmills and having robots fold towels as examples of NSF waste.

    I’ve blogged on this subject before. NSF does not dole out research grants on a whim. They are, in fact, a paradigm of how government agencies can work. They stick to a strict budget. The rank proposals by peer review and then only fund the programs they have the money for. Regular reports are required to release funding in subsequent years. And funding is contingent on past performance. If Coburn had dug a little deeper, he would have found that many of these so-called wasteful programs are useful. The shrimp treadmill program, for example, is about monitoring the health of shrimp — shrimping being a multi-billion dollar industry. The towel folding experiment, while sounding trivial, was a key breakthrough in robotics. Even though folding towels seems simple, it’s a very complex task. Getting robots to do it is a big step toward getting them to do other things (and providing insight into how humans do complex tasks so easily).

    To be fair, however, you will almost certainly find any list of government research grants to have more than its share of clunkers. Indeed, that’s the reason we have government-funded science — to put money into projects that don’t have an obvious and immediate payoff but may have big benefits down the road: the sort of high-risk, high-reward projects that can sometimes bump science along. Most scientific experiments fail, most scientific theories prove wrong. Scientific investigation often sounds dumb because … well, it often turns out to be dumb. This is why scientists get so defensive about ideas like AGW and evolution: because it’s rare to find a theory so supported by the available evidence.

    The best thing to do is let NSF continue to control its budget. Accountability is always good. Let’s make sure there are no conflicts of interest and that money isn’t being put into clearly failed projects. NSF’s policy of publishing layman’s summaries of all approved research should be continued and highlighted. But micromanaging it is a recipe for disaster. As I said in the above linked post:

    If we need to cut science funding to balance the budget—and I think it’s a bad place to start cutting—the way to do it simply to cut NSF’s budget and let NSF figure out what programs they can ditch. Maybe we can shift some gross budget items. But having 535 lawyers looking over scientists’ shoulders is bad medicine.

    The worst thing about Coburn’s rant is that is has inflamed the usual suspects into claiming that the GOP hates science. In the middle of an otherwise good debunking of talking points, the above blogger says:

    Republicans don’t like science and scientists because they are sources of data that are independent of GOP-approved propaganda mills like Fox News. Pesky scientists and academics are always popping up to dispute the Roger Ailes-approved buzz-quote of the day — on climate change, on health care, on the effects of poverty on the rapidly evaporating middle class, on the diversity of American families, and on the importance of funding basic research instead of commercially-driven ventures constrained by short-term considerations like ROI.

    Today’s GOP has a visceral distrust of scientists for the same reason that it has a visceral distrust of the “lamestream media” (particularly deeply reported news organizations like The New York Times), teachers, organized labor, regulatory agencies, National Public Radio, and protest movements that are have not been astroturfed for Fox News’ cameras by Koch Industries: They’re not with the program, whatever this week’s program might be — more windfalls to Big Oil, justifying torture, or floating amendments to officially brand gay people as second-class citizens.

    Science, you could say, has a built-in left-wing bias, because it does not appeal to simplistic notions of God, country, tribal supremacy, or any of the other lesser angels of our nature that the GOP finds handy for its get-out-the-angry-vote drives.

    This is absurd. Ronald Reagan was a tremendous supporter of science as were both Bushes. Here, from the NSFs own website, is NSF’s historical funding, which has risen steadily, including when Bush and the Republicans controlled the government. There was a short (and ill-advised) spike in funding in 2008.

    As for not being on the Fox News approved message: the only prominent politicians who are openly questioning the War on Drugs and the War on Terror — I mean, when there isn’t a partisan advantage to doing so — are Republicans like Rand Paul and Gary Johnson. Turn on Fox News and you’ll sometimes find someone like Andrew Napolitano vigorously disagreeing with the GOP on constitutional issues. John McCain and Jon Hunstman have both said they agree that climate change is occurring. McCain, you may remember, is such a marginal figure that he was the Republican President nominee in 2008.

    Furthermore, the Left is more than happy to ignore science they don’t like. When The Bell Curve was published, the Left responded with anger, not debate. When Larry Summers, in the midst of discussing how to get more women into science, had the temerity to suggest that sexism was not the root cause of the gender disparity, the Left didn’t just dispute him; they hounded him out of office for blasphemy.

    The Left continues to support climate-change related pseudo-science like food miles, locavorism, electric cars and corn ethanol. They continue to treat scientific ignoramus Algore as some kind of prophet. The Democrats have specifically buried reports they don’t like, such as those showing Head Start to be a failure and Obamacare-style reforms to drive up healthcare costs. They continue to flog welfare spending, “fair” trade and raising the minimum wage despite decades of research showing the disastrous effects of such policies. They ignored the parts of Climategate in which scientists tried to silence climate dissenters and have said nothing about unfair and brutal attacks on climate realists like Bjorn Lomborg.

    Hell, right fucking now, they are running around claiming the spate of tornados is a result of global warming despite the dearth of any evidence supporting this position. They’ve even said that the null hypothesis should be that any weird weather is a result of global warming. They’re calling for states to make long-term plans to deal with AGW even though no one really knows what those long-term effects will be beyond unscientific “narratives” conjured up out of the imagination.

    And frankly, the profligate spending of both parties is the biggest menace threatening science today. Just the interest on the stimulus would be enough to fund a complete second NSF.

    But … the Republicans are determined to make it easy to fling these charges at them. Their positions on AGW and evolution open the door wide. They recently cut funds to overhaul our weather satellite system — a crucial part of hurricane prediction. Eric Cantor put numerous small scientific programs on the ridiculous You Cut website.

    As long as the GOP continues to act as if science is the enemy, they will be accused of … seeing science as the enemy. As long as they continue to tolerate ignorant anti-science screeds from politicians who can’t be bothered to read the publicly available layman’s summaries of funded research that explain what the research is and why it’s being done, they will be branded this way.

    And that’s a pity. Because science won’t survive in the hands of the Democrats either. Science is many things; but it’s never politically correct.

    (As always, disclosure: I’ve been funded by NSF programs at various points in my career.)

    The Replacement Killers

    None of the supposed GOP “front runners” — if there is such a thing at E-18 months — participated in last night’s GOP debate. This is probably why it was actually interesting. Feel free post your thoughts. Not much is settled at this point — we don’t even know what the issues will be in 2012. But my brief impressions of the guys who are vying for fourth place:

    • Gary Johnson does not have a chance. It’s a pity because he’s smart, libertarian and could win moderates. But he’s a little too … invisible to win the GOP nomination, especially when he’s on the stage with firebrands like Paul, Cain and Santorum. I did like him quite a bit, though and have since his gubernatorial days. Plus, how cool would it be to have a President who has climbed Everest?
    • Ron Paul reminded me of why I like him so much. Four years older and he’s still energetic and passionate. His defense of drug legalization was one of the highlights of the night. I’m not sure he’d be a good candidate given his past associations with Lew Rockwell and his somewhat kooky fiscal ideas. But having a Goldwater-esque pyrrhic victory might be just what Dr. No ordered. I really hope he stays in the field for a long time to force the other candidates to be honest. His influence has only grown.
    • Tim Pawlenty made zero impression on me. He’s trying to straddle a lot of issues, Romney-style, including creationism and cap-and-trade. I just don’t see him gaining much traction with the rank-and-file GOP. He wouldn’t be bad President, I think. But his personal appeal isn’t strong.
    • Rick Santorum reminded me that he is still a steaming bag of santorum. His Culture War positions were old ten years ago and his style is grating and sanctimonious. I do think, however, that he has a shot at the vice-presidency if a more moderate Republican (Romney, T-Paw) takes the lead. Social conservatives tend to like him and I probably dislike and slag him a lot more than he deserves.
    • Herman Cain had the best night, despite the panel’s attempts to avoid talking to him. This is really the first time he’s been on a national stage and he was clear, cogent and passionate. I disagree with Cain on a number of issues and am unconvinced that he would make a good President. But, like Paul, I hope he sticks with his candidacy for a while. He will liven up future debates. And between the two of them, they’ll make Trump look like an idiot.

    Nothing is decided at this time. Pawlenty needed a good showing to make himself a legitimate candidate and I just didn’t see it. But I think Cain and Paul showed that they belong in the debates. Paul we knew about. But his was Herman Cain’s coming out party.

    Predicting an election 18 months out is a fool’s game. But looking over the current field — last night’s five plus Gingrich, Romney, Huckabee, Huntsman, Bolton, Palin, Bachmann (I’m assuming Trump will drop out at financial disclosure time), I’ll take a stab at prediction and preference. Right now, my preference is for Gary Johnson. My prediction is still that it will be Romney.

    Now if only they could have gotten “The Rent is Too Damn High” candidate out there. (Yes, he’s running for the GOP nomination. Seriously.) Wouldn’t it be awesome to see him go up against Trump?