How I’ll Vote

Reason has their annual who we’ll vote for article out in which their writers and associated libertarians reveal who they plan to vote for in this election. I’ve indicated my intension before, but I’ll put it down in one place, answering the same questions the Reason people did.

Who are you voting for? Gary Johnson. He is by far the best candidate on the issues, by far the most qualified and by far the most likable. I realize people think this is a wasted vote; I do not think so. And Pennsylvania is unlikely to be close, in any case. If some combination of Johnson, McMullin and Stein deny Crump a majority, we can deny them a mandate.

Down ballot, I will be voting for Pat Toomey for Senate and Glenn Thompson for the House. Because I think the most important part of this election is having Republicans retain control of Congress.

(I also think the Republican Party may schism after this into a conservative party and a populist one. But that’s a subject for another post.)

Which major-party candidate do you find most alarming? Trump. Clinton is an unprincipled, corrupt, amoral power-grubber whose policies, such as they are, are awful. She’s taking a provocative stance with Russia, has a long history of supporting idiotic foreign adventures, wants to raise taxes and spending out the wazoo and would appoint bad justices to the Court.

But as I said in last month’s posts, in every way that Clinton is bad, Trump is worse. He’s for bigger government, more spending, more debt. He has demonstrated a vindictiveness and a callous disregard for Constitutional restraint. And if I hadn’t been convinced of his mental unfitness, the complete meltdown of the last few weeks would have done it. The only reason to vote for him is SCOTUS justices but a) I don’t think that’s worth the risk; b) I don’t trust him to not appoint outright fascists to the Court who will rubber stamp what he wants to do.

The gripping hand is that there will (hopefully) be a Republican Congress to keep Clinton’s worst instincts in check. They have amply demonstrated that they will not keep Trump in check. They have demonstrated an ability to keep a Democrat in check, having killed efforts at card check, a public option, minimum wage hikes, cap and trade and gun control while cutting spending $700 billion below what Obama wanted.

Who did you vote for in 2012? Gary Johnson. Although in that case, it was because I saw little reason to be apocalyptically alarmed by either candidate. How bad is it that I long for the days of Romney v. Obama?

What will you miss most about the Obama years? Having a President I didn’t despise. I disagreed with Obama constantly, but I felt like he was honest about what he thought, could make his case eloquently and never lost his cool. I never bought into the whole “he hates America!” hysteria. His personal life is pretty much beyond reproach (which was something I liked about Bush as well). Think about listening to Obama speak for the last eight years, then imagine hearing Clinton or Trump speak for the next eight minutes and you’ll see what I mean. In five years, a lot of conservatives will be looking back wistfully on the Obama years, longing for the days when the President was just wrong about everything, rather than being wrong about everything and a piece of shit.

Scientific American Drifts From Science

A few weeks ago, Scientific American sent twenty questions to the four Presidential candidates, asking for their policy positions on scientific issues. I think that’s a fine idea. The next President will control billions of dollars in federal funding for science, have to set priorities for our various department and agencies that do science and have to deal with scientific issues like disease, vaccines and climate change. These questions won’t reveal much about what the candidates think, but will reveal the kind of people they surround themselves with who actually write the answers. Are they surrounding themselves with real scientists or cranks? Big government lackeys or free market gurus? Earth-first idiots or global-warming-is-a-fraud crackpots?

Having read through the answers, it’s about what I would expect. It’s mostly pablum but gives you a general sense of their philosophies. Clinton thinks government can solve everything, Johnson is very in favor of free markets, Stein is a crackpot and Trump is kind of all over the place. All show some grasp of the issues but differ on their approaches. In terms of the quality of answers, I would rank them Johnson, Clinton, Trump, Stein, but … that is an entirely subjective rating. I rate Johnson high because I favor free markets and Stein low because she’s a crank who favors massive government intervention in everything.

Well, that wasn’t enough for Scientific American, who decided to “grade” the candidates on their answers. They rated Clinton highest (64 points), Stein (44 points), Johnson (30) and Trump (7). But their ratings having nothing to do with the actual science and everything to do with politics.

Both Trump and Johnson are hit for favoring free market approaches to climate change. Why? Because Scientific American doesn’t think the free market can handle climate change. Maybe it can’t, but that’s an opinion not a fact. It’s fine for pundits to have opinions but SA is presenting this as though it is some kind of objective analysis, which it clearly is not.

It get worse. They are heavily biased against Trump, frequently giving him zeros on issues where he’s not entirely wrong. They give him 0 points on education because he favors bringing more market forces to bear on education. Trump may be right or wrong on that (I think he’s right) but they bash him because ITT folded and Trump University was a scam. This has nothing to do with what Trump said. It’s bashing him for things he said outside of the forum and for issues unrelated to what he’s talking about. If you’re going to hit Trump for the failure of ITT (which he had nothing to do with), why not hit Clinton for taking millions in “for profit” college money? Clinton and Trump give basically the same answer on nuclear power, but Clinton gets two points and Trump gets one because reasons. On scientific integrity, they give Trump 0 points because … Politifact has rated a lot of his utterance as untrue. Look, I’ll be the first to call Trump a liar but this has nothing to do with his answers to this specific question. It’s ridiculous.

But it gets even worse. On nuclear power, they give Jill Stein 2/5 points. Jill Stein’s answer on nuclear power is one of the worst answers the entire debate. She plans to shut nuclear power down based on junk science and favors on-site storage based on junk science. Her proposal would almost certainly make climate change worse, not better. And if we’re going to judge candidates by what they’ve said elsewhere, she once claimed nuclear power plants were bombs. Stein is a complete crank on nuclear power. There is no way she should get any points on this. She also get 2/5 on food, even though she’s a complete crank on GMOs and farming.

Nowhere is this bias more visible than the question on vaccines. Trump is given 1/5 for occasionally engaging in anti-vaccine nonsense. But Stein is given 3/5 when her entire party is devoted to anti-vaccine nonsense; nonsense she has not seen fit to dispel. Seriously, Scientific American? Seriously?

I’m glad someone is asking the candidates questions about science policy. But Scientific American needs to just lay out the questions and answers and leave it that. We do not need this kind of biased analysis showing up in a supposedly scientific magazine. Write about it on Politico or Daily Kos or whatever.

You might wonder why this set me off. It’s because this is one of the biggest problems facing science today: the efforts by scientists and scientific publications to wed scientific facts to political opinions. This shows itself most thoroughly in the debate about global warming where disagreeing with left wing policy solutions to global warming is considered a form of “denial” on par with claiming the planet isn’t actually warming. The debate over global warming (and a host of other issues) would be light years easier if we separated those two; if we said “you can accept that global warming is real and not accept my solutions to it”. SA’s “grading” of the answers to the science debate is just the latest in the misguided philosophy of mistaking opinions about scientific issues for facts about scientific issues. And it needs to stop. These issues are way too important.

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.