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Other Candidates Got Your Down? Hoist Yer Stein!
Politics is a dirty game and nobody has to like federal funding of elections to be resigned to the observation that it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon. Given this observation, what might we do with it? The virtue of strategic, rather than principled, voting – or rather, the assertion that strategic voting is, in reality, the only form of principled voting – has many champions among the Ricochetti this year. Nonetheless, even if we grant that the odds of one’s vote being decisive are large enough in swing states that swing-state voters should feel morally obligated to choose between the two lead candidates (those odds are around one in ten million), many of us live in states so far from swing that they’re not even on the playground (our odds are more like one in a billion).
As of this morning, my state has around a 0.2% chance of tipping the election, and is one of 20 states whose voter power index is under 0.1 (a vote in New Hampshire is more than 50 times more likely than mine to decide the election), according to FiveThirtyEight. (If you don’t like Nate Silver’s methodology, feel free to substitute whichever prediction system you trust most.) Meanwhile, Gary Johnson is polling at around 8 percent nationally. Now, it’s common for polling to overestimate the share of votes third-party candidates will get. Nonetheless, if Johnson is polling at 8 percent now, he has a serious chance of crossing the threshold necessary for the Libertarian Party to receive FEC funding, which is 5 percent of the popular vote. Moreover, as @matt.corbett put it in his recent OP,
As a matter of good public choice theory, sitting out or voting third party (or advocating either) is entirely defensible as part of a long-term strategy. The great paradox of voting coalitions is that the least reliable members have the most influence… Influence can only be re-established with credibility, and credibility can only be re-established by action. An election where “your” candidate is openly contemptuous of you and is most likely a loser anyway is the ideal time to protest vote.
The risk of Johnson crossing the FEC threshold is real in 2016, and exists whether you predict Trump or Clinton to win. And while we know the Libertarian Party does attract some folks who’d otherwise vote Democrat, a federally-funded Libertarian Party is more likely to split the Right than anything else. No matter who is elected President/Emperor this November, the struggle against Leftism won’t be over, and — given the likelihood of the Right being split — it is very much in our interest to also the Left split as well.
For that reason, I propose a Stein hoist:
If you’re not voting Trump, and you’re not satisfied with Gary Johnson – and especially if you’re satisfied that your state is not in play this time around – have you considered voting Stein instead?
Given the risk of Johnson splitting the Right, it seems only fair to try to split the Left as well by getting the Greens across the FEC threshold, too. Right now, Stein is polling between 2 and 3 percent nationally, so it seems getting the Greens across that threshold in 2016 is rather a long shot. Nonetheless, even getting them closer to that threshold would likely encourage the Greens in subsequent elections, and @jamesofengland – no anti-Trumper he, and someone very well-versed in the horse-race aspects of politics – agrees that, long as the odds are of my vote helping the Greens get across that threshold, they’re still likely shorter than the odds of my vote in my state deciding the election between Trump and Clinton.
As a Trump supporter reminded us recently, “Political reality is about probabilities.” As several Trump supporters have reminded us repeatedly, stopping the Left is the most important thing this election season, and conservatives should be willing to get our hands dirty to do it – and what gets a conservative’s hands dirtier than a Green thumb? The first time I ever voted, in another state, a fellow conservative impressed upon me the strategic advantages of voting Green for a particular race. At the time, I could not bring myself to do it; the whole idea repulsed me. It still repulses me. But, given the state I live in, voting Stein may be the most I can do with my vote to damage the Left.
Now, I reserve the right to change my mind on this. If, come late October, my state is somehow in play again, I’ll re-think things. (Although, if that happens, it probably means SMOD has already won.) I’m not trying to persuade Trump supporters to vote Stein instead, even if they live in states dyed the deepest of primary shades. Nor am I saying that those still on the fence about Trump should make up their mind now to not vote for him. I’m just struck by how advantageous it would be for the Greens to get the same FEC funding the LP does, or for the Greens to get FEC funding even if the LP doesn’t. This, despite the fact that I loathe both the Greens and FEC funding. But politics is a dirty game.
It’s also realistic to acknowledge that at this point no amount of pressure is going to get every anti-Leftist voting Trump. Just as even the most prudish parents (or grandparents) can (and, in my experience, do) advise their kids “If you must have sex before marriage, at least use contraception” while still disapproving of premarital sex, well… I realize voting Stein is not saving one’s cherry for Trump, but if the goal is defeating the Left, perhaps Trump supporters might agree that voting Stein the next-best thing.
My friends who have known Trump for decades now as “Mr ED” (and not in that Bob Dole way) cannot be persuaded to vote Trump, for example. It’s possible several will vote for Johnson, despite misgivings about Johnson being libertarian enough. Perhaps some can be persuaded to vote Stein, though. And even if they can’t be, at least my voting Stein would even things out a little.
As Matt Corbett pointed out in the OP I quoted above, we’re all in this together and we don’t all have to pursue the same strategy to help each other out.Published in Politics
Sure, do it. Mr. of England impressed upon me his fear of a divided anti-liberal electorate & although I’m not sure that’s the bad thing he thinks it is, I see no downside to getting the Greens in the green!
Perfect Midge. Perfect.
I have and I plan to.
‘Blue eyes goes green.’
Hey! They were green all along.
True blue green, you mean?
I don’t buy it. Taking 2000 as an example, Nader pushed Gore farther left to avoid losing more of those votes. Gore then provided Bush more cover to stake out positions farther left than he could have in another election.
Can you imagine what new entitlements Trump would be talking up if Jill Stein were higher in the polls this time?
We may get more Presidents with an R next to their names, but to what end if the whole conversation is shifted that much leftward? Suppose it’s a balance, which is why I don’t buy into making political “bank shots” like this.
There is that risk, and it’s that very same risk that might have had me voting Libertarian this time around if the Libertarian candidate were, well, actually libertarian. Unlike @jamesofengland, I do think the risk of splitting the Right might be worth it if the prize were shifting the whole conversation rightward. That prize doesn’t seem possible this time around, though. Both the R candidate and the LP candidate are already to the left, and it seems the Constitution Party candidate is not even on my state ballot. The conversation has already moved left, it seems, and it’s possible all supporting Stein does to the conversation is add a little more silliness to the leftward shift.
It’s possible @lazymillennial could weigh in on the relative risks here, @grosseteste. Or @sonofspengler or @chuckwalla, since they’re actuaries. How to weigh the relative risks of splitting the other guy’s coalition against moving the Overton window in a direction you’d rather not have it go is certainly not as obvious to me as I’d like it to be.
What issues did Nader push Gore left on? Nader’s impact was, like all third parties, to destroy the issue the party was based on. Gore had been a serious environmentalist for some time and went on to produce, without any interest in pleasing Nader voters, the most effective piece of green propaganda ever filmed. What did Nader do to the Democratic Party? They’ve never had an environmentally focused nominee since. They took a core and popular part of the Democratic coalition and made it hated; the establishment greens are still around, but Gore’s big push was something of a swan song.
If Stein were taking Clinton votes (Stein’s votes are almost every exclusively Democratic), that would create precisely zero motivation for Trump to adopt Clintonian positions. You can’t take over a third party’s popular positions; they can always go more extreme, in part because they have no genuine media scrutiny. They will also automatically be granted a branding with greater purity and as being outside politics, even when they’ve had careers as politicians.
Thus, the way that the left has responded to Stein has chiefly been by ignoring her. Fivethirtyeight features Johnson prominently and doesn’t have Stein on the image. Johnson gets on Colbert, sycophantic praise on MSNBC, Samantha Bee, Salon, and such, and generally maximized coverage, whereas Stein is pretty much entirely ignored, even as she engages in moderately newsworthy stunts (getting arrested and such). When Stein is mentioned, it’s to focus on her crazy aspects; wifi melting children’s brains, Putin stuff, Harambe support, etc. She still gets significant levels of support among people too young to remember Nader and among minorities. For the most part, though, her politics are the sort of thing that people will grow out of and remember with a mix of affection and embarrassment, but not want to recreate.
This doesn’t match my memory of 2000 at all. Can you elaborate?
I think that might be one of the reasons @grosseteste is worried about enhancing the Greens’ prominence risking an Overton shift.
From James’s comment and others, I gather that giving Stein prominence may be especially unlikely to make crazy Green ideas appear sane.
Do you think that in this cycle, or in the last cycle, there was any LP idea that was adopted by someone not in the LP and thus moved the conversation to the right? Is there any LP policy that might be adopted this time that would move the conversation that way? I’ll admit that my experience has been colored by growing up in a UK where the split on the left meant that the conservative minority could radically change the country with the other parties not appearing to drag each other to the left, but it is also formed by the persistent failure of third party movements to do the same in America, whether it’s to create a robust protectionist progressivism, an anti-Catholic Democratic Party, a segregationalist Democratic Party, an environmentalist Democratic Party, support for silver coinage.
Indeed, with a system of competitive primaries, the LP sucks a pretty significant number of activists out of having a voice in the election. The more Ron Paul voters are sucked out of the primaries and into side shows, the harder it will be for people espousing his beliefs to flourish in the primaries and influence the national debate. It also means that there is less incentive for candidates less inclined that way to reach out/ pander to the issues because they won’t be voting anyway.
When you look at the views of the Green Party supporters, it becomes clear that a key advantage to having them be in their own party is that the Democratic nominee, who will become our President something like 50% of the time, doesn’t have to chase their votes and their rival candidates will not have those votes to give them additional support.
Not really, and that may explain why I’ve been tempted to vote Libertarian before, but never gone through with it. Instead, I’m more comfortable with non-electoral ways to mainstream libertarian ideas, like IJ and promoting school choice.
I believe @matt-corbett is right:
and that in theory, it might be possible to have a Libertarian Party with that kind of leverage. I don’t think that’s what we have right now, though, and I worry encouraging Johnson, specifically, might just make it worse.
Yes, it’s the voice versus exit question.
I don’t think that this has ever happened. There are examples of whacky movements giving the window a shove, but the two most successful libertarian movements were when Ron Paul made his bid within the GOP. Sanders had a platform for most of what the Greens wanted (Stein has repeatedly begged Sanders to replace her on the ticket), but it made a difference to the public debate because it wasn’t third party. Forbes helped to mainstream some libertarian ideas, but by using the system effectively. Pat Buchanan was able to vomit his ideas into the party consciousness and redefine conservatism to include people like himself in the 1992 and 1996 primaries, whereas in 2000 he doesn’t appear to have moved the conversation along. It’s commonplace to hear in trade law about how China’s WTO succession is less talked about today because there wasn’t prominent discussion of it at at the time; both Bush and Gore supported it, as did McCain. If Buchanan had run main party rather than third party, his core message would have been a part of the political debate and we’d have had a greater focus on the Chinese threat earlier on.
Johnson had the clever idea in 2012 of using the GOP primaries to build support before running third party, but the only idea that I’ve spoken to anyone remembering him pushing that time was a late term abortion ban with abortion being fine until then. This is an idea he now appears to reject (his views on abortion are hard to decifer), but it definitely wasn’t an Overton window thing.
I recall Nader being more of a generic socialist-leftist than an environmentalist candidate, at least in appeal to the Nader voters I knew. Maybe it was all optics, but I remember Al Gore making pilgrimages to the left-deplorables like Sharpton et. al, in an opposite movement to Bill Clinton’s “Sister Soulja moment” posturing eight years earlier. I think there should have been more room in the center for Al Gore to pick up votes after years of Clinton triangulation, and I attribute part of his leftist emphasis to Nader’s presence in the race. Maybe that was Gore being Gore, though I don’t recall him being known for his unshakable core convictions previous to that. So maybe GW Bush would have proposed the new Medicare entitlement anyway, but I think it would have spooked conservatives more had Al Gore not been reaching so far left.
In any case, what motivates most voters is a mystery, and that, as well as hailing from the land which elected Jesse Ventura and Al Franken, has bound me to the voting principle that I shouldn’t vote for anyone if I would be bitterly disappointed in their victory, however unlikely it might be.
Gore had very few areas where he had ever been different to that. The one big area where Gore was on the opposite side to Nader was trade. On that subject Gore was a rock solid conservative throughout the 2000 campaign.
Al Franken won in part because the left did better at promoting our third parties than we did at promoting theirs. It’s certainly true that you should never vote for a major party candidate if you’d prefer the other major party to win (this includes voting for the “worse” candidate in the primaries if there is any chance that they will win).
Jesse Ventura is a different issue. It’s true that his polling was unimpressive before the climax of the race, but it was never Stein unimpressive. By the end of the race, you had a lot of stories calling it a three way race without being manifestly shills for the third party. That’s not something you’ll see this cycle and it’s certainly not something you’ll see with reference to Stein. Backing off Stein because of Ventura’s success is like watching a guy die after leaping from a tall building and consequently being overly cautious about footstools; not every form of elevation presents the same threats.
Ok, I convinced one Bernie-cum-reluctant Clinton supporter to vote for Ms. Stein today. At a McDonald’s. Sixties campus radicalism was part of the conversation & by Thor it was indistinguishable from Animal House. Except for that part with the Maoist Commie propaganda.
So I’ll tell you the story when I’ve the time, but I’m just letting you know, I put my mouth where my, uh, mouth is, I guess, is what I did…
So, you kissed yourself. No wonder it was so persuasive!
Don’t get romantic-
I generally agree but I do not think Gary Johnson is at fault for “splitting” the right. That is 100% the fault of Trump, Priebus, and the other so-called Republicans who have abandoned any pretense of commitment to limited government.
To be honest, I wasn’t thinking in terms of fault, just about the likelihood of the LP meeting the FEC threshold this time around, and whether the Greens meeting that threshold would make things better or worse.
I sympathize with your frustrations, Paul.
If you look at this in terms of 2020, though, do you believe that the next RNC chairman and the next GOP nominee are likely to be so bad that it would be good for America for the taxpayer to pay out a six figure sum to run attacks on them? Voting Stein isn’t a way of supporting Trump and/ or Priebus. Indeed, if you were to ask either of them whether that is what you should do, I feel confident that they would demur from Midge’s recommendation. It’s a way of helping the people who have to repair America after this cycle.
I understand MFR to be thinking more long-term.
If serial bankruptcy filer and unsuccessful real estate developer Donald Trump is elected, then yes I think it is a near certainty that the next RNC Chairman and nominee will be bad enough to warrant any level of attack against them, from whatever source, at whatever cost. If the corrupt and loose-lipped former Secretary of State is elected, there is still a chance that the “Republican” Party will continue to move in a populist, anti-republican direction that is worthy of a similar level of scorn from principled libertarian conservatives.
In either case, the long-term prospects of reinstating limited government will depend on breaking up the two-party duopoly, which has every incentive to continue the status quo.
I will be voting for Mr. Johnson here in New York.
What is the argument for voting for an unprincipled big government candidate who draws votes from principled small government candidates rather than for a principled big government candidate who makes life harder for fellow big government candidates? If the policies you want are Johnson’s policies of social security contribution hikes and massive federal jobs programs, why not vote Clinton? If the ignorance and poor personal qualities of Trump are repugnant to you, why cast your vote in favor of someone still more ignorant and comparably repulsive? How does showing that you don’t care about these things encourage the GOP to cater to you in a positive way?
I’ve talked to a few more never-Clinton, pretty-much-never Trump folks. Did not manage to get across the notion of voting Stein. Well, it can’t have been easy for the snake in the garden either, but he persisted & eventually overcame!
James, I must admit some confusion about your use of labels. Are you suggesting that Johnson is an “unprincipled big government candidate” or that he is “more ignorant [than Trump] and comparably repulsive”?
At this point, I could not care less about the GOP or to whom it tries to cater. It is a failed party.
James has indeed said that previously, so it would not surprise me for him to say it now.
James’s skepticism of the good of the big-L Libertarian Party is only exceeded by his skepticism of a few other things, one of which is Johnson himself.
I witnessed first hand Johnson promising to expand Social Security.