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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
Did he also moon the crowd?
No, that was James somebody. Not the guy with the harmonica, though. I think.
Both. He both stands for expanding social security, massive new jobs programs, reduced civil rights for gun owners, religious folk, and others, and such, but also both fails to appreciate basic elements of the American political system and then, when he runs into trouble, fails to inform himself on them.
When Johnson talked about the free market bankrupting coal at the LP convention, he was genuinely surprised that there was opposition to it. He was then surprised again when he suggested he’d support a carbon tax and there was a negative response. He still doesn’t seem to understand how eccentric it is to advocate for the FAIR Tax (including a tax hike to take us to 39%!) After he discovered that not knowing about Aleppo was a big deal he went off and, I guess, asked an assistant, but his “informed” answer when he came back was about how the Kurds were fighting ISIS there (they are not), the FSA were aligned with ISIS there (they are not), the US was launching strikes against Assad (it was not), and if we were to get rid of ISIS we’d only replace it with something worse, but we should do it anyway.
He used to say that he balanced eight budgets as governor. When that was revealed to be entirely false, he started claiming that his final budget was good. It was better than his other seven, but it was passed over his veto and cannot be honestly claimed to be a credit to him. He lies constantly, and is for instance currently claiming that the reason that he’s not at 15% in the polls is because he’s not included in the polls. He says to gun supporters that he opposes gun control and to everyone else that he’d increase it, to FiCons that he’d cut spending while promising everyone else a hamper full of expensive goodies. He tells AARP that he wants to expand Social Security contributions on the basis that they’re not a tax but a retirement plan, but doesn’t tell anyone else that. He tells SoCons that he supports restrictions on abortion and progressives that he opposes them, both in blanket language.
If you look at his private life, from being the kind of Trumpian figure who’d name his construction company Big J, as in Big Johnson and smirk and wink at people when he tells them its not about pot, to his abandonment of his wife to his shoveling pork at his friends in the construction industry as governor, then moving to take a financial interest in pot when that was where his political influence took him, he’s much less dissimilar to Trump in his character than one would think at first glance.
Well, even if it’s a failed party, it’ll be a failed party with a substantial representation in Congress for a few years at least, and in state governments. It’s highly likely to come in the first two in the Presidential election, with Nate Silver currently putting the odds at precisely 40% that it will come first. It is highly unlikely that it will garner less than 40% of the vote. As such, until it dies it probably matters whether it produces people like the guys who won pretty much every Congressional and Gubernatorial primary, supporting entitlement reform, free trade, a consistent pro-life position, and such, or if it produces guys like Trump. Maybe in 2024 it won’t matter, but you surely accept that the 2018 mid-terms and 2020 cycle will see the GOP as a major contestant, no?
Not a bad idea. And I live in Washington State, where everyone supports Bernie. I imagine they’ll mostly vote for Hillary, but I’d also half expect Stein to get a big part of the vote as well.
I absolutely detest the “green party,” but as a strategic matter, I’m inclined to not leave that portion of my ballot blank…
Did you see his Union Leader/ AARP interview? He’s now suggesting that expanding SS contributions makes sense because it’s not a real tax because it’s a retirement account. That only sounds a little bit crazy until you remember that his platform is based on the FAIR Tax. If you think that adding a percent to a Federal sales tax isn’t a tax if the revenue is being directed at your new entitlement benefit, you might just be a Libertarian.
I’m just waiting for the headlines after the election:
This whole conversation just makes me hate this election even more.
Well if you’re talking strategic voting, regardless of what you think of Johnson, his reaching the FEC funding threshold would chiefly benefit the 2020 Libertarian nominee. It could be Johnson again, I suppose, but that’s hardy certain. In fact the raised visibility and promise of matching funds could well attract a deeper pool of potential candidates for the party to pick from in 2020.
I love you Joseph.
And this is where we are shocked to discover that Johnson tells different audiences different things?
Possible. Also possible that it could reward the LP for picking guys like Johnson, prompting them to deliver more of the same in the future. As @matt-corbett said – and as I said after him – we’re all in this together, and I don’t think we all have to choose the same strategies.
He’s a politician, not a saint. Still, the fact that he’s talking about how Social Security is insolvent and must be reformed already makes him more honest on the issue than anyone else in the race. Fundamentally there are only two ways to fix it: cut benefits, or raise payroll taxes. In the interview I quoted he proposes the former (i.e. raise the retirement age), and in the AARP interview it sounds like he floated the latter.
You’d prefer I suppose that like a good doctrinaire Libertarian he told the AARP that Social Security is unconstitutional and therefore the day he took office AARP members would stop getting their checks from the SSA? And then like doctrinaire Libertarians before him he’d get less than 1% of the vote come November…
I don’t agree with this. Watching the way Johnson flips on issues makes me believe that his actual opinions on these issues are not solid. He goes off of the reservation all of the time, and is reigned in later. In practice I don’t trust him to have a coherent framework of belief anymore than Trump.
I think people really are unaware of how awful Johnson has been on issue after issue.
Maybe if they’d let him in the first debate we’d be able to judge for ourselves.
It’s not difficult to have a consistent story for one debate. Even Trump rarely contradicts himself from one moment to the next on stage. It is what they say the next day and the day before that reveals the dishonesty/stupidity/disinterest.
I use to like politics.
This election might be enough for me to give up on voting entirely.
Don’t, it’s a civic duty.
I do think we pay way to much attention to Presidential elections, where in terms of probability our vote is least likely to affect the outcome. We should devote most of our time and attention to local government elections (mayor, city council, school board), secondarily to state-level offices, and then spend 5 mins deciding who to vote for POTUS while waiting in line to vote on election day. It’s really the least important vote on the whole ballot.
Well, I’d like to think it’s not a civic duty for people who are wrong.
Right. If you read Reason, you’ll generally get the impression that Johnson is an excellently qualified Libertarian, for the same reason that if you read Breitbart, you’ll generally get the impression that Trump is a brilliant and principled conservative. It’s also the reason that Johnson will be the nominee the next time round; he has the paid operatives in his pocket and they control the nomination.
It’s true that he talks about making Social Security more progressive in its payments, although if you try to parse his words on what “means testing” means, you’ll generally struggle; his definition is not one that anyone I’ve shown it to recognizes (if you know what he means, I’d genuinely appreciate a clarification, or even a guess). He also talks about creating a new entitlement, such that you get a death benefit for your relatives if you die before you “get your money back”. He also talks about raising the social security contribution. He is entirely clear that he’s not talking about a net cut.
It’s true that he says that he’s the only candidate who’s talking about these issues. He also says that he’s the only candidate who understands them. Those claims are roughly as true as each other, but they’re not the sort of thing that Reason would quote without comment if they had any sense of shame or any interest in reporting on libertarian issues: Clinton’s SS policy and Trump’s SS policy are both pretty clear. Clinton’s is detailed, while Trump’s position of maintaining the status quo is about as detailed as “no changes” gets. Johnson, on the other hand, not only mangles every attempt at defining means testing, but voices radically different proposals on different occasions, and most notably suggests that the FAIR Tax, which he suggests he would implement at a 39% rate (balancing the budget on the back of a tax hike), is compatible with hikes in SS contributions being “not a real tax” hike, because SS payments are a retirement account. Obviously, SS is not a retirement account, but this is even more obvious if its paid for by a sales tax.
You live in Ohio, no? The Senate election might not look close, but Clinton has a vastly superior ground game and it is entirely possible to lose elections from even this sort of a lead; I may be going out to Ohio to knock doors for Portman in October (weighing it against other states) because Ohioans’ votes really matter this time; there’s some pretty competitive House races, too, . You don’t have to check off every box. If you wanted to and couldn’t bring yourself to vote Stein, I’d recommend Richard Duncan as an Ohio choice. I think that this is the best interview with him, although it’s from 2008 (he’s on the ballot again this time, again in Ohio only, since he collects all the signatures himself). If nothing else, your vote seems moderately likely to contribute to a record breaking cycle this year, which would make an old man smile. If you have any questions, my guess is that you could probably get in touch with him and ask.
Do you believe that Clinton is not talking about increasing contributions? Upon what do you base your unkind judgment of her?
Make sure you let me know if you come to Ohio so we can get together.
Johnson says (correctly) “It’s going to be insolvent. It has to be addressed.” Hillary denies this:
Johnson suggested raising the retirement age. Hillary is against this:
Johnson thinks we need some combo of raising taxes and cutting benefits to make the system solvent. Hillary thinks we should expand benefits rather than cut them:
Clinton says that it should remain solvent because she’ll reform things to make it so. That’s not dishonest. Johnson probably thinks that with Johnson’s reforms we’d avoid bankruptcy, too.
That’s true, but Clinton is honest about her positions; she puts them, in detail, on her website, she published them, in more detail, in her book. She talks about them, in detail. Johnson gives different and contradictory plans in half thought sentences to different audiences.
I agree that there are parts of Johnson’s policies for some audiences that are better than Clinton’s. There are also parts of Clinton’s that are better than Johnson’s. For instance, Clinton has nothing so mindblowingly stupid as the death benefit.
On the question of honesty, though, there is no contest. Johnson’s proposals are consistently tailored to his audience, whereas Clinton’s are consistent. Clinton works hard to put her detailed plans in the public sphere, Johnson does not even put them on his website. For Johnson to claim that he is brave and forthcoming on the issue while she is not is…. pretty typical for him, but far from admirable, and not something that one should endorse.
Johnson also thinks we should expand Social Security benefits. That’s why I gave you the links, so that you could watch him advocating for a new entitlement and promising that his reforms would not cut SS. It’s just less obvious because he’s not as courageous or honest as Clinton.
James, what would you be saying if Petersen was the nominee?
Probably that he’s not qualified because he’s never held elected office, and they should’ve nominated the former governor instead…
I don’t think so. James is on record saying Petersen, and even McAfee, would be leaps and bounds better than Johnson. I believe he is completely genuine in those beliefs because it’s likely true.
My problem with James’ complaints about Johnson is they seem born of convenience. James’ core position is that 3rd parties always hurt their “home” party, of which the Libertarians are the Republicans, even though it’s less obvious this year. If the Libertarians became sufficiently strong, which public funding would ensure, then they would pull overwhelmingly from Republicans. (I’m not completely sure this is true, but it’s probable.)
Lucky for James, Johnson has been relegated to obscurity long enough to make ridiculous statement on practically every subject, which he is more than numerant on.
So, if it was Petersen especially, but maybe McAfee as well, I have to believe James would be mostly relegated to his core argument.
Since I know what his fundamental position is, it makes all his arguments about Johnson less devastating.
For the most part, I’d be talking about Senate and Gubernatorial races. I’d still be irritated with the party (Petersen’s knowledge is not Johnson shallow, but it’s pretty shallow). In previous cycles the LP hasn’t been this bad. Last cycle, Johnson wasn’t this bad; most of his attacks on civil liberties, his advocacy for new spending, his really crazy foreign policy, and his serious slanders against America have been in the last couple of years. I’ve sat through Johnson’s speeches without exploding. I even shook his hand and got him to pose for a photo with @fredcole . I don’t know why I can’t get the photo to come out straight.
I’d be surprised if I has as many as 1% of the conversations about the LP nominee that I’ve had this cycle if it’d been Petersen. Those that I did have would have expressed frustration at the lack of depth, but when I talked to him, Petersen was promising to learn more about the issues and to have the issues page of his site being more detailed than Trump’s. I thought that that was a plausible and achieveable aim. Petersen’s style and his employment (FOX) would have meant that there wasn’t such a paucity of journalists willing to do research, and that they wouldn’t have to read government documents to go through his record. In other words, I wouldn’t have been a fan, but it wouldn’t have been like this. Petersen would have consistently advocated libertarian ideas, as he does on his facebook page, which I follow, and have had a campaign filled with decent and principled libertarians, some of them also on my FB page.