Tag Archives: Green Party

Spoiled Rotten: Who Owns Your Vote?

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There’s a word that sets my teeth on edge, bubbling up among the commentariat every other year as election campaigns heat up. In this cycle I’m starting to hear it earlier than usual, mainly because prominent candidates — first Donald Trump, now Jim Webb — are rumored to be considering independent bids for the presidency.

Since the word is out there early, signifying a bad idea, I’m coming out early to combat that bad idea.

The word I’m referring to is “spoiler.”

You’ve heard the arguments, I’m sure: If everyone in Florida who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 had voted for Al Gore instead, we wouldn’t have ended up with George W. Bush (as a side note, if everyone who had voted for Harry Browne in 2000 in New Mexico had voted for Dubya instead, Florida wouldn’t have mattered).

“A vote for the Libertarian is a vote for the Democrat.” “A vote for the Green is a vote for the Republican.” “A vote for anyone but the candidate I support is a vote for the candidate I fear.”

Horseapples.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: Your vote is yours and yours alone. It doesn’t belong to a candidate until you cast it for that candidate, and you don’t owe it to any candidate until he or she has — in your opinion and your opinion only — EARNED it. You have no obligation whatsoever to vote for someone else’s hypothetical “lesser evil” instead of for your own carefully considered greater good.

Secondly, the “spoiler” phenomenon is largely a myth. As a partisan Libertarian, I often hear the claim that people who vote Libertarian would instead vote Republican if they didn’t have a Libertarian option. That’s sometimes true, but decades of exit polling says that Libertarians “take votes from” Democrats in about the same ratio as “from” Republicans on average, and sometimes more so (for example, in the 2013 election for governor of Virginia, Libertarian Robert Sarvis’s voters said, by a two to one margin, that their second choice was Democrat Terry McAuliffe, not Republican Ken Cuccinelli).

Finally, even if “spoiling” is a real phenomenon, so what? If the candidate who wanted your vote didn’t get it, maybe that candidate should have worked harder to deserve it. If there’s any chance to bring one or both of the major parties around to the views of third party voters, that chance is represented by the “spoiler” factor: “What do we have to do to get back that 3%  we lost by last time?”

As you watch the 2016 campaigns unfold, keep these three things in mind. Vote your own priorities and let the chips fall where they may.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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After the Circus, Consider Your Options

Libertarian Party Logo
Libertarian Party Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe I don’t get out enough, but among people I’ve talked with about next year’s presidential election there’s a deep feeling of disgust. Watching the Republicans debate and the Democrats speechify, their feeling so far is “Really? We can’t do any better than these clowns?”

I feel their pain — and, I suspect, yours too. I wouldn’t leave my wallet alone in a room with any of the guys or gals running for president on a “major party” ticket. But then, I usually feel that way.

What’s changing is that more and more people are agreeing with me. Since 2004, according to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who think we need a “third party” has risen from 40% to as high as 60%. The percentage of Americans who think the Republicans and Democrats do an “adequate” job has fallen from 56% to 35%.

So, enjoy the circus for now, I guess, but as Donald Trump pedals his giant tricycle around and Hillary Clinton juggles disappearing email servers, keep the “third party” thing in mind …. and don’t forget that there already IS a third party working hard to earn your support.

The Libertarian Party boasts 152 currently serving elected public officials, ranging from city council members to fire and water district representatives.

The party has yet to elect a governor, congressmember or president, but not for lack of trying. The first woman to receive an electoral vote wasn’t Geraldine Ferraro; it was the Libertarian Party’s first vice-presidential nominee, Tonie Nathan, in 1972. The party has elected hundreds of local officials and a few state representatives. It’s clearly a serious political player. If you’re unhappy with the “major party” offerings, why not take a closer look?

Darryl W. Perry, Cecil Anthony Ince and Marc Feldman have already declared for the Libertarian Party’s 2016 presidential nomination. Rumor has it that the elephant in the room (pun intended — he’s the former Republican governor of New Mexico), Gary Johnson, may throw his hat in the Libertarian ring again and try to top his 2012 total of 1.6 million votes.

Pay attention. Explore. If you’re not a libertarian, check out the Greens, the Constitution Party, heck, even the Prohibition Party. There ARE alternatives to the “major party” freak show.

Or you can keep on doing what you’ve always done and get what you’ve always got. Because that’s worked so well in the past, right?

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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In 2016, Let’s Have Real Presidential Debates

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Every four years, the Commission on Presidential Debates puts on a series of campaign commercials disguised as presidential and vice-presidential debates.

The CPD is, in theory, a non-profit organization “established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.”

But the CPD is really just a scam the Republican and Democratic Parties use to funnel illegally large “in kind” campaign donations, in the form of tens of millions of dollars’ worth of free media exposure, exclusively to their own candidates.

A real non-partisan, non-profit debate organization would use objective criteria for deciding which candidates may participate in debates. The CPD continuously refines its criteria with an eye toward ensuring  that no third party or independent candidates qualify for a microphone at a CPD “debate.”

Billionaire independent/Reform Party candidate Ross Perot managed to jump through their hoops in 1992, afterward polling 19% in the general election. CPD excluded him in 1996, cutting his vote percentage down to 8%. Since then, CPD has successfully excluded additional candidates from their Democrat/Republican campaign infomercials.

Libertarians aren’t fans of laws limiting the people’s ability to give their money — as much of it as they want — to the candidates they support. But if there are going to be such rules, they should apply across the board.

That’s why the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, both parties’ 2012 presidential and vice-presidential candidates, and 2012 Justice Party presidential nominee Rocky Anderson are suing CPD. The Our America Initiative, headed up by 2012 Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson, is coordinating the legal challenge.

The relief the plaintiffs seek is simple: That if the CPD is going to pretend to be a non-profit, non-partisan debate organization, it be required to start acting like one. Instead of giving the Republicans and Democrats a free series of campaign infomercials, CPD  must put on real debates,  open to all candidates who are legally qualified for the office they seek and whose names appear on enough state ballots for them to hypothetically win the election.

Would victory in this suit make a real difference for third party and independent candidates? Absolutely. Exposure in the debates might or might not put Libertarians or Greens over the top, but it would at least expose the American public to the real panoply of choices instead of to one pre-selected pair.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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