Election 2018: The More Things Don’t Change, the More They Stay the Same

RGBStock.com Vote Pencil

In 1992, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton ran on a platform of “change.” He used the word a lot. His first campaign slogan was “for people for change.” “Change” here, “change” there, “change” everywhere and all the time.

I found the “change” theme kind of odd coming from Clinton. At the time he ran, his party had controlled both houses of Congress for nearly 30 years straight. It had controlled the White House for 22 of the previous 50 years. And when his party hadn’t been in control, only one other party ever had been. For 132 years.

How would electing yet another Democratic president — and one who held himself out as a “moderate,” not too terribly unlike his Republican opponent, to boot — constitute “change?” Independent candidate Ross Perot or Libertarian candidate Andre Marrou, maybe.  Bill Clinton? No.

But he won. And, hopefully surprising no one, eight more years — wait, make that 26 more years — of business as usual followed.

This year, a lot of Americans seemed to agree that, again, “change” was needed.

The result: A few Senate seats, a few House Seats, a few governorships, etc. switched hands … between the two parties that have dominated politics since just before the Civil War.

America’s voters had choices. Libertarian Gary Johnson for US Senate from New Mexico. Reform Party candidate Darcy Richardson  for governor of Florida. Green Howie Hopkins and Libertarian Larry Sharpe for governor in New York. There were alternatives all up and down the ballots, from local to state to federal office, across the country.

The voters chose, with few and mostly local exceptions, the same old thing. Again.

Many of those voters will likely spend the next two years complaining that they got what they voted for. The same old thing. Again.

Two years from now, many of those voters will likely meditate on the need for change. Again.

And vote for the same old thing. Again.

And get the same old thing. Again.

And wonder why. Again.

Remember the old saw, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity?

People: You’re not going to GET something different until you DO something different.

So, a challenge: Spend the next two years watching what happens in American politics. Think about whether or not you like it. If you voted, unless you voted third party or independent, understand that you voted for it.

Then, in 2020, don’t.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) 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.


Election 2018: To the Victors Go the Spoils, to the Losers the “Spoiler” Complaints


I’m writing this column a few days before Election Day 2018. I can do that because the outcome I’m writing about is entirely predictable. It happens every two years. My prediction, which is 100% guaranteed to come true:

In races where a third party or independent candidate gets more votes than the number separating the major party winner from the major party loser, that loser (or at least that loser’s supporters) will whine that the third party or independent candidate “spoiled the election.”

That complaint is based on a pernicious fiction: The fiction that votes magically “belong” to one of the two major party candidates, and that when they go to some other candidate they are “stolen.”

If a Republican loses an election by 50 votes and the Libertarian in the race got 51 votes, Republicans will blame Libertarians. If a Democrat loses an election by 100 votes and a Green opponent got 101 votes, Democrats will blame Greens. And the party that fails to gain, or loses control of, Congress will whine that it was “those other guys” who “robbed” them of a victory they considered their rightful due.

That’s the fiction. The fact:

Your vote belongs to you, and only to you, until such time as you cast it for a candidate of your choice. No candidate is entitled to it. Each candidate has to try to earn it, and the only opinion that matters on the subject of whether or not a particular candidate HAS earned your vote is yours.

Another fact: Some votes are simply never, under any circumstances, going to be cast for Republicans or Democrats. It’s not that those votes moved “out” of the Democratic or Republican column, it’s that they were never in one of those columns.

Mine, for example. The last time I voted for a Republican or Democrat for president — and almost certainly the last time I ever will, unless I fall prey to severe dementia and yet somehow make it to a polling place — was the first time I voted. That was in 1988.

I am a partisan Libertarian, and if there’s no Libertarian running for president, I’ll write someone in or just not vote on that race at all. So when I vote, my vote counts solely toward the hopeful victory of the candidate I support. It doesn’t come “from” the hopeful victory of any other candidate.

As for voters more open-minded than myself, every candidate has the opportunity to ask for their votes, and to explain why he or she  is more deserving of those votes than the other candidates.

Note to Tuesday’s losers: You can whine about your third party and independent opponents if you really want to, but remember, nobody likes a whiner.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) 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.


This Too Shall Pass: “Birthright Citizenship” Kerfuffle is Mostly a Get Out The Vote Tactic

14th Amendment Senate & House votes June, 1866

In a late October interview with news website Axios, US president Donald Trump announced his intention to sign an executive order doing away with “birthright citizenship” — the notion that persons born on US soil are citizens from birth with no need for any naturalization process.

It’s not exactly an “October surprise.” Trump used  birthright citizenship as a rallying complaint  on the campaign trail in 2016. He’s done nothing about it in the nearly two years since.

Now he’s weaponizing it again, along with fear-mongering about a migrant caravan wending its way through Mexico toward the US, in a last-minute effort drive an extra (and possibly decisive in places) fraction of a percent of Republican-leaning voters to the polls for the 2018 midterms.

After which he will almost certainly go back to doing nothing about it for another two years, until he trots it out a third time when seeking re-election in 2020.

Will he issue the threatened executive order? That seems unlikely, as does the passage of regular legislation ending birthright citizenship. The matter is too clearly settled, and has been for far too long, for a change to pass muster with the courts on any basis other than a constitutional amendment.

Birthright citizenship has been US citizenship doctrine since the country’s founding, in keeping with the English common law tradition of jus soli (“right of the soil”). It was codified in the Civil Rights Act of 1866,  then enshrined in the 14th Amendment, then upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1898 case Kim Wong Ark v. US.

Its likely resistance to easy change is a good thing for at least two reasons, even if you oppose “birthright citizenship.”

First, letting  the president  discard parts of the Constitution at will, or Congress at a lower legislative threshold than the required 2/3 of both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures, is inherently dangerous. If they can do it with the 14th Amendment, they can do it with the 1st Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, and assembly), the 2nd Amendment (gun rights), the 22nd Amendment (limiting the president to two terms) … where would it end?

Secondly, with respect to citizenship in particular, does anyone really want to give an ever-changing government discretion to tinker with the longstanding definition? Right now the threat is to “children of illegal immigrants.” Release the genie and who’s to say that three years from now it won’t become “people with fewer than three generations of American ancestors?” Or, for that matter “people who aren’t registered to vote as [insert political party here]?”

Like many libertarians, I hold the whole concept of “citizenship” suspect. No less a light than Thomas Jefferson argued against the notion that a compact entered into in 1787 by one set of people could bind subsequent generations who haven’t explicitly consented.

That said, the Constitution is the set of rules on which the American political class stakes its claim of legitimacy to rule us. If they won’t abide by it, why should we recognize their authority at all?

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) 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.