Tag Archives: third party

Libertarian Party picks ex-New Mexico Gov. Johnson for president

The Libertarian Party again nominated former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson as its presidential candidate, believing he can challenge presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton because of their poor showing in popularity polls.

Johnson, 63, won the nomination on the second ballot at the party’s convention in Orlando, Florida, defeating Austin Petersen, the founder of The Libertarian Republic magazine; and anti-computer virus company founder John McAfee.

The delegates selected former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld to be the vice presidential running mate.

Johnson, the party’s nominee in 2012, told the delegates during his acceptance speech that his job will be to get the Libertarian platform before the voters at a level the party has not seen.

“I am fiscally conservative in spades and I am socially liberal in spades,” Johnson told The Associated Press. “I would cut back on military interventions that have the unintended consequence of making us less safe in the world.”

On fiscal matters, Libertarians push for reduced spending and taxes, saying the federal government has gotten too big across the board. Johnson proposes eliminating federal income and corporate taxes and replacing those with a national sales tax.

He would reduce domestic spending by eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, the Commerce and Education departments, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

On social issues, Libertarians generally support abortion rights, gun rights, same-sex marriage and drug legalization, saying people should be allowed to do anything that doesn’t hurt others.

Johnson served as New Mexico’s governor from 1995 to 2003 as a Republican after a career as the owner of one of that state’s largest construction companies.

After failing to gain traction in the GOP’s 2012 primaries, he changed his registration to Libertarian shortly before running for that party’s nomination that year. He won the nomination and got just short of 1 percent of the general election vote against President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

For Johnson to make a serious run this year, he needs to qualify for the presidential debates. To do that, he must average 15 percent in five recognized polls.

He hopes that is doable because Trump and Clinton are both seen unfavorably by a majority of voters, according to recent polls.

Johnson will also need to overcome a huge financial disadvantage and history.

In 2012, Obama and Romney spent over a billion dollars each, a figure Trump and Clinton, if she is the Democratic nominee, are expected to also reach. Johnson spent $2.5 million in 2012, about one dollar for every 400 Obama and Romney each spent. Johnson hopes to raise “tens of millions of dollars” this time.

“Then we can leverage that to a level where we could wage political war” by hiring staff and running TV and radio commercials, Johnson said. He said Weld will help in this effort, having raised about $250 million during his political career compared to Johnson’s $8 million. Weld, 70, was Massachusetts governor from 1991 to 1997, also as a Republican.

The Libertarian Party has been running presidential tickets since 1972, but has never been a major factor. The party’s best showing was 1980, when candidate Ed Clark got slightly more than 1 percent of the vote. The only electoral vote the party has received was in 1972, when a renegade Virginia elector pledged to President Richard Nixon cast his ballot for Libertarian John Hospers instead.

Third parties have never won a U.S. presidential election. Former Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, running on the Bull Moose Party ticket, got 27 percent of the popular vote and 88 electoral votes in 1912. He finished second to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, the only time a third party candidate has finished that well.

Other notable third-party runs include former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who got 13 percent of the popular vote in 1968, winning 45 electoral votes; and billionaire businessman Ross Perot, who got 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992 but no electoral votes.

ANALYSIS: Tea party may be on verge of becoming a 3rd party

The political chaos in the first two months of the new Congress, despite Republican control in both houses, may signal that the tea party is morphing into a quasi-third party, a deeply conservative band of legislators who routinely thwart Republican vows of effective government.

Most recently, a group of tea party Republicans forced House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner to turn to Democrats to pass a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, particularly striking at a time when the U.S. is battling Islamic State group attempts to hold huge parts of Syria and Iraq and wreak havoc in North Africa.

The battle over Homeland Security funding hinged on 52 Republicans who refused to approve the measure unless it included a section that would overturn President Barack Obama’s executive action that temporarily lifted the threat of deportation for millions of people in the country illegally.

While the Republican advantage in the House is 245-188, the largest majority in 70 years, Boehner was finally forced to rely on Democrats on a key vote to fund the department.

It was a huge embarrassment for Boehner personally and the Republicans more largely. The speaker sided with tea party demands on immigration until he had to quietly change tactics, dropping the extraneous measure so the department would not go unfunded, at least for a week. Full funding then passed the House with 182 Democrats in the chamber voting for it, along with 75 Republicans. But 167 Republicans voted against it, a striking rebuke to Boehner.

Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp, one of Boehner’s strongest critics, said a fierce struggle between establishment Republicans and “grassroots conservatives” is brewing. “The war is on,” he said.

And that likely will show itself in continued infighting within party ranks and between the House and the Senate over pending issues like passing a budget, increasing the nation’s borrowing authority and passing a new use of force agreement for Obama in the battle against Islamic State group militants.

Robin Lauermann, a political scientist at Messiah College, thinks the “war” Huelskamp speaks of will eventually lead to an open split between tea party Republicans and their more mainstream party colleagues.

“I think it continues until you have the fatal error, the fatal decision that does not get made that creates a catastrophe, or the fatal decision that does get made,” Lauermann said.

That could well happen over Obama’s health care program, she said. The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to rule later this year on the constitutionality of a part of the law. If the court rules against the government, Obamacare could be gutted. While the program isn’t widely popular in the United States, a sufficient number of people have begun to see the benefit and could turn against Republicans. That may force the mainstream to kick out the tea party so that mainstream Republicans can begin to find replacement legislation.

James Riddlesperger, political scientist at Texas Christian University, says the tea party is the right-wing fringe of a mainstream Republican party that realizes it must “close the gap with Democrats on some things” if government is to function with any sort of normalcy. That’s what happened with Boehner when the chamber finally voted to fund the Homeland Security without demands for repeal of Obama’s immigration tactics.

That reality will leave the tea party more isolated as Republicans look forward to the 2016 presidential contest.

“It’s one thing to get the Republican nomination for president, but it’s another thing to win the national election,” Riddlesperger said. “You have people saying Jeb Bush is the front-runner, and while that may be true, Jeb Bush is not going to be a candidate that appeals to the tea party.”

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There’s got to be a better way

As election campaigns reach a fever pitch, voter disgust with political ads and campaign spending is soaring. Since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted restrictions on the amount of money private individuals and corporations can funnel through interest groups to influence elections, billions will be spent to buy our government and dictate its priorities this year and in the presidential election of 2016.

The justices who made the Citizens United decision in 2010 said that First Amendment free speech rights trumped concerns about political corruption, which courts could deal with on an individual basis. They evinced little consciousness or care about financial inequality in the United States, assuming a level playing field that would be fair to all interest groups. That’s hardly the case.

The media plays a problematic role too. There are few critiques of the system in the mainstream media, which profit enormously from political ads and which, as large corporate entities, lobby for their own interests. 

For instance, the Federal Communications Commission is set to issue new regulations that may limit “net neutrality,” which currently allows everyone equal access to all content on the Internet. Comcast and Verizon are among the companies wanting to impose controls and squeeze more profits from Internet users. 

It is beyond ironic that corporations that exist and thrive because of the First Amendment have commodified and centralized communication to the extent that they can limit or deny free speech rights to others. 

Besides the glut of political spending and ads, voters have to endure months-long, even years-long campaigns (for president) that often end in fatigue and disillusion. 

There are better ways. Many countries run more efficient and thrifty campaigns. France is one example. France limits campaign spending to just 20 million euros (about $25 million) in its presidential campaigns, with 50 percent of that provided through public funding. Primary and general elections are held within one month. TV ads are forbidden but candidates are given time to speak and debate on public TV. All French citizens are automatically registered to vote at age 18 and elections are held on weekends.

The result of these enlightened regulations in France included voter turnout of 81 percent in the 2012 presidential election, compared to 57 percent in the United States. Unlike the rigid two-party system in the United States, France boasts a vibrant multi-party system which offers real policy alternatives and requires coalition and compromise. The current president Francois Hollande represents the center-left Socialist Party but other parties include the Union for a Popular Movement (center-right), National Front (far-right), Democratic Movement (center), Green Party (left-environmentalist) and Communist (far-left).

It’s unlikely we’d ever emulate the French and hard to see how our entrenched system of exhausting campaigns and obscene expenditures will change. We’re Americans, after all, famed for doing things Big and Dumb. 

In more immediate terms, the U.S. Supreme Court’s stay of Wisconsin’s restrictive voter ID law was a good sign that the law will be carefully reconsidered. Although it offers a reprieve for the November election, the decision means that education and registration efforts should proceed in the event voter ID is sustained.

Mary Burke came off well in the gubernatorial debate with Scott Walker. Her TV ads are rather bland, so I liked seeing that she was sharp and even punchy. Attorney General candidate Susan Happ is beyond punchy; she kicks ass! 

I’m weary of the system, but I look forward to voting for these dynamic women who promise new leadership to Wisconsin.

Libertarians file complaint with Wisconsin over exclusion from debate

Wisconsin’s Libertarian Party has filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board alleging that the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association is violating state campaign finance law with its proposed broadcast debate for gubernatorial candidates.

Andy Craig, a candidate for secretary of state on the Libertarian slate, filed the complaint in cooperation with Robert Burke, the Libertarian candidate for governor.

The broadcasters association traditionally sponsors televised debates in statewide elections, and has done so since the late 1990s.

The complaint from the Libertarians alleges that the group’s threshold for inclusion in 2014 is “deliberately designed to ensure a two-party debate in a four-candidate race.” A candidate must be at 10 percent or higher in polls and must have raised at least $250,000 in campaign contributions.

Robert Burke opted to run a no-donation campaign for governor under the banner “Give to the poor, not politics.”

The complaint says the debate criteria is unfair to third-party or independent candidates who usually receive a much higher number of votes per-dollar-spent than do traditional major party campaigns.

Libertarian Ed Thompson, for example, received more than 10 percent of the vote in his bid for governor in 2002 and spent about $50,000. He also placed first in two Wisconsin counties, although he was excluded from the WBA debate.

The complaint with GAB specifically alleges that the WBA is engaging in an illegal in-kind contribution to the gubernatorial campaigns of Republican Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke, who are the only candidates bringing in the kind of money to participate in the debate. 

“Only a broadcast debate which extends an invitation to all general election candidates for governor can satisfy the legal requirement that the extremely valuable and expensive broadcasting time and debate sponsorship, and the corporate resources which go into them, not be used to promote the election or defeat of any candidate. This is what distinguishes a debate, which would be legal for corporations to fund and promote as an educational service to voters, from an electioneering advertisement” said Craig.

The Libertarian Party is Wisconsin’s third-largest political party. Twelve Libertarian candidates are running this year in the state, including five for statewide offices.