Tag Archives: gary johnson

The rock, the hard place, and the eternally sought-after undecideds

The elections podcast by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight team contained this rather interesting moment near its end on Monday:

NATE SILVER: Neither of these candidates has really won that many people over. Clinton is still at only about 42 percent in the [national] polls, down from about 44 or 45 percent right after the convention. 42 percent is not that good. It’s better than being at 39 percent, which is what Trump is at, but some of the marginal Clinton voters now have gone to [Libertarian candidate Gary] Johnson and [Green candidate Jill] Stein. How could Clinton potential lose this election if her favorables are slightly less bad than Trump’s?  If more of her voters go to Johnson and Stein. I think she needs a plan for dealing with that. If you assume that third party vote will fade… well, maybe… […]  but you certainly can’t count on that. I’ve never seen an election before where the number of decideds like goes up as the election goes on. [Laughter]

In this of all election cycles, maybe we should consider this before laughing.

This is an election cycle where, unlike in the last one, significant swings have proven possible and suggest exactly those unthinkable reversals. A lot of the restrictions I talked about in the last presidential cycle seem to continue to ensnare presidential contenders – most notably that Trump is trying what Romney wouldn’t, to say he’s at once in favor of two diametrically opposed immigration policies. But woven in between first Obama’s and now Clinton’s inability to effectively harness the news cycles and first Romney’s and now Trump’s need to hold two positions at once, there’s an almost supernatural destabilizing element: the decided voter who un-decides.

To fully credit them, there’s most likely no singular bloc of voters who fit that description. Even from the same part of the political spectrum, the motivation for a particular de-decider will vary, and as a result their undeciding can arrive at any number of times. While this seemingly new phenomenon is in some ways a reflection of this race – between two major candidates with net negative popularity, and maybe popular to get buyer’s remorse from – it’s also a manifestation of alienation from the two parties themselves.

That dislike for the two major parties doesn’t precisely fall evenly, and so neither do the un-decided. Amid recent allegations of corruption and other non-ideological criticisms, Hillary Clinton is perhaps more vulnerable to losing support for appearing to embody some of the greatest flaws in the system more generally. For Trump, similar allegations might limit or even undo his support, but the perception of him as an electoral outsider might also soften the blow.

Perhaps more coherently than any other recent presidential election, this one has been predicated on ideas of candidates’ relative flaws. With both major candidates facing limited enthusiasm and low popularity, running against their opponent has played a much bigger and more universal role this year than previously.

One of the problems that strategy poses, however, is that some of your support won’t kick in until it looks like you might lose. On the level of this that we have reached this year, what’s more, some of your supporters won’t necessarily stick around once it looks like you will safely carry the election. Conscientious voting has been raised as an issue in both primaries and into the general election, priming voters to ask themselves that if they don’t absolutely need to make a lesser-of-two-evils choice, then why bother.

2016-09-07_0936(The Princeton Election Consortium’s national meta-margin and FiveThirtyEight’s national polling averages, both showing the “sine wave” fluctuations Nate Silver mentioned earlier in the same podcast.)

For Clinton, someone absorbing support from her left and her right on the basis of her not being Trump, this creates boom-bust cycles of her support, or as Nate Silver put it – sine waves across the electoral polling. Like last year, the two major parties have pretty much played each other into a Democratic-leaning stalemate on the national level.

What seems to be new this year is that the sea is choppy, not that we’re in a different boat. The real proof of this dynamic, of course, will be born out in whether Clinton recovers some of these supporters now that the race is tightening again. Until then, as Silver said, we haven’t yet seen a race where the number of undecided voters goes up… but there’s always a first time.

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Gary Johnson: after all this time?

TW: references to domestic violence, abilism, 9/11 attacks, Iraq War and occupation, and Katrina

It’s hard to believe it at first, but Gary Johnson, in spite of being supportive of same-sex marriage, has the potential to spoil the 2012 election for Romney in spite of being so far to his left. He’s arguably also to Obama’s left on certain issues – namely the death penalty and the on-going occupation of Afghanistan – yet he’s still threatening to siphon off just enough of the vote from Romney in a few key swing states that he could clearly impact the election.

Between his third party presidential candidacy and the seemingly endless stream of scandalous Republican gaffes, there’s been an uptick in anti-Republican views. The details of each incident vary, but it’s the same inevitable horribleness each time. Republican Walter Jones was the first congressional representative to appear as a guest on a disturbingly popular White Nationalist radio program.  Republican supporter Pat Robinson joked that a man should move his family to Saudi Arabia so he could discipline his wife with domestic violence. “Birther” attorney Orly Taitz is now suing any state or person that she can for the flimsiest of reasons. Republican Virginia Legislator Bob Marshall has insisted that God punishes women who abort their first born with disabled children. And today, the Republican Presidential Candidate has politicized the murder of the American ambassador to Libya. All of that has come to pass in merely the last few weeks following the major parties’ conventions.

In this cesspool of Republican hatred, it’s easy to see why former New Mexican Governor Gary Johnson wants to run as a Libertarian, rather than Republican. You see, it’s a recent thing, all the terrible policy-influencing nonsense the Republicans have started peddling. As a result, it makes sense that he initially ran as a Republican in the primaries this spring. As he mentioned in a recent interview:

“I don’t feel represented by the Republican Party. I have always had to defend the social side of the Republican Party by saying that it’s not the majority, that it’s not their focus, when everything suggests just the opposite.” (emphasis in original)

Of course, his argument is less coherent when earlier in the same interview Johnson explains,

“They [Republicans] have a huge demographic problem. The notion [is] that most people in this country are fiscally responsible and socially accepting, I don’t see the Republican Party matching up with those demographics at all. I see the demographics increasing, and by that I mean the notion of social acceptance is growing, not decreasing; I think the notion of fiscal responsibility is growing, not decreasing. And Republicans seem to be moving further away from those two categories [of voters] than closer.”

So how much of this move is calculated? How much of his sudden allegiance to the Libertarian Party is because he sees, much like the extremists remaining in the Republican Party, an unstable if not inadequate electoral coalition? The sudden “foot-in-mouth” epidemic facing Republicans is relatively new, but it follows years of failure. Did Johnson support the socialists who alone called the 2000 electoral debacle a constitutional crisis? Did he counter his party on its disregard for the security of the American people? Did he call out the Bush Administration for building the case for an illegal war with known forgeries? Did he even join the mass outrage over the countless drowned in the utter failure to prepare or respond to Hurricane Katrina? Did he break from his party because of its role in destroying the United States’ economy? Did he defect when the Republicans made clear that their first priority was undermining and criticizing the Obama Administration rather than fixing the crises their policies had created?

No. He didn’t. He switched parties after someone offered him a Presidential bid and he realized that his current party was an electoral dead end. He remained a member of an institution while it was responsible for negligence and demagoguery that cost thousands of lives, but he later switched allegiances, because he wanted an electoral future that the Republicans couldn’t offer him.

If you want a brave, third party truth teller who recognized the events of the past decades for what they were, try Jim Jeffords. Or better yet, Bernie Sanders.

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