Tag: midterms

The Libertarian Party Must Shift from Federal to Local Races

Kevin D’Amato | United States

After a lackluster performance in the contentious 2018 midterms, the Libertarian Party is refocusing. Local races, not federal ones, seem to be the future for the third-largest party in American politics.

Besides winning ballot access for a few states, it seems like 2018 is another year in history libertarians would rather forget. Crushing defeats in all types of positions took place, including incumbent state legislators Laura Ebke and Brandon Phinney, who secured 43% and 10% in their races, respectively.

Problems Solved?

As founder of the Mises Caucus Michael Heise put it on Election Day: “We need to accept that federal office is not realistic right now. If we’re lucky we make the ballot, but even then we are kept out of the polls, excluded from the debates, and blacked out by the media.” Heise went on to say that the way to victory is through running “local initiatives” and by pursuing “winnable state-level races”.

Michael’s advice is sound and logical. In fact, looking at previous elections, localized candidates performed much better on average. The federal libertarian candidate who did the best by far was Gary Johnson in the New Mexico Senate race. Despite polling as high as 22%, which was second place, prior to the election, the former governor only managed to get 15%. This is even more disappointing after realizing how much money and time he poured into the run. Artie Buxton of South Carolina, on the other hand, won a bid for school board with 68% of the vote. Without a doubt, that victory was won with much less than the nearly $400,000 that Johnson used.

The New Libertarian Way to Victory

Local and state races are not only more successful historically, but also more strategic. Without endless supplies of money like the Republicans and Democrats, the Libertarians need to be inventive:

  • Low profile races add up over time, building a strong grassroots base.
  • Local races create experienced candidates who can work their way up the political ladder.
  • Proven records of victory provide a defense to arguments against the lack of “winnability”

The largest lesson for any Libertarian is that the real upcoming race is 2019, not 2020. Local races are the future of the Libertarian Party. The long game is the path to change.


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The Senate Strikes Back

The Senate strikes back at the Trump Administration passing a resolution requiring the withdrawal of United States troops from Yemen in the next 30 days, making an exception for those fighting ISIS. The measure passed, after failing a prior attempt in March, by a vote of 56-41 motivated by President Trump’s tepid response to the tragic killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The brutal assassination of the U.S.-based journalist occurred at the Saudi embassy in Turkey and was allegedly ordered by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salmon.

While we wait to see if the House will approve the measure, which will not happen till the next session, we can marinate on the importance of this move to the long-running Congressional policy of political surrender. Congress has the power, according to the War Powers Act of 1973, to remove troops from foreign theaters of conflict when those troops haven’t been deployed due to a Congressional Declaration of War.

Honestly, the War Powers Act is unnecessary as Congress has the Constitutional authority of war declaration, not the President. However, Congress often opts to delegate its authority to the President rather than take the responsibility that comes with exercising it. Why? Winning elections is harder to do when you are being held accountable for screwing up a difficult and unpopular decision. Why not just allow Presidents, who typically are more narcissistic and willing to stand alone, to endure that hostility while Congress hides in the bunker.

The Senate’s move raises three intriguing questions concerning the balance of power in Washington. Perhaps Congress is ready to re-assert its equal role in war powers. Congress has been gun-shy since getting burned in the second Iraq War under President George W Bush and has abdicated its role as a check on executive power when it comes military decisions.

First question: Does this move signal the end of U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in its proxy war with Iran in Yemen?

This catastrophic conflict has left tens of thousands of dead and the region reeling with disease and on the brink of famine. In other words, as with most of our international interventions, a humanitarian crisis is unfolding with dire consequences for the region that will require more resources to salve. Most of our citizens are unaware of the ongoing human tragedy in Yemen. Maybe this moves helps us become more aware so that public sentiment can turn enough to get us out of this conflict.

Second question: Will Congress finally exhibit the imperative backbone to stand up to the President when it comes to how our military is used globally?

Our Constitution didn’t leave Congress powerless in matters of international conflict, but Congress has surrendered that authority and allowed the unbalance in D.C. that has led to an endless state of military conflict. Whether it was President Bush’s interventions that left a power vacuum in Iraq that led to ISIS or President Barack Obama drone-bombing weddings, Congress has sat on the sidelines in refusal to check this unmitigated war power that is a major contributor to our growing national debt. Most polls show Congressional approval around 10% and Congress exhibits minimal desire to chance that elevated standing with the voters. Especially when action could re-engage on military issues that could wind up unpopular or even wrong.

I believe that we’re witnessing is a limited political shot across the bow on the Saudi issue. President Trump’s style of governance has in many cases divested Congress of any say on matters of international importance. Many members of Congress, including some on the Republican side, have called for sanctions against Saudi Arabia. President Trump is opposing them, citing a pending weapons deal as the basis for his refusal to punish the Kingdom for Kashoggi’s murder.

This isn’t the first time that President Trump has been obstinate in the face of Congressional sanctions. Following the revelations concerning Russian tampering in the 2016 Election, Congress imposed sanctions on Russia. President Trump dragged his feet and refused to impose them in the timing and manner that many in Congress wanted. The Senate appears to have decided to use this issue as a rebuke of President Trump and a warning that he needs to stop ignoring Congressional opinion when it comes to international sanctions.

Third question: Will Congressional Republicans see this as an initial salvo in their effort to rescue the GOP from the hands of President Trump and his base?

Many in the GOP still see President Trump as an interloper and temporary threat to the future of the party. Several retired from the body rather than run again in the Trump-era in 2018. As of this point, they’ve been practically impotent in exerting any power against Trumpian policies they oppose. However, will the losses in Congress by the GOP in 2018 begin an erosion of unconditional support for the President among his own party? While I think this is a single-issue battle, some may be galvanized in their resolve to resist backing less popular portions of President Trump’s agenda.

In the next few months, we will watch how this narrative develops. The House will not vote on this measure until the new Congress is seated. With Democrats looking to strike an early blow of power assertion against the President, I believe it will pass. If President Trump vetoes, as he has indicated, Congress will again be left in the same spot it once was in overriding President Richard Nixon’s veto to pass the War Powers Act.

Then we will see if Congressional Republicans have re-discovered the rigidity with which they opposed President Obama and are ready to fight to balance power in DC, or if they will scurry back to their cubbyholes and acquiesce their Constitutional authority to the will of President Trump.


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The Media’s Molestation of Mueller and Climate Science

Glenn Verasco | Thailand

I am embarrassed to say that my most recent post was back on September 24th of this year. To put that in perspective, this was in the midst of the Kavanaugh confirmation fiasco and more than a month before midterm elections.

I have some legit reasons for being less able to publish recently, but I’m not here to make excuses. Instead, in an attempt to reignite my creative flame, I will indulge in a stream-of-conscious-like list of opinions on happenings in current events, politics, and news.

Climate Change

Based on my own perception through the lens of social media, there seems to be an increase in climate-related articles and op-eds pouring out of the web. This is likely due to the Trump administration’s supposed disregarding of a federal climate report as well as recent revelations of the international community’s astounding failure to curb carbon emissions (they are once again on the rise).

As an avid snorkeler and explorer of the natural world, I have a special interest in the environment and the life that abounds within it. However, being a nature lover does not make me an environmentalist. I firmly believe that the well-being of the individuals who comprise mankind vastly outweighs environmental conservation and that those who wish to preserve the natural world ought to bear the burden of doing so, rather than using legislation and the brute force of the state to shift the cost onto others.

I am also a glutton for logic, or perhaps, something of a logic addict. I do not mean to say that I am the most logical person in the world (as the simulation of logic, being just as satisfying as the real thing, is bound to fool me more than once in a while), but that I depend on logic to feel content.

Being interested in nature without being an environmentalist and being a logic glutton or addict has resulted in my opinion on climate change and climate policy culminating as follows:

  • Climate Change will probably cause some problems in the future, but the solutions proposed in mainstream politics are impossible (in terms of political will [see France’s anti-gas tax riots]), ineffective (in terms of mitigating temperature rise), or worse than simply allowing Climate Change to take its toll (in terms of economics and quality of human life [this would not be a reason cited by an environmentalist, which I am not]).
  • The best way to deal with Climate Change is to have faith in supply-side economics (which is creating a vastly underappreciated utopia). As I laid out in a post about two years ago, maximizing economic growth and innovation via deregulation and decentralization of government is the best way to continue humanity’s miraculous rise from poverty and despair, which will, in turn, allow more people the luxury of being able to care for and nurture the environment in addition to providing abundant and reliable resources to alleviate the damage caused by Climate Change in the future (oddly enough, Jordan Peterson laid out my ideas quite eloquently during a recent appearance at Cambridge University… has he been reading my blog?).

The Mueller Probe

The three branches of the United States federal government are as follows: executive, legislative, and judicial. The executive branch mainly deals with government personnel and international relations, the legislative branch makes the laws, and the judicial branch settles disputes.

There is no FBI or Robert Mueller branch of government, and, regardless of how anti-Libertarian Trump’s policies are, I am growing sick and tired of unelected, extra-constitutional bureaucrats trying to run the show in Washington. The FBI and their special counsel are subordinate to the president whether you like the president or not.

I am undecided on how exactly to feel about Robert Mueller. Dan Bongino is in the midst of presenting a compelling case against the entire Russia-gate operation, essentially calling it a red herring being used to undermine Trump and, possibly more malevolently, cover up illegal intelligence activity directed against the Trump campaign during the Obama administration. I have not read Bongino’s book, so I am sticking with compelling for now.

#TheResistance (which includes the whole of the mainstream media as far as I can tell) has been telling me for about two years that Mueller and the gang are inches away from bringing the Trump presidency crashing to the ground. Watergate will look like jaywalking, by comparison, they say. But as so-called bombshell after so-called bombshell fades into oblivion, the little confidence I had in this stale fairy tale has completely evaporated.

Mueller needs to sign his book deal and find a new hobby.

Climate Change, Mueller, and Media

There’s a bit of a tie-in between the Mueller probe and Climate Change, which the media has brought about.

After the aforementioned federal climate report was made public, major media outlets pounced on the revelation that the US economy could shrink by 10% by the end of the century. Incredibly important information is, I suspect, intentionally (though maybe stupidly) left out of this claim. For starters, the 10% reduction is not in relation to the current economy. It’s 10% of the projected economy of 2100, which is expected to be 300% of today’s economy per capita. This means the economy of 2100 will be, as Bjorn Lomborg puts it, “a slightly smaller bonanza.” Furthermore, the report uses predictions of improbably high levels of warming. As Lomborg writes:

“[The 10% figure] assumes that temperatures will increase about 14 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. This is unlikely. The US climate assessment itself estimates that, with no significant climate action, American temperatures will increase by between 5 and 8.7 degrees. Using the high estimate of 8.7 degrees, the damage would be only half as big, at 5 percent.”

Mentioning these factors should reduce anxiety over climate change consequences and contradicts the likelihood that they will occur at all.

The main takeaway from all of this, even for those who disagree with me about climate and environmental policy, should be that it is the media, not the scientists, who are spreading hysteria about the future of the natural world.

The same is true of the Mueller probe.

Robert Mueller is not going on national television exclaiming that the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency is upon us. He is not trolling the president and his associates with hyperbolic headlines or spreading conspiracy theories on Twitter.

Mueller is, on occasion, releasing information about largely benign findings uncovered by his investigation and making no comment on what they mean in regard to the president’s future or past.

Anti-Trump media outlets like CNN and The New York Times, by politicizing issues like Climate Change and the special counsel, are tarnishing the reputations of experts in their fields, be they prosecutors or climatologists. They are replacing rational discourse with hackneyed talking points. And they are ruining any chance the public they claim to serve may have to engage with complex and important issues in an adult and civil manner.

Yemen

Spencer Neale at 71 Republic compiled a list of the 37 senators who recently voted to continue the War in Yemen. All 37 are Republicans, which illustrates why Libertarians must invade the GOP or vote third party, not succumb to the lesser-of-two-evils ultimatum. Political correctness and reckless welfare spending are not worse than endless war and the bill that comes with it, so the Democrats should not be avoided any more than the Republicans. Both are plagues upon the USA.

By the way, Americans are still dying in Afghanistan. What the hell are we doing over there?

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The Libertarian Party Won’t Win, and Here’s Why

By Josh Hughes | United States

In 2018 alone, a sizable 833 Libertarian candidates ran for various offices in the election. From school board seats to national races, the party had many solid chances to grow this year. However, they only managed 27 victories. Depending on one’s perspective, that may be a success, especially including prosperous losses such as Larry Sharpe’s in New York.

On the pessimistic side, however,  3.4% of candidates winning their respective elections, with the overwhelming majority of the spots being relatively non-partisan such as “Soil Conservation Board” and “School District Board,” isn’t exactly a huge accomplishment for the liberty movement. 2018 was a prime opportunity for the Libertarian Party to make gains. But with this defeat, they will likely now have to wait until at least 2022, as voters are more likely to vote for the two major parties during the presidential election.

With all of this being said, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the status of the LP. Since its conception in 1971, the party has yet to consistently be a factor in any meaningful elections. While this isn’t entirely the party’s fault, it is certainly startling.

Poor Recognition

Unfortunately, the two party system has periled the fringe third party for its entirety. While their platform is certainly appealing to many on the right and left, many do not know about it. The sad reality is that the Libertarian Party simply doesn’t have the funding to advertise on the same scale as the Republicans or Democrats. From not being able to debate during the presidential election, to not being able to fund commercials for races, the party will frankly never be a contender if they don’t get access to more money.

Poor Reputation

People who know just a little about the party usually know one thing: “Didn’t their presidential candidate not know what Aleppo was?” The inept leadership and not-so-great candidates they choose to run usually shed a terrible image of what the party really stands for. What’s more, the party has moved more to the left recently. Taking the stance of open immigration and a very noisy anti-Trump policy certainly will not help draw in right-wing voters on the fence.

Another reason voters will be apprehensive is an unfortunate byproduct of America’s voting system. Unlike in a system of alternative voting, where voters can rank candidates without fear of wasting a vote, the U.S. only allows one vote. Suppose a Democratic candidate has 45% of support in a race, a Republican has 40%, and a Libertarian has 15%. Hypothetically, a majority of the 15% of LP voters, if given the choice between the two, would rather a Republican win than a Democrat.

Knowing the Libertarian candidate won’t win with only 15% of the vote, the voters often compromise their beliefs and vote for the Republican rather than let the Democrat win. In this instance, the Republican wins. However, the Libertarian supporters still aren’t satisfied because neither party matches their views. This idea of “choose the lesser of two evils or waste your vote, possibly helping a worse candidate win” is a horrible flaw in America’s system, and largely contributes to the unpopularity of third parties.

The Unfortunate Reality

As good of an idea as the Libertarian Party is, it frankly can’t win. The system makes it virtually impossible for any third party to be a major contender. Voters see (R) or (D) next to a candidates name and will make their choices based on that. “Libertarian” simply doesn’t have the name recognition or funding to compete. The best course of action for liberty-minded individuals, at least for now, would be to run as independents or liberty-minded Republicans, such as Austin Petersen of Missouri. Running on the Republican ticket without compromising one’s values is the best way to start winning major elections for the liberty movement. 


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Bad Legal Precedent Used to Challenge Maine Election Result

Jack Shields | United States

According to NPR, the incumbent Representative for Maine’s Second Congressional District, Bruce Poliquin (R), is attempting to claim victory through the courts in an election he clearly lost. Maine uses ranked choice voting for their U.S. House of Representatives elections. This means that instead of picking just one candidate, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If the first round is completed and no candidate has above 50% of the vote, the candidate with the least amount of votes is eliminated and those who voted for him have their votes go to their next ranked, non-eliminated choice. When the first round results were tallied, Poliquin was in first place with 46.2% of the vote, while his Democratic challenger, Jared Golden, trailed with 45.5% of the vote, and two independents; Tiffany Bond and Will Hoar carried 5.8% and 2.4% respectively.

In the second round, Bond and Hoar were eliminated and their votes were transferred to the voters’ second choices. The second round concluded with Golden earning a razor-thin victory over Poliquin: 50.53% to 49.47%. However, Poliquin is arguing that ranked choice voting is an unconstitutional violation of the ‘one person, one vote’ doctrine established in Baker v. Carr (1962). Even with the Carr ruling as precedent, Poliquin has no real chance or logic behind his Hail Mary lawsuit. However, the real issue is Carr in and of itself is an unconstitutional overreach by an activist court into the legislative and political domain, and should be overturned.

The issue in Carr was a requirement in Tennessee’s constitution requiring the reapportionment of seats in their state senate and general assembly every ten years starting in 1871. But when Charles W. Baker brought his suit to court, it had been over five decades since 1901 yet the state was still using the 1901 reapportionment law, despite population increases, thus severely over-representing rural districts.  Baker argued this made some people’s vote count more than others and was therefore a violation of the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th amendment. The Supreme Court agreed, declaring that the 14th amendment guarantees the ‘one person, one vote’ right where each vote should hold as much weight as any other vote. This precedent is unfortunately still in force today.

Even under the Carr precedent, Poliquin has no real case. The Court ruled that each vote ought to carry equal weight. The Court did not rule that votes cannot be transferred. Just because the vote was now for Golden rather than Bond or Hoar, doesn’t mean it was somehow magically more or less important. One vote equals one vote regardless of whom the vote was for. The only serious way he could argue the votes in the first round were weighed differently than votes in the second round is the fact that according to Ballotpedia, there were 284,455 votes in the first round and 275,557 votes in the second round. This may be because some people didn’t put a second choice when they voted, and therefore their vote was not transferred into the second round. While mathematically this means a vote in the second round held roughly 3.2% more weight of the total vote than in the first round, this is not actually evidence that it was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. No voter was prohibited from selecting a second choice, which would deny them equal protection under the law. Those who did not select a second choice candidate chose not to on their own accord. In some cases, not voting is just as much as a vote as actually voting in terms of the effects it has on the election. This does not mean that it unconstitutionally swings the election. There is no legitimate legal argument for Poliquin. Golden is the new representative for the people of Maine’s Second District.

When examining the actual Carr decision, it is clear the Court overstepped its boundaries. The lower courts determined that because this was an issue of a state constitution, a state reapportionment law, and a state legislature, this was not an issue which the federal courts had any jurisdiction. But because the Supreme Court determined there was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Federal Constitution, the federal courts had jurisdiction. This would be true if there was a violation of the Federal Constitution, but it is clear there is no violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The 14th amendment was ratified in 1868 and was specifically designed to protect the rights of newly freed slaves. The point of the Equal Protection Clause was so, for example, a state could not demand that a black man pay $100 in taxes while a white man only had to pay $50 in taxes. Laws now had to be equally applied without race-based, and later sex-based discrimination. However, this has nothing to do with elections and the weight of a vote. Both then and now, the President is elected through the Electoral College, which goes completely against the idea of ‘one man, one vote.’ As reported by the Huffington Post, in the 2016 election a vote in Wyoming held 3.6 times more weight than a vote in California. The 14th amendment did not repeal the Electoral College. In fact, it had so little to do with voting that the 15th amendment had to be passed in order to let the black men the 14th amendment was attempting to protect get to vote. The Equal Protection Clause had nothing to do with voting, meaning it is in no way an adequate excuse for federal overreach into a state issue; making this is an unconstitutional precedent that ought to be overturned at the next available opportunity.


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