Debunking the Ralph Nader Scare Tactics For Supporting The Lesser Evil

Trump Clinton Illusion Free Choice

Many of us have principles and will not support either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Many Clinton supporters have shown no understanding of the basic democratic principle that we have the right to support or not support whichever candidates we choose. They make bogus claims that not voting for Hillary is a vote for Trump. If true, the opposite would also have to be true–our decision to not vote for Trump by their logic would be a vote for Hillary.

Clinton supporters raise Ralph Nader and the 2000 election, but this is wrong for so many reasons:

This assumes that the Democrats are entitled to our vote, and that if there weren’t third party candidates running, those on the left would automatically vote for the Democrat. Wrong. Many would stay home, or leave the presidential spot empty, if there was no other choice.

Most of us do not live in battleground states, leaving us free to vote our convictions without affecting the outcome. Plus Clinton is pulling away in the battleground states and Nate Silver reassures us that Clinton will win anyways. Considering what an inept campaign Trump has waged since clinching the nomination, he is probably right (although Quinnipiac does show them deadlocked).

Hillary Clinton is not Al Gore. She is far closer to George Bush. We were outraged by Bush’s neoconservative foreign policy, but Clinton is the neocon hawk running this year. We protested Bush’s assault on civil liberties, but Clinton also has a far right record on civil liberties issues, sounding much like Donald Trump on restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism. We objected to an increase in government secrecy under Bush, but Clinton has a long record of opposing government transparency. Bush’s administration was remarkable for expanding the influence of the religious right.  Clinton worked with The Fellowship to expand the influence of religion on public policy when in the Senate. Plus Clinton has been on the wrong side regarding the corrupting role of money in politics, on the environment and climate change, on the death penalty, on single-payer health care. She is even to the right of Donald Trump on drug policy and the drug war and on the wrong side of trade issues.

If you think having George Bush elected in 2000 was a terrible thing (and it was), it makes no sense to argue that Hillary Clinton should be president when she supports so much of what made Bush such a terrible president.

If anything, Nader has been proven right by the Democrats nominating a corrupt warmonger such as Clinton. This clearly shows the dangers of “lesser evilism.”

When does the “lesser evilism” stop? We are warned about what happened when Bush beat Gore and told me must support Clinton because of Trump, but Clinton has supported most of the evil done by Bush. Next election will the Democrats nominate someone like Trump and will we be told we must support him if the Republicans nominate someone even more evil?

Some Clinton supporters have been rather bad winners, attacking those who disagree with them on social media for expressing our opinions. Life is more than a binary choice between the limited options provided by the major parties. It even might be argued that a function of the major parties is to limit debate to the limited issues where their candidates disagree.

In reality, Clinton and Trump are both in the authoritarian right segment of the political spectrum, not differing by as much as supporters of either would admit. Those of us who hold opposing views are going to continue to express our views on the issue, regardless of whether we have a presidential candidate who is likely to win. We will continue to oppose oligarchy, neoconservative military interventionism, restrictions on civil liberties to supposedly fight terrorism, the corrupting role of money in politics, destruction of the environment for profit, and an increased role of religion in public policy–even if the Democratic nominee is on the wrong side of each of these issues.

Never Hillary: Bloomberg Poll Shows Nearly Half Of Sanders Supporters Won’t Support Clinton

Never Hillary

I have seen estimates and polls with a wide range of numbers as to how many of those of us who voted for Sanders will vote for Clinton. The latest is a poll from Bloomberg which shows that only 55 percent will vote for Clinton:

June 14th Bloomberg Politics national poll of likely voters in November’s election found that barely half of those who favored Sanders — 55 percent — plan to vote for Clinton. Instead, 22 percent say they’ll vote for Trump, while 18 percent favor Libertarian Gary Johnson. “I’m a registered Democrat, but I cannot bring myself to vote for another establishment politician like Hillary,” says Laura Armes, a 43-year-old homemaker from Beeville, Texas, who participated in the Bloomberg poll and plans to vote for Trump. “I don’t agree with a lot of what Trump says. But he won’t owe anybody. What you see is what you get.”

Conversations with two dozen Sanders supporters revealed a lingering distrust of Clinton as too establishment-friendly, hawkish or untrustworthy. As some Sanders fans see it, the primary was not a simple preference for purity over pragmatism, but a moral choice between an honest figure and someone whom they consider fundamentally corrupted by the ways of Washington. Sanders has fed these perceptions throughout his campaign, which is one reason he’s having a hard time coming around to an endorsement.

Voters like Armes, who says she’ll “definitely” vote in November, highlight the difficulty Clinton faces in unifying her party. Clinton’s paltry support among Sanders voters could still grow, as his disheartened fans process the hard-fought primary campaign. But the Bloomberg poll found that only 5 percent of Sanders supporters who don’t currently back Clinton would consider doing so in the future.

Eric Brooks, 52, a community organizer in San Francisco, won’t be among them. “I will absolutely never vote for Clinton,” says Brooks, a Sanders supporter who participated in the Bloomberg poll. Although Brooks indicated in the poll that he’ll support Johnson, that is not his intention. “I’d be okay voting for Johnson as a protest vote,” says Brooks. “But as a Green Party member, I’m going to vote for [Green Party candidate] Jill Stein. If you care about the climate, like I do, it makes a lot of sense strategically to vote for Stein, because she could get five percent, which has implications for the Green Party getting federal funding.”

One flaw is that the poll didn’t include presumptive Green Party nominee Jill Stein, who was mentioned by one of those interviewed.  Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson is left as the third party alternative. As Hit and Run points out, “Read any profile of the Libertarian nominee, and chances are you’ll get to a part where he points out that the ISideWith site says Sanders is the rival candidate he agrees with the most.” While there is tremendous overlap between Sanders and Johnson on social and foreign policy, Stein would be closer on economic policy.

It is not surprising at this point that about half of Sanders supporters are more reluctant to consider voting for Clinton. Most likely the majority of those who typically vote Democratic will wind up voting for Clinton, even if they have to hold their nose. Sanders supporters who voted in Democratic primaries this year but don’t typically vote Democratic will be less likely to stick with the party. Plus it is an oversimplification to call everyone who opposes Clinton a Sanders supporter as if this is the only thing which defines us. I voted for Sanders this year for the same reasons I voted for Obama against Clinton eight years ago–and these are essentially the same reasons I opposed George Bush.

There is little doubt that some of those who now say they will not vote for Clinton will change their minds before the election, but those who have not voted Democratic in the past are far less likely to. There is a much larger ideological gap between many Sanders supporters and Clinton than is normally seen in a nomination battle. Nominating Clinton as opposed to Sanders is a monumental loss to the Democratic Party long term as they lose the opportunity to bring in many independent and younger voters.

There is the possibility that it might not matter short term. While Clinton will have problems with more liberal and many independent voters, she does benefit from running against Donald Trump, who so far has run a rather inept general election  campaign. Plus Clinton could make up for the loss of these voters by bringing in more Republican votes. As long as a Republican doesn’t consider abortion a litmus test, and isn’t a tea party extremist, a neoconservative DLC Democrat such as Clinton is rather close to traditional Republican beliefs.

If Trump continues to self-destruct as he has the past couple of weeks, Hillary Clinton could very well be come the top choice of Republicans. Just today, Brent Scowcroft former adviser to both Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush endorsed Clinton. This follows the recent endorsement from Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of state under George W. Bush. Other neoconservatives, such as Robert Kagan, had previously supported Clinton, not finding Trump to be hawkish enough for their tastes.

Of course, while Clinton very well could defeat Trump without support from the left, we have to wonder what type of Democratic Party we will be left with, especially considering how far right the Clintons moved the party the last time they were in control. As pointed out at Salon last week, the side effect of Clinton’s nomination has been to transform Democrats into “new” Republicans.

Voters Still Don’t Like or Trust Trump & Clinton, But See Sanders Favorably

Trumps and Clintons

Despite running what is probably the most inept campaign ever by a major party candidate, Donald Trump remains within five points of Hillary Clinton in the latest CNN/ORC Poll. The fact remains that most people, for good reason, do not like either candidate. As CNN put it, “When asked whether they would be excited by a Trump or Clinton presidency, fewer than 3-in-10 muster that level of enthusiasm for either.” Bernie Sanders is seen favorably by 59 percent, compared with 41 percent for Clinton and 38 percent for Trump.

While Clinton hopes her attacks on Trump’s economic views will change things, a majority believe Trump could handle the economy better than Clinton. Clinton is seen as stronger on foreign policy, but Trump is seen as stronger on terrorism. Neither is seen as honest, but more see Clinton as dishonest than Trump:

The poll finds Clinton widely viewed as having the better temperament for the presidency (56% say so vs. 32% who feel Trump is temperamentally better-suited for the White House), while Trump has picked up some ground over Clinton when voters are asked who is more honest and trustworthy (45% say Trump, 37% Clinton, a near reversal since March). But still, 17% say they see neither candidate as honest and trustworthy.

Trump has problems related to his racism and xenophobia, while 59 percent see Clinton’s violations of policy and dishonesty surrounding her private email server when Secretary of State as a negative indicator of her character and ability to serve as president:

About two-thirds say the way Trump talks about race and ethnicity is an important indicator of his character and ability to serve as president. On Clinton’s handling of her email as secretary of state, about two-thirds now say she did something wrong by using a personal email address and home-based server to handle her communications, up from about half in March of last year when the story first came to light. Likewise, 6-in-10 now say they see her handling of email as an indicator of her character and ability to serve as president, up from about half in March of last year.

As I noted above, Bernie Sanders is seen in the most favorable light, far surpassing Clinton and Trump. The major third party candidates are receiving some support but remain far behind in the poll, with Gary Johnson, now the Libertarian Party official nominee, at nine percent and presumptive Green Party nominee at seven percent.

If Donald Trump can remain within five points of Clinton despite all his recent blunders and the lack of a real campaign structure, his election remains a real possibility should Clinton be hurt by further bad news or legal action. Democrats who are making so much noise about how we must fall in line behind Clinton due to the horrors of a Trump presidency should be pushing for Sanders to be the nominee if they are really sincere in desiring to ensure that Donald Trump doesn’t become president.

Americans Really Dislike The Presumptive Major Party Candidates–2016 Might Be The Time To End The Democrat/Republican Duopoly

CLINTON-FAVORABILITY

TRUMP-FAVORABILITY

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll confirms what we already knew–Americans are unhappy with the thought of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton being the major party nominees. Trump is doing the worse, which is no surprise considering that he continued his racist rants after becoming the presumptive Republican nominee, with his statements on policy also remaining incoherent. In a binary political race, we would expect that if one candidate becomes less popular, their opponent would become more popular. Instead, Hillary Clinton’s favorability also continues to decline:

Seven in 10 Americans see Donald Trump unfavorably in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, up 10 points in just the past month to a new high since he announced his candidacy for president. But Hillary Clinton reached a new high for unfavorability as well, 55 percent.

The results mark the striking challenges facing both candidates, cementing their position as the two most unpopular presumptive major party nominees for president in ABC News/Washington Post polling dating to 1984.

While unlikely, it is not too late for either party to choose a more suitable candidate now that we have seen how badly the primary process has failed. There has been speculation that the Republicans might write convention rules to allow this. With the party leaders opposing Trump, and many of Trump’s delegates not personally in favor of Trump, it is possible that a majority would support rules which eliminate bound delegates and allow all to vote as they choose. Another possibility could be to require a super-majority on the first ballot and leave delegates free to vote as they choose on subsequent ballots. The Republicans face two major problems if they try this–the wrath of those who really do support Trump, and the lack of a clear replacement.

The Democratic Party is less likely to change their nominee unless forced to by outside forces (such as an indictment of Hillary Clinton). After all, Clinton is supported by the party establishment, and party rules are written to promote a conservative Democrat such as Clinton over an insurgent candidate such as Sanders. While they are unlikely to dump Clinton at the convention, there are many strong reasons to do so. As Sophia McClennen has pointed out, Clinton, with both her policies and tactics, is transforming the Democratic Party into another version of the Republicans. Dave Chandler has made an excellent list of  reasons why Hillary Clinton is not fit to be president.

While Clinton now has taken a lead over Trump in the traditional presidential polls, Rasmussen found that more people would rather go out for a beer with Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton. Even ignoring the pro-Republican house effect at Rasmussen, I’m not surprised. Trump probably would be more entertaining to go out drinking with, but there are limits as to how much of him people can take. Near equal numbers of people would have either candidate over for dinner.

Johnson Stein

With the nominees of both parties being so incredibly awful, this might be the year to try to break the monopoly the major political parties have held since Abraham Lincoln was elected president as a third party candidate. With cynicism about the corrupt political system reaching a boiling point, as described by Connor Lynch, more voters might be willing to look at alternatives. Young voters, who are not tied to either political party, are probably the most willing to consider third party candidates. The International Business Times questions whether young Sanders supporters will vote for Clinton, and how many might vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. A few of us older voters are thinking the same way:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you know that young people love Sanders. Here’s exactly how much: During the primary season, more than 70 percent of Democratic voters under 30 supported the Vermont senator, Vox reported earlier this month. Individual states’ numbers are even more impressive. In Illinois, 86 percent of young voters chose him over Clinton, an Illinois native. In Ohio, 81 percent did, according to U.S. News and World Report

For Sanders supporters who have decried Clinton as a warmonger, stooge of Wall Street and corrupt career politician, that means it’s time to either fall in line with most Democrats or look elsewhere…

“What happens is people forget in the fall,” Williamson said. “Democrats vote for the Democrats and Republicans vote for the Republicans.”

But anecdotal evidence suggests that might not prove true for the millennial generation, half of which identifies as independent and thousands of whom are first-time voters who don’t have strong party loyalty. In the YouGov poll, 32 percent of Sanders supporters under 30 said they’d choose a third-party option if the senator didn’t make the ballot…

History has proven that young people’s votes matter: In 2012, for example, at least 80 electoral votes were dependent upon voters under 30, according to Circle data. Without the youth vote, the swing states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, which supported Obama that year, would have gone red. Mitt Romney could have become president.

Clinton very well might still win due to fear of a Trump presidency, and there are huge obstacles for a third party candidate. The record unpopularity of the major party candidates, the growing number of independent voters, and the impact of the internet on both fund raising and growing support, make the chances better than ever before. Having the right candidate is essential, and many Sanders supporters are now  hoping that Sanders will continue his campaign until November, with the goal to try win and not just be a Nader-style spoiler.

Libertarian Party Picks Ticket

Johnson Weld Libertarian Ticket

With the prospect that the two major party candidates will nominate candidates as awful as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, there is increased interest in third party options this year. The election of either Trump or Clinton will lead to the growth of the warfare and surveillance state, with both having a similar hostile viewpoint towards civil liberties. Many Sanders supporters are thinking of voting for Jill Stein if Sanders is denied the nomination, assuming Stein will win the nomination of the Green Party. The Libertarian Party held their convention over the past weekend, choosing former New Mexico Governor to once again be their nominee. Former Massachusets governor William Weld will be his running mate.

The Libertarian Party might siphon votes away from Trump, but overall Clinton loses more support than Trump to third parties in recent head to head polls which include third party candidates. While Sanders supporters will disagree with Johnson on several issues, there are issues where we will agree. His brand of libertarianism is generally preferable to that of Rand Paul. He is similar to Paul in defending civil liberties. While far less of a supporter of military interventionism than Clinton, he might be somewhat more for military interventionism than Paul.  Johnson primarily from differs from Paul in being a social liberal. This includes support for abortion rights.

Just as many Democrats oppose the nomination of Hillary Clinton and many Republicans oppose Donald Trump, many Libertarians are also unhappy with their ticket this year. Both Johnson, and to a greater degree Welds, are criticized by hard-core right-libertarians for differing from their positions, but some of these discrepancies from right-libertarian dogma actually make Johnson more acceptable to Sanders supporters, including left-libertarians.

For some examples of why they are disliked by some libertarians, I will cite portions of a post at Red State in which Johnson and Weld are both called fake libertarians. The author is more socially conservative than orthodox libertarian thought, but such conservative views are also held by many libertarians. It should be easy to see through some of the spin here, such as calling legalization of same-sex marriage “government sponsored-gay marriage,” and see where Johnsons and Weld hold more reasonable views.

Johnson’s fiscal policies also apparently include government-funded prizes for science and paying U.N. dues, two things he brought up during the recent debate hosted by TheBlaze and moderated by Penn Jillette.

The more objectionable view of Johnson is that social liberalism is essential to libertarianism. In fact, it is distinct, if not in opposition to the philosophy…

Johnson’s embrace of social liberalism has gotten him into trouble with the base of the party. It reveals him to be not a libertarian, but a libertine and an authoritarian, which are qualities today well-represented by the Democratic Party.

Like Democrats, Johnson is in favor of legalizing only marijuana. Libertarians are in favor of all drugs being legal. Like Democrats, he is in favor of government-sponsored gay marriage. Libertarians oppose government involvement in marriage. Like Democrats, he believes that businesses must cater (literally-he believes Jews should have to bake Nazi cakes) to anyone and everyone. Libertarians believe in freedom of association and freedom of conscience/religion. Like Democrats, he supports funding for Planned Parenthood. Libertarians oppose government subsidization of private organizations. Like Democrats, Johnson is in favor of some gun control. Libertarians oppose restrictions on gun ownership.

The more I read about Johnson, the less libertarian I realize he is. Others are coming to the same conclusion.

Recently, Johnson affirmed his true beliefs when he selected former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld as his running mate, another self-described libertarian who also erroneously believes the philosophy means “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” In particular, Weld is proud to be pro-LGBT and pro-abortion, two hallmark positions of social liberalism.

Jesse Walker of Reason listed some anti-libertarian positions held by Weld, including support for an assault weapons ban, eminent domain, and foreign intervention, and summed up Weld as “more of a moderate “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” type, with “fiscally conservative” defined by Massachusetts standards and with “socially liberal” defined in terms a Michael Bloomberg could embrace.”

Conservative Review also notes Weld’s support of EPA regulations and affirmative action. In addition, Weld endorsed Obama in 2008, Romney in 2012, and Kasich in 2016 before linking up with Johnson.

Much of this are plusses, even if inconsistent with libertarian views, including support for marriage equality, social liberalism, funding of science and Planned Parenthood, some gun control, and EPA reglations. Similarly I can accept a candidate who supports legalization of marijuana but not all drugs, especially if he seeks to end the drug war and treat addiction as an illness rather than a crime.

Another description of his views in the recent debate from Hit & Run chastizes him for his support of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. I do have some concerns over how they describe his foreign policy views, but virtually anyone is preferable to the ultra-militaistic Clinton, who has rarely seen a war she didn’t like, or Trump, who I fear would bumble us into a war despite being less openly interventionistic compared to Clinton.

I have not gone into the areas where Johnson’s views are closer to traditional right-libertarianism. Gary Johnson is hardly the ideal candidate, and it is far more likely I will wind up voting for Jill Stein, but his views do provide an important contrast to the major party candidates. Unfortunatelyboth the Libertarian and Green Party candidates will probably receive minimal media coverage and be denied participation in the debates.

Awful Choice Of Clinton v. Trump Leaves Opening For Minor Party Candidates

ClintonEqualsTrump

This year the “presumptive” nominee from each of the major political parties is so awful that it hardly makes sense to throw away one’s vote on them if the general election is between Clinton and Trump. While each has advantages and disadvantages over the other, either way we will see the continuation of the warfare/surveillance state regardless of which is elected. The unpopularity of both candidates in recent polls does bolster Sanders’ argument for the superdelegates to support him at the convention, but looking at it more realistically, the Democratic leadership probably would rather lose the general election with Clinton (and have hope of keeping their positions) than to see Sanders win and remake the Democratic Party.

David Brooks’ column asking Why Is Clinton Disliked? is receiving attention today, but it gets the answer wrong. Is is not because of voters missing the touchy feely information he misses. Clinton’s popularity dropped when she became a candidate and voters were reminded of her views and record. Just seeing Clinton on the campaign trail was enough to remind many people of why they did not vote for her in 2008. Her popularity really plunged in the polls as the scandals broke, reminding voters of how dishonest she is.

People might not understand all the specifics of the scandals, but were reminded that with Clinton there is always a scandal just around the corner. Some are totally bogus, such as Benghazi and Vince Foster. Others do show shady behavior on her part, such as failing to reveal the donors to the Foundation while Secretary of State as she agreed to, and then unethically making decisions regarding parties both donating to the Foundation and making unprecedented payments to Bill for speaking.

We don’t know how others will turn out, such as the current FBI investigation into her mishandling of classified information. Today’s potential scandal involves the investigation of Terry McAuliffe for campaign contributions. CNN reports on a potential tie to the Clintons: “As part of the probe, the officials said, investigators have scrutinized McAuliffe’s time as a board member of the Clinton Global Initiative, a vehicle of the charitable foundation set up by former President Bill Clinton.” Whether or not this turns out to be anything significant, we know the next scandal will be here soon, and a fair percentage will turn out to be true.

Of course Donald Trump comes across as being even more dishonest than Clinton. In many cases I’m not sure if he is intentionally lying about world affairs, or just repeating what he read in some right wing email, showing the same lack of knowledge as is commonly seen on the far right. I’ve pointed out in the past his propensity for spreading nutty conspiracy theories, and First Read looked at this problem today:

Donald Trump, conspiracy-theorist-in-chief?

Last night, the Washington Post wrote how Donald Trump described the 1993 suicide of White House aide Vince Foster as “very fishy.” From the Post: “When asked in an interview last week about the Foster case, Trump dealt with it as he has with many edgy topics — raising doubts about the official version of events even as he says he does not plan to talk about it on the campaign trail. He called theories of possible foul play ‘very serious’ and the circumstances of Foster’s death ‘very fishy.'” This isn’t the first time that Trump has dabbled in conspiracy theories. There’s the 2011 “birther” crusade against President Obama; there’s the allegation that Ted Cruz’s father was with Lee Harvey Oswald; and there’s Trump flirting with the idea that the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia might have been murdered. As MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin wrote earlier this month, “[Trump], whether by choice or by nature, appears fundamentally unable to distinguish between credible sources and chain e-mails. Equally significant, though, is that he uses these falsehoods to elevate fringe conspiracy theories and anecdotes that politicians are normally careful to keep far away from mainstream politics. He’s spread discredited claims linking vaccines to autism, for example — a debunked theory that medical officials say has harmed efforts to wipe out preventable diseases.”

While the two major party candidates will probably obtain the majority of the vote if it is a race between Clinton and Trump, this could be a better than usual year for minor party candidates. FiveThirtyEight points out that Libertarian Gary Johnson is now polling at around ten percent and predict he “might be on the verge of becoming a household name.”

Jill Stein provides another alternative from the Green Party. She made a strong appeal to Sanders voters in an interview with Truthout:

…I think the Green Party and my campaign [are] “Plan B” for Bernie supporters because the Democratic Party is the opposite of everything they’ve been working for and building for the last eight months or so, and to simply be dumped into Hillary’s campaign right now is kind of unthinkable.

The sabotage of Bernie’s campaign by the Democratic Party really makes the point about why we need an independent party, because it has shown that it is very hard to have a revolutionary campaign inside of a counterrevolutionary party…

So this is what the party does, and it has only become more corporatist, militarist and imperialist even while it has allowed very inspiring, progressive campaigns like Bernie’s to be seen and heard for awhile. After George McGovern was nominated in 1972, the party changed the rules of the game over the course of the next decade so that that kind of a grassroots campaign could never happen again. So Bernie had to fight on a very steep playing field and it’s just that the machine is powerful. Over the decades, as the Democratic Party continues to fake left, it continues to move right. I think that is the take-home lesson here — that we are not creating a more progressive, more grassroots party; it is only becoming more of a corporate instrument.

Either Stein or Johnson would be preferable to Clinton or Trump.

Terrible Choices From Major Parties Leading To High Degree Of Interest In Third Party Candidates In 2016

Independent Candidate

The Democratic establishment, and their supporters, mistakingly blame the protest against Hillary Clinton on Bernie Sanders. There is no question that a tremendous number of Democrats and independents prefer Sanders over Clinton, but this is far more than a battle between personalities. It is over principles. Martin Longman tried to set Democrats straight in writing, It’s Not All About Bernie:

Perhaps it is unfortunate, in a way, that Bernie Sanders has a substantial amount of personal charisma and has won the allegiance of quite a number of people based on them liking him personally rather than for what he has to say about U.S. foreign policy and economic justice. The reason I say this isn’t because I think this number is that large, but more because it has contributed to a sense that there is a Cult of Bernie with ardent and sometimes misbehaving acolytes. Some people call them Bernie Bros., but that insulting catch-all doesn’t capture what’s driving so many Democrats into the arms of an (until recently) independent Socialist who is still a harsh critic of the Democratic Party and its leadership.

From a personal perspective, I’ve been traveling in progressive circles for more than a decade now, and I’ve been part of the liberal blogosphere almost since its inception. By far, most of the people I’ve become acquainted with, many of whom are among the most committed and experienced Democratic organizers and partisans you will find, have been Bernie Sanders supporters from the beginning of this campaign. By and large, they aren’t part of any cult and they haven’t been drinking any Kool-Aid.

The liberal blogosphere snapped into existence at a time when it seemed that the Democratic Party had lost its way. They had lost the election in 2000 (made it close enough to steal, if you will), had failed to stop Bush’s devastating tax cuts, and were showing no backbone against Bush’s post-9/11 national security insanity. In the 2002 midterms, the Democrats performed much worse than expected.

Meanwhile, the media was not questioning the assumptions behind or the factual basis for the march to war in Iraq, and they were painting concerned citizens as unpatriotic.

In the beginning, the progressive backlash against this didn’t much include any retrospective condemnation of the Clinton administration, except to the limited degree that some blamed it for letting things get so out of whack. It wasn’t until we had the 2008 primary that progressives began having an internal argument about the legacy of the Democratic Leadership Council and the triangulating ways of Bill Clinton. This was fueled further when the economy collapsed in September of that year, which eventually led to the Occupy Movement and a further split on the progressive left…

So, what the Sanders campaign really is when you get past the idiosyncrasies of Bernie Sanders, is an expression of dissatisfaction with the status quo and a desire to change the party to meet the needs of the country on a more urgent basis. And the practical way that can be done is by having their voices heard at the convention. To the degree that this ambition is shunted, the progressive conscience of the party is marginalized and frustrated.

The focus shouldn’t be so much on personalities or the worst behavior of the loudest and most annoying people. It should be on the big picture. Young people, in particular, are vastly more attracted to the Sanders message than what is being offered by Clinton. These are potentially Democratic Party members for life, but that isn’t going to happen automatically, and especially not if they feel that their beliefs are unacceptable and have been defeated.

Many of us are seeing our principles betrayed by having the party establishment back Hillary Clinton. Those of us who backed the Democrats in protest against George W. Bush’s foreign policy and neoconservativism are not going to automatically vote Democratic if this year it is the Democrats who are running the neocon as their candidate. Similarly, those of us who protested the violations of civil liberties, hostility towards government transparency, the role of money in government, and the support for an increased role of religion in public policy under Bush are not pleased to see a Democratic candidate who shares these faults. Plus Clinton is to the right of Trump on issues ranging from trade to drug policy. The election of Hillary Clinton looks like a third term for the policies of George W. Bush with the ethics of Richard Nixon.

Clinton certainly has the edge in the election, but it is now looking very close. If Democrats want the support of those who backed them in opposition to Republican policies, and if they want to win, they need to offer a candidate who respects our values–not one who quotes arguments from The Wall Street Journal to attack Medicare for All and other progressive programs. If the Democratic Party doesn’t offer an acceptable candidate, many voters will look elsewhere.

Third party candidates have the potential to disrupt the Democratic/Republican monopoly more than usual this year. A Data Targeting poll from today shows that “55% of respondents favor having an independent presidential ticket in 2016.” This includes “91% of voters under the age of 29.” In addition, “65% of respondents are at least somewhat, pretty or very willing to support a candidate for President who is not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.” Both Trump and Clinton have historically high negatives. While I am skeptical that this will actually occur, here is their most dramatic finding:

In a ballot test against Clinton and Trump, a truly independent candidate starts off with 21% of the vote.

This number increases to 29% in the “Big Sky” region, 30% in “New England” and 28% in the “West” region.
Among voters with an unfavorable opinion of both Trump and Clinton, the independent actually wins the ballot test

TRUMP: 11%
CLINTON: 7%
INDEPENDENT: 56%

Democrats can greatly reduce the risk of seeing Donald Trump being elected by nominating a candidate who stands up for Democratic principles like Bernie Sanders. Otherwise they risk losing a generation of potential voters, and possibly the beginning of the end of our current two party system if it fails to provide a true choice.

New Hampshire Poll Shows Sanders Outperforming Clinton In General Election By 14 Points

live-free-or-die

Polls for many months have consistently demonstrated that Hillary Clinton would make a very weak general election candidate compared to Bernie Sanders due to opposition to her among independents and in the battleground states. We have seen this again in recent national polls, as well as in battleground state polls, including Georgia. The same pattern is now present in a poll from New Hampshire:

If the presidential election were held today between the apparent Republican nominee, Donald Trump, and the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, the outcome would be very close. That’s according to a new WBUR poll (topline, crosstabs) of likely New Hampshire voters.

According to the survey, Clinton leads Trump 44 percent to 42 percent among likely Granite State voters, with about 7 percent still undecided.

The new WBUR poll is consistent with several recent surveys from around the country that suggest the general election race would be competitive.

The reason this race is so close is that both Clinton and Trump are exceptionally unpopular across New Hampshire…

By contrast, Democrat Bernie Sanders’ numbers are just the opposite: 55 percent view him favorably, while 34 percent view him unfavorably.

And according to the poll, if Sanders were the Democratic nominee, he’d beat Trump today decisively in New Hampshire — by 16 points, 54-38.

A two point lead for Clinton versus Trump compared to a sixteen point lead for Sanders.

New Hampshire is of particular interest as a battleground state due to its role in the 2000 election. The situation in Florida is most memorable considering that Al Gore rather than George Bush would have won the presidency if there was a state-wide recount there. As in Florida, Gore would have won in New Hampshire if those voting for Ralph Nader had voted for him, and winning either state would have made him president. Democrats could have won if they were able to  hold on to the votes from left-leaning independents in either state, and Hillary Clinton is probably at far greater risk than Gore was of independents and liberals being unable to vote for her on principle.

While I have qualms about the entire superdelegate system, the system was designed to prevent the nomination of an unelectable candidate. With Trump also being extremely unpopular, it is possible that she could still win, but nominating Sanders eliminates the risk we see with Clinton. If the superdelegates switch to support Sanders (admittedly a long shot), it would not be a case of them overruling the vote in a democratic process. Clinton’s lead is largely due to a system rigged to support her. Clinton is also unprecedented as a candidate in the scandal surrounding her and in her many of her views being more aligned with those of the Republicans than Democrats.  Superdelegates could remedy this by having the convention nominating the candidate who would not only be the stronger general election candidate, but who would make the best president.

Focus Group & Further Polls Show Clinton Could Have Difficulty Beating Trump

Trump Sanders Clinton

Bernie Sanders is projected to win the West Virginia primary, and additional polls out today showed that he would make the stronger candidate against Donald Trump. Public Policy Polling shows Clinton in a very tight race with Trump, with Clinton losing support to the likely Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and likely Green Party candidate Jill Stein:

PPP’s new national poll finds that Republicans have quickly unified around Donald Trump, making the Presidential race more competitive than it has previously been perceived to be.

Hillary Clinton leads Trump 42-38, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at  4% and Green Party candidate Jill Stein at 2%. In a match up just between Clinton and Trump, her lead expands to 47-41. That’s because supporters of Johnson and Stein would prefer her over Trump 36-18. Although there’s been a lot of talk about third party candidates drawing support away from Trump, they’re actually taking a little bit more from Clinton at this point…

Bernie Sanders continues to do the best in general election match ups, leading Trump 47-37 with Johnson at 3% and Stein at 1% in the full field, and leading Trump 50-39 head to head. The difference between how Clinton and Sanders fare against Trump comes almost completely among young people. In the full field Clinton leads 46-24, but Sanders leads 64-18 with voters between 18 and 29. In one on ones with Trump, Clinton leads 49-27, but Sanders leads 70-14.

The undecideds in a Clinton-Trump match up right now support Sanders 41-8 in a match up with Trump, so the bad news for Clinton is that she has work to do to win over a certain segment of Sanders supporters in the general, but the good news is that they are at least somewhat Democratic leaning and she has the potential to increase her advantage over Trump by a couple points if she is eventually able to get them in her corner. Democrats lead a generic question about which party people would vote for President 49-41, so that may be somewhat of a forecast for where the race could be headed if/when Sanders supporters unify around Clinton for the general.

It remains to be seen how many Sanders supporters will vote for Clinton versus voting third party or staying home. While there has been talk of Donald Trump losing Republican voters to third parties, pundits often ignore the fact that Clinton’s views are further from the mainstream of her party than Trump’s views, making it likely that there will be Democratic voters who will not vote for Clinton under any circumstance. While the numbers backing third party candidates are small, this could be enough to cost Clinton the victory in a close election.

I find the views of both Stein and Johnson to be far preferable to the views of either major party candidate from the authoritarian right segment of the political spectrum. While unlikely, there has been more talk recently of an even better third party candidate–Bernie Sanders.

Sanders still hopes to be the Democratic candidate, having an increasingly strong argument that he is more likely than Hillary Clinton to beat Donald Trump. In addition to the Public Policy poll above, a new Quinnipiac poll shows Clinton in a tight race in three key battleground states–Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Sanders does better than Clinton in all three states.

With a campaign between Clinton and Trump expected to be a battle to get votes to fear and hate the other major party candidate more, The Washington Post reports that Democratic focus groups are showing that swing voters are not believing the Democratic arguments against Trump. Bloomberg points out that, compared to Obama, Clinton has serious negatives in such a battle:

Clinton has been subjected to a quarter century of political and personal attacks, many of them vicious, more than a few outlandish. For every smear of President Barack Obama as a Kenyan anticolonial socialist or terrorist enabler, Clinton can probably cite two similarly inspired delusions — that she killed White House aide Vincent Foster or, for reasons no one ever seems able to explain, that she preferred to let a handful of Americans die in Benghazi rather than use her powers as secretary of State to protect them.

But the differences between Obama and Clinton are at least as telling as the similarities. More than half of Americans consistently have rated Obama “honest and trustworthy” during his presidency. Of nine Gallup measurements taken between 2008 and 2015, Obama fell below 50 percent only once, in 2014. In April 2008, the spring of his first campaign for president, 60 percent of Gallup respondents said Obama was honest and trustworthy.

By contrast, in a March 2016 Washington Post/ABC News poll, 37 percent of adults agreed that Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy, and 57 percent said they don’t think she is. Even Democrats aren’t sold. In Wisconsin, where Bernie Sanders defeated her on April 5, exit polls showed only 57 percent of Democratic voters rated her honest and trustworthy. Two weeks later in her home state of New York, which she won, only 60 percent of Democrats leaving the polls said she was honest and trustworthy.

Neither Sanders in 2016, nor Obama in 2008, aggressively attacked Clinton’s integrity. She finds herself in this hole as a result of conservative attacks on her and of doubts she raised by her own actions. History weighs on her.

Of course fact checkers have also demonstrated a large number of false statements coming from Trump. Trump beats Clinton in terms of number of falsehoods, but there is a major difference between the two. Trump tends to make up facts regarding policy matters. In contrast, Clinton’s lies tend to be to either cover up unethical actions and as part of a Rovian style smear campaign against political opponents. I suspect that Clinton’s type of dishonesty might be a more serious issue should the presidential campaign come down to character.

Jim Webb and Gary Johnson Taking Steps Towards Independent Runs For The Presidency

Jim Webb

Jim Webb continues to talk about an independent run for the presidency, and has now hired former Draft Biden finance director Sam Jones to handle fund raising should he decide to run.

It is doubtful that such a third party candidacy will receive any meaningful support nationally, but The Washington Post notes that “polling suggests he could have a significant effect on the race in his home state of Virginia, taking between 13 and 19 percent of the vote from the two major candidates.”

Should Hillary Clinton win the Democratic nomination there we will have a situation where the Democratic candidate is at least as hawkish, and very likely more hawkish, than the Republican candidate–and we have seen how the Republicans cannot be trusted on foreign policy.

Webb would be preferable to Clinton or any likely Republican candidate on foreign policy, having disagreed with Clinton on her support for both the Iraq war while in the Senate and her push for regime change in Libya as Secretary of State. Both of these policies supported by Clinton have resulted in disasters. While Donald Trump also has a better track record than Clinton regarding regime change, he has far too many other negatives to be seriously considered as commander in chief.

Having Webb in the race could theoretically provide a counter to the likely neocon policies of both Clinton, should she defeat Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination, and most Republican candidates, Webb is otherwise too conservative to provide a meaningful choice. As any vote for a third party would amount to only a protest vote, other possibilities look far more intriguing. At this time, should I make a protest vote (which is easier not living in a battle ground state), I lean towards Jill Stein of the Green Party.

Gary Johnson, who also ran in 2012, has also announced his candidacy for the Libertarian Party nomination. Considering that Clinton’s record on civil liberties is also extremely conservative, I might also consider him as a protest vote should Clinton win the Democratic nomination. Entrepreneur Austin Petersen and cybersecurity expert John McAfee have also announced candidacies for the Libertarian Party nomination. Jesse Ventura has also expressed interest, which might make the race even more interesting.