The Two Worst People In America Face Off Tonight

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The debate will be starting soon (at 9 PM for those of use in the eastern time zone). Clinton and Trump go into the debate with the polls near tied, and with enough voters still undecided for the race to be altered by the debate.

Both campaigns have tried to game the event. Team Clinton has probably done a better job in this regard, as even conservatives agree, even if they are unhappy about it. They have managed to have the news dominated by talk of Trump’s dishonesty, calling on the moderator to fact-check him. Of course it might be hard for Clinton to get away with such a line of attack when neither candidate is trusted, and for good reason.

It is easy to speculate on many ways in which either candidate could come out the winner. Clinton is clearly the more knowledgeable of the two–which has not kept her from being wrong on virtually every major decision of the career, often having to come back later and describe her past decisions as a mistake. Trump might be exposed for just making things up as he goes along and having little grasp of the details of policy. However, this article on the Bush/Gore debate in 2000 from The New York Times shows that the more ignorant candidate can still win.

While I will not predict who will win, I think it is safe to predict the response of the loser. Clinton will blame a loss on sexism, while Trump will claim the debate was rigged against him.

For those who want a different opinion during the debate, Green Party candidate Jill Stein will be giving her answers to the questions via Twitter. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson says he will also be using twitter and making himself available to the media. Of course the problem with the debate system is not only that it is limited to two candidates, but that the two party system limits the types of issues which are even considered, and gives the false impression that major parties provide far more of a choice than they actually do.

Update Post Debate: Donald Trump was not intellectually capable of challenging Hillary Clinton’s long history of bad decisions and poor judgement throughout her career. Clinton was better prepared, and it didn’t take much to out-debate a buffoon like Trump. It is a shame that Jill Stein and Gary Johnson weren’t allowed to participate and provide a more meaningful challenge to Clinton.

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Clinton And Many Democrats Fail To Understand Importance Of Opposing Interventionism And Defending Civil Liberties

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The lack of concern for Hillary Clinton’s neocon record on foreign policy, and her far right record on First Amendment issues, by so many Democrats is really disappointing. It is as if they didn’t they learn anything from the horrors of the Bush years. Hillary Clinton appeared clueless when she campaigned for the millennial vote. As I discussed last week, and as David Weigel reported today, Clinton is losing a substantial amount of support to third party candidates.

When George Bush was president, Democrats showed concern for matters such as avoiding unnecessary wars, civil liberties, and government transparency. Now that they have nominated a candidate who is far to the right on these matters, they no longer show any concern. For example, Paul Krugman made a pitch today for millennial voters who are voting for Gary Johnson, but ignored these issues. It makes absolutely no sense to seek the support of those considering Gary Johnson without addressing the main issues which are causing Clinton to lose support to Johnson, along with Jill Stein.

Krugman also resorted to the bogus Ralph Nader argument. If the 2000 election turned out badly (as it did) because of George Bush becoming president, it makes no sense to use this to support a neoconservative such as Hillary Clinton who supports the so many of the same policies as George Bush.

Just as bad is the manner in which Kevin Drum dismissed concerns over military interventionism and civil liberties: ” Unless you’re basically a single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force, it’s hard to see why any lefty of any stripe would even think of supporting Johnson.”

Drum is right in his post in arguing that it would make more sense for Bernie Sanders supporters to support Jill Stein than Gary Johnson, but he certainly diminishes the importance of several issues with the phrase, “single-issue voter on civil liberties and military force.”

These are two of the most important matters considering both the expansion of the warfare/surveillance state since 9/11, and considering which areas fall most directly under the control of the president. Plus these encompass multiple issues.

Civil liberties mattered to Democrats eight years ago. During the 2008 campaign Hillary Clinton was the only Democrat who refused to sign a pledge to restore Constitutional liberties. All the Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, also refused to sign.  As I’ve discussed previously, Clinton’s poor record regarding civil liberties and separation of church and state includes her support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act , a bill introduced by Rick Santorum and opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union for promoting discrimination and reducing access to health care, leading a campaign to censor video games and introducing a bill making flag burning a felony. Her views mocking freedom of speech when supposedly fighting terrorism sound alarmingly similar to those expressed by Donald Trump. Issues such as the drug war and opposition to the policy of mass incarceration she supported is yet a different issue which leads many to support Johnson and Stein over Clinton.

Similarly there are multiple foreign policy issues. These include her support for intervention in Iraq, Libya and Syria. In other parts of the world, there are her views on Russia, and record in Honduras. There’s also her history of joining with the Republicans in opposing a ban on cluster bombs in civilian areas. There’s her threats to obliterate Iran. Her past statements on the use of nuclear force against terrorist groups sound similar to those expressed by Donald Trump.

While Drum has consistently ignored the facts regarding the email scandals, the State Department Inspector General report verified accusations that Clinton violated the rules put into effect to promote transparency, showed that she tried to cover up her actions, and that she failed to cooperate with the investigation. This is just one aspect of the scandals involving Clinton which give millennial voters, and others, reason to distrust Clinton and vote for a third party candidate.

The numerous issues involved here contradict Drum’s mischaracterization of Clinton’s opponents as a single-issue voter. By the same logic, many of the issues which he backs Clinton for could also be lumped together as a single issue. It is no surprise that Gary Johnson is taking votes away from Clinton when he is more liberal than her on military interventionism, civil liberties, the drug war, social issues, and government transparency. There are also several problems with Johnson’s views, making Jill Stein an even better choice for those on the left.

Jill Stein and Gary Johnson Denied Participation In The First Presidential Debate Limiting Expression Of Alternative Opinions

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The two party system acts to restrict political discourse so only the very limited differences between the major parties are discussed during the campaign. This is particularly undesirable this year when both candidates are from the authoritarian right quadrant of the political spectrum. As I discussed yesterday, regardless of whether Clinton or Trump wins, we will see a continuation of the horrors of the Bush administration. We will see a strengthening of the warfare and surveillance state, increased restrictions on First Amendment rights, and increased government secrecy. The two candidates with alternative viewpoints, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, have now been officially declared ineligible for the first presidential debate.

Theoretically they can still qualify for subsequent debates, but it will be even harder after they are denied the free publicity provided to the major party candidates in the first debate.

The rules which determine who qualifies are arbitrary rules which were written to limit access to the debates. Doug Mataconis described how the Commission on Presidential Debates is not truly “bipartisan” but is an organization jointly run by the two major parties:

…the commission is an organization controlled equally by the Republican and Democratic parties. Its two co-Chairman are Frank Farenkopf, a top Republican who once served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Mike McCurry, a top Democratic Party alumnus who once served as Press Secretary for former President Bill Clinton. The Board Of Directors includes top GOP officials such as former Senators John Danforth and Alan Simpson and top Democrats such as Caroline Kennedy and Kennedy ally and former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Newton Minor.

Doug also made a strong argument as to why Johnson should be included in the debates:

The Libertarian ticket has officially qualified for the ballot in all fifty states, an accomplishment that isn’t exactly easy for non-establishment political parties. The ticket is also polling better far better than any Libertarian nominee ever has, hitting an average of 9,2% according to RealClearPolitics and according to Pollster. Among younger voters, the Johnson/Weld ticket has been consistently polling competitively, with a new Quinnipiac poll showing them just two points behind Clinton/Kaine among voters aged 18 to 34. The two former Governors have also picked up endorsements from newspapers such as the traditionally Republican Richmond Times Dispatch, the Winston-Salem Journal, and, just dropping overnight, the New Hampshire Union-Leader.

While Stein has not achieved this level of success, she does present yet a different viewpoint, and is already polling better than Ralph Nader’s results in 2000. Either candidate could have even more of an impact if more people heard their views.

Hillary Clinton has a strong interest in limiting the expression of alternative viewpoints as she is already losing support to third party candidates, especially among younger voters. The Atlantic points out:

In the last day, two major polls have found that more than one-third of voters under the age of 30 plan to vote for either Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein instead of either Clinton or Trump in November.

A defection by millennials of that size could be devastating for Clinton; in 2012, President Obama won 60 percent of voters under the age of 30, and the bloc provided a crucial advantage in his four-point victory over Mitt Romney. In a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, Clinton earned support from just 31 percent of voters under the age of 35 in a four-way race. It’s not like millennials are suddenly flocking to Trump. They plainly loathe him. Three in five have a “strongly unfavorable” view of him, three in four say he would divide rather than unite the country, and four in five millennials say Trump is not a candidate they can relate to. So yes, younger voters clearly prefer Clinton to Trump, but what they really want is someone else. Clinton carries that bloc by more than 20 points in a head-to-head matchup, but her support peels away when younger voters are given the option of supporting Johnson or Stein.

So, Clinton is having difficulties because many young voters don’t want to vote for her and will vote for third party candidates or stay home. If only the Democrats could have nominated a candidate who excited young voters…

We know they had that option with Bernie Sanders–who also has polled better than Clinton against Donald Trump. Young voters are more willing to consider alternatives, not having a strong connection to either major party–and often seeing both as rotten. On the other hand, the Democratic Party might have gained the loyalty of younger voters for years to come if they had nominated Sanders.

The conventional wisdom was that Stein would take votes from Clinton and Johnson would take votes from Trump. This has turned out to not be the case, with Johnson running to the left of Clinton on foreign policy, social issues, civil liberties, and drug policy. As a consequence of Clinton’s conservative views in these areas, Johnson is taking votes from her along with Trump. Politico reports:

She leads by five points among likely voters in a two-way national race, 48 percent to 43 percent. But when Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein are included, Clinton’s lead shrinks to two: she’s at 41 points, with Trump at 39, Johnson at 13, and Stein at 4. Democrats assume that all of Stein’s support comes from the Clinton column, meaning Johnson’s is split roughly evenly between Clinton and Trump.

John Fund has also analyzed the effect of third party candidates in recent polls:

In the New York Times/CBS News poll released Thursday this week, Trump and Clinton are tied at 42 percent each among likely voters. Johnson captures 8 percent of the vote and Stein 4 percent. But among voters younger than 30, Clinton has 48 percent, Trump 29 percent, and 21 percent plan to vote for Johnson or Stein or not vote at all. That level of non-support for the Democratic candidate among young people is a warning signal for Clinton. By comparison, Barack Obama won 60 percent of their votes in 2012.

Some polls show Johnson doing far better with young voters than he does in the NYT/CBS poll. A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday showed that among Millennials, Hillary is winning 31 percent, 29 percent favor Johnson, 26 percent pick Trump, and 15 percent choose Stein…

The strength that Johnson shows in Western states is also impressive, and it confirms that his presence in the race is more harmful to Hillary than to Trump. Earlier this month, the Washington Post conducted in-depth individual polls in all 50 states. Their polls were revealing in contested Western states. In a two-way contest, Hillary leads in Arizona by one point, in Colorado by two points, and in Nevada by five points. In a four-way race that includes Johnson and Stein, Trump leads by two points in Arizona, ties in Colorado, and is down three points in Nevada. Even New Mexico, Johnson’s home state, is much more competitive in a four-way race: Hillary leads by 14 in a two-way race and only eight in a four-way race.

When this many young voters are thinking of voting for a third party, this can no longer be called just a spoiler or protest vote. It is a vote towards attempting a long term change in the system–which is necessary when both major parties have nominated candidates which are unfit to be president.

Why Clinton Can’t Pull Away From An Opponent As Awful As Donald Trump

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Donald Trump has said one idiotic thing after another. He has been found to have bribed an attorney general to avoid prosecution for his scam university, among other scams he has been involved in. He clearly has no understanding of the issues. Yet he is now now in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, with many Democrats struggling to understand why. Will Democrats ever figure out that the nomination of someone as unfit to be president as Hillary Clinton was one of the biggest political blunders in history (ranking with the Republicans’ blunder in nominating Trump)?

Many Democrats have resorted to responses which do not help matters. They deny that she is corrupt and dishonest, despite overwhelming evidence that she is, and ignore the seriousness of her scandals. This only turns independents more against partisan Democrats who make such claims.

Clinton doesn’t help herself when she repeats the same lies over and over, even when the fact checkers repeatedly call her out on it. She didn’t help matters when she answered Anderson Cooper in a dishonest manner this week, claiming to have been transparent about her health and her email,  when he pressed her on her lack of transparency. pointed out:

…almost everything that Clinton has disclosed in this campaign has come under duress. The reason we have thousands of her emails is because she was forced by the State Department to turn them over. The reason we know about her pneumonia is because of her stumbling incident on Sunday in New York City. Forced transparency isn’t all that honorable

The most common argument from Clinton and her supporters is to argue how terrible Donald Trump is. While they are right, that does not help Clinton when they cannot provide positive arguments to support her. Many agree about Trump, but do not think Clinton is any better.

At least one Clinton supporter,

…her 4256 favorable/unfavorable split in national polling is truly, freakishly bad. Political junkies have probably heard the factoid that Clinton is the least-popular major party nominee of all time — except for Donald Trump. But conventional dialogue still underrates exactly how weird this situation is. John McCain, John Kerry, Al Gore, and Bob Dole were all viewed favorably by a majority of Americans on the eve of presidential elections that they lost, and Mitt Romney was extremely close.

It is totally unheard of to win a presidential election while having deeply underwater favorable ratings, and it is actually quite common to lose one despite above water favorable ratings.

Since there are only two major party nominees in the race and they are both far underwater right now, it’s pretty likely that precedent will be shattered. But we are in a bit of an undiscovered country in terms of the underlying opinion dynamics.

RealClearPolitics’ four-way polling average shows Gary Johnson at 9.2 percent and Jill Stein at 2.7 percent.

If those numbers hold up (which of course they might not), they would make Johnson the strongest third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992. That’s a big deal. Stein’s strength is, however, even more unusual. She is polling ahead of where Ralph Nader did in 2000 and is the strongest fourth-party candidate we’ve seen in a 100 years, besting both the Thurmond and Wallace tickets from the infamously four-sided election of 1948.

To find a fourth-place candidate polling higher than Stein’s current results, you need to dial all the way back to the 6 percent of the vote Eugene Debs earned in the bizarre 1912 election that saw the GOP nominee (the incumbent, no less!) finish in third place behind a third-party bid spearheaded by ex-president Teddy Roosevelt.

These two unusual quirks of the 2016 race seem to be linked.

Lambasting Trump while being unpopular herself would be a clear winning strategy in a zero-sum head-to-head race. But in a four-sided race, where the two lesser candidates aren’t receiving much scrutiny from the press or the campaigns, it tends to have the side consequence of pressing a lot of people to Johnson or Stein. The fact that there are two different third-party candidates in the race — one for people who think Clinton’s too left and one for people who think she’s not left enough — makes it really difficult to avoid bleeding voters…

It’s simply going to be very hard for Clinton to open up the kind of stable lead that her supporters think Trump’s awfulness deserves while she herself is so little-liked. September of a general election year is probably not a great time to turn that around.

But the fact remains that her basic problem in this race is almost painfully simple. Over the course of her winning primary campaign she became a deeply unpopular figure. And it’s hard — indeed, unprecedented — for such an unpopular person to win the presidency.

Both major parties have nominated candidates who are unfit to be president. There is little motivation for many voters to choose the lesser evil, as opposed to voting for a minor party candidate, when even the lesser evil is so evil this year. If the major party candidates were not both so awful, Johnson and Stein would be polling as low as minor party candidates usually do.

For Clinton, it is not only her lies. It is also her record, as Common Dreams recently discussed. In past elections, the Democratic Party received the support of many independents, as well as those on the left, due to the serious problems under George Bush. Instead of nominating a reform candidate such as Bernie Sanders (who consistently polled much better against Donald Trump), they went for the candidate most likely to institutionalize the horrors of the Bush administration. We need to end the state of perpetual warfare we have been in since 9/11. While Clinton admits that her vote for the Iraq war was a mistake (like her support for mass incarceration, various trade deals, and anti-gay legislation were mistakes), as described, support for interventionism was actually part of a pattern for her:

For years, Clinton has blamed Bush for misleading her into voting for the resolution. But an examination by The Washington Post found that her decision was based as much on advice from her husband’s advisers as from Bush administration officials. There were also significant gaps in her fact-gathering, most notably her apparent failure to read a classified analysis that other senators cited in voting against the resolution…

She continued that path when she advocated intervention in Libya as secretary of state…

Besides Clinton pushing for interventionism in Libya, Clinton repeated the same mistakes in Syria, advocating war based on logic as flawed as anything we have heard from Donald Trump. Her views on Russia place us at risk of an even more dangerous situation.

Kranish stressed how Clinton failed to read classified intelligence reports which were available, leading others to oppose the war. Unlike some Democrats who did initially vote for the war, Clinton also continued to support the war:

A year after the vote, Clinton defended it on CNN, citing “grave threats to the United States.”

As The Intercept pointed out, Hillary Clinton’s National Security Advisers Are a “Who’s Who” of the Warfare State. The Iraq vote was not a fluke. It is what we can expect if Clinton is elected.

Clinton desires to replicate the horrors of the Bush years in other ways. Besides perpetuating the warfare state, Clinton desires to expand the surveillance state and has a terrible record on civil liberties with views (minus the Islamophobia) which are comparable to Trump’s. As occurred under Bush, Clinton also has a long history of supporting an increased role for religion in public policy. The reality is that, no matter how much the point out Donald Trump’s flaws, Hillary Clinton already has a record of doing much of what Trump is accused of.

The Democratic Party establishment made a horrible mistake in acting to ensure that Hillary Clinton would win the nomination. While Clinton still has the edge, they might have to face the consequences of their actions if it leads to defeat and the election of Donald Trump as president.

Edward Snowden Calls On Obama To Pardon Him; Jill Stein Supports Request

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Edward Snowden expressed hope that Obama would pardon him before leaving office in an interview with The Guardian:

Speaking on Monday via a video link from Moscow, where he is in exile, Snowden said any evaluation of the consequences of his leak of tens of thousands of National Security Agency and GCHQ documents in 2013 would show clearly that people had benefited.

“Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists – for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things,” he said.

“I think when people look at the calculations of benefit, it is clear that in the wake of 2013 the laws of our nation changed. The [US] Congress, the courts and the president all changed their policies as a result of these disclosures. At the same time there has never been any public evidence that any individual came to harm as a result.”

Although US presidents have granted some surprising pardons when leaving office, the chances of Obama doing so seem remote, even though before he entered the White House he was a constitutional lawyer who often made the case for privacy and had warned about the dangers of mass surveillance.

Obama’s former attorney general Eric Holder, however, gave an unexpected boost to the campaign for a pardon in May when he said Snowden had performed a public service.

The campaign could receive a further lift from Oliver Stone’s film, Snowden, scheduled for release in the US on Friday. Over the weekend the director said he hoped the film would help shift opinion behind the whistleblower, and added his voice to the plea for a pardon.

His chances are  not very good, with the Obama administration having a very strict policy towards prosecution in whistle blowing cases. This includes using the Espionage Act more than all previous administrations combined to prosecute those who have leaked information to the press.

Of course the Obama administration’s zeal with regards to protecting classified information did not apply to Hillary Clinton being “extremely careless” with classified information as Secretary of State.

While it is not very likely that Obame will pardon Snowden, his chances are dramatically lower once the next president takes office. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are extremely conservative on civil liberties and are not likely to pardon him. John Cassidy of The New Yorker pointed out that, “From a civil-liberties perspective—and a factual perspective—Clinton’s answers were disturbing” when she was asked about Snowden in a Democratic debate last October. PoltiFact also called her statements about Snowden Mostly False.  Donald Trump has referred to Snowden as a traitor.

Snowden’s chances would be much better if one of the third party candidates had a chance to win. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson was equivocal on applying libertarianism here, having said he would consider pardoning him. Green Party Jill Stein has been calling for a pardon for Snowden for quite a while, and has an op-ed in The Guardian repeating this view. She concluded:

Federal judges ruled that such massive collection of citizens’ metadata without any connection to a particular investigation was patently illegal, essentially vindicating Snowden. His goal was to tell the truth about the government spying on all of us, and to create public and judicial pressure on the government to create real changes in the way things are done and to stop the trajectory towards a surveillance state.

Snowden’s whistleblowing was among the most important in US history. It showed us that the relationship between the people of the United States and the government has gone off track and needs a major course correction.

The fourth amendment of the constitution provides that a court must find probable cause that an individual has committed a crime before issuing a warrant, and forbids systematic spying on the American people. The requirement of individualized suspicion should prohibit this type of dragnet surveillance. Spying on whole populations is not necessary, and is actually counterproductive.

If elected president I will immediately pardon Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou for their important work in exposing the massive, systematic violation of our constitutional rights. I would invite them to the White House to publicly acknowledge their heroism, and create a role for them in the Stein-Baraka Green party administration to help us create a modern framework that protects personal privacy while still conducting effective investigations where warranted.

The American people have a right to privacy. My hope is that Obama uses his power to pardon Snowden now. The debate he began must be continued so we find a resolution that protects the freedom of press, association, religion and speech as well as the privacy of people in the United States and around the world.

Creating A State Of Perpetual Warfare

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The Orwellian aspects of our foreign policy have been apparent to its opponents for quite a while. Former CIA officer Barry Eisler did not mention Orwell in an article on perpetual warfare at Boing Boing but either he was considering several aspects of warfare in 1984 or came to similar views as Orwell independently. Some excerpts:

If you were the government and wanted to maintain a state of perpetual war, how would you go about it?

First, you’d need an enemy, of course, but that part would be pretty straightforward. After all, if the US government could convince the citizenry that Iraq was the 9/11 enemy but that Saudi Arabia was our friend when nineteen out of the twenty 9/11 hijackers were Saudi, it’s fair to say that just about anything is possible.

But the next part would be harder. On the one hand, you’d have to claim progress in the war so that the citizenry would maintain its support for the war. On the other hand, you couldn’t actually defeat the enemy, lest the war end.

Eisler here was referring to the latest in a long string of news reports on a significant victory, such as killing a key member of ISIS, while nothing actually changes.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that according to the Pentagon, we’ve achieved yet another concrete War on Terror victory, while according to American officials and counterterrorism specialists, outright victory is still intangible and elusive. Maybe it’s a coincidence that this narrative is precisely the one a team of social scientists would devise if tasked to come up with something that would maintain indefinite support for a never-ending war.

But it would be foolish not to at least wonder. War is awful for almost everyone. But for a few narrow factions, there’s a lot of money to be made and power to be accrued. You could even go out on a limb and argue that war is a racket.

While in 1984,”We‘ve always been at war with Eastasia” the enemy does periodically change. Eisler points out that this could be happening with our perpetual war:

If you were really clever, you’d probably want a backup enemy–a Plan B in case the current enemy du jour were ever somehow actually defeated. In which regard, maybe it’s a coincidence that we are now being told we are now in a new cold war with a resurgent Russia and that Vladimir Putin is behind everything bad in the world. But once again, it would be foolish not to at least wonder.

In 2008, Barack Obama was the peace candidate, yet the war continues and the use of drones has increased. The choices in 2016 appear even worse. Hillary Clinton is probably the most hawkish war monger to run for president in recent memory. Besides pushing for the Iraq war based upon false claims of ties between Saddam and al Qaeda, she is the architect of our disastrous policy in Libya, and wanted to repeat the same mistakes in Syria based on absurd arguments. She has also been pushing to extend the conflict to Russia, with a new Cold War, if not an outright hot war.

Her opponent, Donald Trump, has at times spoken out against Clinton’s interventionism, but has been far too incoherent on foreign policy (and everything else) to be seen as a serious alternative. While Clinton appears most likely to win, with Clinton’s favorability at records lows Trump has been cutting into Clinton’s lead, including pulling into a tie in the latest Reuter’s poll.

Third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson might provide a real difference but are marginalized by our system, not even being allowed in the presidential debates, despite widespread dislike for the major party candidates. Just today, Bernie Sanders did say that the threshold for minor parties participating in the debates should be lowered. It is unlikely we will see any real change, or an end to our perpetual war, unless other voices are heard.

USA Today Poll Confirms That Voters Are Motivated By Fear Of Opposing Candidate

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Another poll shows Hillary Clinton maintaining her post-convention lead over Donald Trump, but not because voters are so excited about her. A USA Today Suffolk University Poll showed, as others have, that people are voting out of fear and hatred for the opponent, not support for either candidate:

Not even their own supporters are all that excited about winning.

A nationwide USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll, taken as Labor Day launches the final sprint toward the election, finds supporters of both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump more motivated by fear about the other side claiming the White House than they are by excitement about their own candidate prevailing…

Driving the election is antipathy toward the competition: 80% of Trump supporters and 62% of Clinton supporters say if the other candidate wins in November, they would feel “scared,” the most negative of four possible choices.

Those are stronger feelings than they express about a victory by their own candidate. Just 27% of Clinton supporters and 29% of Trump supporters would feel “excited,” the most positive choice. A majority of both sides — 62% for Clinton and 52% for Trump — predict a more temperate “satisfied” feeling instead.

Despite such considerable dislike for Clinton and Trump, only 9% support Gary Johnson and 4 % support Jill Stein. However, 76 percent believe they should be included in the presidential debates. Presumably their support would also increase if more voters could actually see them in the debates. Current rules require that a candidate be at 15 percent in the polls to be included in the debates.

USA Today also found that a majority of those voting for Clinton are very likely or somewhat likely to split their vote and vote for Republicans down ticket. This is presumably because they are voting for Clinton out of hatred for Donald Trump and not support for her or her party. Besides, Clinton is far closer to the Republicans ideologically, and it would make sense for those preferring a Republican Congress to back Clinton for president. I also wonder how many see a Republican Congress as a means of keeping check on corruption from Clinton, assuming she is elected.

If this result holds, it suggests real disaster for the Democratic Party should Clinton be elected without bringing in Democrats down ticket. Normally the party winning the presidential election does well down ticket in the presidential election, but then suffers losses in the off-year election. If Democrats do not start out with a good year this year, midterm loses could be devastating, especially if Clinton remains as unpopular as she is now. I suspect this is an election in which the party who loses the White House will wind up doing better long term.

Third Party Candidates Unusually Strong In 2016–Should Be Included In Presidential Debates

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With most voters unhappy with both the Democratic and Republican nominees for president, voters are more open to consider third party candidates. Even if not yet willing to say they will vote for one, many do believe third party candidates deserve a place in the debate. A Quinnipiac University poll shows 62 percent of likely voters say that Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson should be included in the debates this year. They weren’t asked about Jill Stein but, as the number of those supporting inclusion in the debates doesn’t correlate with plans to vote for Johnson, and is split among supporters of each major party, I bet a similar number of voters would also support include Stein.

Third party candidates are only included if they reach fifteen percent in the polls, but have difficulty reaching this number without exposure from the debates. While neither third party candidate is close to fifteen percent yet, third party candidates will very likely far better than usual this year. Most years the support for third party candidates has started to fall by now, and dwindles to near nothing by election day. FiveThirtyEight notes that we are not seeing that pattern so far this year:

Johnson is pulling in about 9 percent in the national polls, according to the FiveThirtyEight polls-only average. And his share in national polls has not fallen as we’ve gotten closer to the election. Indeed, Johnson’s support right now is higher than many other viable1I’m including third-party candidates who garnered a significant amount of media attention and were on the ballot in a substantial number of states. third-party candidates’ at a similar point in campaigns since 1948.

Johnson is pulling in at least twice as much of the vote as Henry Wallace or Strom Thurmond was in late August 1948, as Ralph Nader was in 2000 and certainly as Johnson himself was four years ago. Perhaps even more impressive is that Johnson is polling right about where Ross Perot was in 1996, when Perot had a nationally known name after his strong 1992 run. That said, Johnson is nowhere near the success of that 1992 campaign: Perot was pulling in 20 percent as a hypothetical candidate after leaving the 1992 campaign in July but before re-entering the race in October.

And notice: Most third-party candidates didn’t lose that much support between late summer and Election Day. Besides John Anderson in 1980, no candidate ended up finishing more than 3 percentage points below where they were polling in late August. The average drop-off is about 2 percentage points. Anderson, meanwhile, was already fading at this point in the campaign. In Gallup’s polling, for example, his support peaked at 24 percent in early summer and by now had dropped by 10 percentage points…

Why is Johnson’s support proving more durable than past third-party candidates’? The most obvious answer is that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are extremely unpopular for major party presidential nominees; if third-party voters eventually settled on a major party nominee in past campaigns for fear of “wasting their vote,” they may be less willing to settle this year. (Of course, Johnson’s support may simply fade later than past third-party candidates.)

There is, however, some bad news for Johnson in his steady numbers: They’re not going up either. He’s showing no signs of reaching 15 percent in national polls, the threshold necessary to get into the debates. Still, if he ends up with 7 percent of the vote — as we’d expect based upon history and the current polls — the Libertarian Party will qualify for federal campaign funding in 2020, and Johnson will claim the highest share of the vote of any non-major party nominee in 20 years.

The final paragraph reveals one reason to support third party candidates even if they have no chance of winning this year–qualifying for federal matching funds in the next election, along with an outside chance of making the debates. Both third party candidates are working to increase their vote totals this year.  Johnson is starting to advertise in the battleground states and Jill Stein is increasing her ballot access, hoping to make the ballot in forty-seven states. The Nation ran a recent op-ed arguing that Stein should be part of a four-way debate.

Reason continues to look for reasons to hope that Gary Johnson will make the debate:

Looking for a glimmer of hope? Here’s one intriguing gap in the numerical record. Of the Commission on Presidential Debates’ determinative Big Five polls, in which Johnson has been averaging 10 percent instead of 9, none of them have produced results in the last three weeks. Beginning any minute now, we should have a much clearer idea whether the Libertarians are rising in the polls that actually matter.

If there has been no data for three weeks, there is the danger that Johnson’s support is following historical trends for third parties and falling, but it could be rising as Reason hopes. We can also hope that Jill Stein’s support is rising but has not yet been measured. With major party candidates as bad as Clinton and Trump, there is the possibility that more voters will reject them in favor of the alternatives.

Hillary Clinton Responds To DEA Decision On Marijuana But Continues To Back Prohibition

Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during her primary night gathering at the Philadelphia Convention Center on April 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton defeated her democratic rival Bernie Sanders in the Pennsylvania presidential primary.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has released a response to the decision of the FDA which I discussed yesterday to keep marijuana a Schedule I drug. From Think Progress:

In a statement published yesterday in the Cannabist, Maya Harris, a senior policy adviser to the Clinton campaign, applauded the DEA’s concurrent move to loosen restrictions on growing marijuana for research — and indicated Clinton will go even further to accomplish what Obama has failed to so far.

“We applaud the steps taken today by the Obama Administration to remove research barriers that have significantly limited the scientific study of marijuana,” Harris said. “Marijuana is already being used for medical purposes in states across the country, and it has the potential for even further medical use. As Hillary Clinton has said throughout this campaign, we should make it easier to study marijuana so that we can better understand its potential benefits, as well as its side effects.”

“As president, Hillary will build on the important steps announced today by rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance,” she continued. “She will also ensure Colorado, and other states that have enacted marijuana laws, can continue to serve as laboratories of democracy.”

As is common with Clinton, there is some benefit to her conservative approach, while she remains behind the times on the issue. With regards to medical marijuana, reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II drug would be a tremendous improvement over its current status as a Schedule I drug. While physicians cannot prescribe Schedule I drugs, Schedule II drugs can be prescribed. Presumably this would put an end to the federal government interfering with medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

On the other hand, Schedule II drugs are the most restricted class of drugs which are prescribed. The class includes drugs such as Morphine, OxyContin, Methadone, and Norco. Written prescriptions, or a highly secure electronic prescribing system, must be used, and refills cannot be included. One reason to support the medical use of marijuana is to reduce the use of the more addictive and dangerous medications now in use.

More importantly, while a Schedule II drug can be prescribed for medical purposes, it does not end prohibition of marijuana. Over the past several years there has been growing support for legalization, with sixty-one percent in favor as of last March. The change Clinton supports would do nothing to resolve the problem of mass incarceration and the disproportionate incarceration of minorities.

In contrast, Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson both support an end to prohibition. As I also noted yesterday, the generally incoherent Republican nominee Donald Trump is for and against legalization of marijuana.

DEA Refuses To Reclassify Marijuana But Acts To Facilitate Research

Reefer Madnes

The DEA has rejected a request to reclassify marijuana and it will remain a Schedule 1 drug. NPR reported on the decision, and the questionable rational:

The Obama administration has denied a bid by two Democratic governors to reconsider how it treats marijuana under federal drug control laws, keeping the drug for now, at least, in the most restrictive category for U.S. law enforcement purposes.

Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Rosenberg says the decision is rooted in science. Rosenberg gave “enormous weight” to conclusions by the Food and Drug Administration that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and by some measures, it remains highly vulnerable to abuse as the most commonly used illicit drug across the nation.

“This decision isn’t based on danger. This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine,” he said, “and it’s not.”

Marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, alongside heroin and LSD, while other, highly addictive substances including oxycodone and methamphetamine are regulated differently under Schedule II of the law. But marijuana’s designation has nothing to do with danger, Rosenberg said.

This conflicts with a growing body of evidence that marijuana does have medical benefits, along with being safer than opiates for treatment of chronic pain.

The DEA did include one item in its decision which could lead to an increase in research on medical benefits of marijuana:

DEA announced a policy change designed to foster research by expanding the number of DEA- registered marijuana manufacturers. This change should provide researchers with a more varied and robust supply of marijuana. At present, there is only one entity authorized to produce marijuana to supply researchers in the United States: the University of Mississippi, operating under a contract with NIDA. Consistent with the CSA and U.S. treaty obligations, DEA’s new policy will allow additional entities to apply to become registered with DEA so that they may grow and distribute marijuana for FDA-authorized research purposes.

Of the presidential candidates this year, Hillary Clinton has been the most conservative on marijuana and drug policy, while Jill Stein and Gary Johnson support legalization. Donald Trump has spoken of legalization in the past, but is hardly consistent on this, or virtually anything else.