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%

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.

Control Of The Senate Too Close To Call–Several States Still Can Go Either Way

With under a month to go, the race for control of the Senate remains too close to call. The fundamentals support the Republicans and they maintain a slight edge based upon current polling, but there are so many close races that we cannot be certain what will happen, despite the pessimism of some Democrats. Some Republicans are starting to get worried.

Looking at Electoral-Vote.com, the latest polls do give the Republicans 51 seats. However look at how many races are extremely close. Polls this close could easily be off if the pollster is incorrect in their assumptions as to who will actually turn out to vote. In other words, Democrats could retain control of the Senate if their  turn out is better than in previous midterm elections. Only a slight increase could flip several of the states where Republicans are leading.

Some states might still change from basic changes in a campaign, such as Mary Landrieu replacing her campaign manager.

Unexpected events in other states could change things. We have already seen the situation in Kansas where an independent has a real chance of winning. Now South Dakota has unexpectedly turned into a three way race. Republican Mike Rounds has led Democrat Rick Weiland, but suddenly former senator Larry Pressler, running as an independent, has closed the gap. There is no run off in South Dakota making it possible that any of the three could win with less than forty percent of the vote. Pressler is a former Republican but has become disenchanted with the GOP. He endorsed Obama in the last two presidential elections and says that if elected he would be a friend of Obama in the Senate.

Another factor working against the Republicans is their problem of nominating candidates who are extremists, if not outright bat-shit crazy. Terry Lynn Lands disastrous campaign has turned Michigan into a safe seat for the Democrats to hold. Republican leads in Iowa and even Georgia are now in jeopardy. Michelle Nunn’s chances in Georgia are now much better after a 2005 deposition surfaced in which Republican David Perdue bragged about his record of outsourcing:

The controversy stems from a 2005 legal deposition focused on the money he made at Pillowtex, a North Carolina textile company that closed and laid off thousands shortly after he left as CEO in 2003.

“Yeah, I spent most of my career doing that,” he said when asked to describe his “experience with outsourcing.”

Perdue then walked attorneys through his career helping various countries increase production in Asia, and discussed his goal at Pillowtex of moving production overseas to try to save the company. That never occurred, as the company ended up collapsing before it could do so.

His initial response to the revelations didn’t help put out the fire.

“Defend it? I’m proud of it,” he said on Monday when asked by a local reporter about his “career on outsourcing.”

“This is a part of American business, part of any business. Outsourcing is the procurement of products and services to help your business run. People do that all day,” he continued before blaming bad government policies for killing American jobs.

With all these races which could still go either direction, I do not believe it is possible to determine before election day who will control the Senate. We very likely will not even know that Tuesday. With Alaska in play, we won’t have all the results until at least Wednesday. Complicating matters further, if the races in Georgia and Louisiana remain close we cold very easily have a situation in which neither candidate has a majority and we have to wait for a runoff election in December (Louisiana) and/or January (Georgia). Should Larry Pressler win in South Dakota and Greg Orman win in Kansas, the pair of independents would very likely be in a position to decide who controls the Senate and we might not know how that plays out until January.

Democrat Drops Out Of Kansas Senate Race, Giving Independent Candidate A Chance To Win

Greg Orman

In late August I wrote about the Senate race in Kansas, where there was felt to be a real chance of defeating Republican Pat Roberts  if the Democratic candidate,  Chad Taylor were to drop out. In that situation, polls show that independent Greg Orman  has a real chance to beat Roberts. Orman has run as a Democrat in the past, and Democrats hope that he will caucus with them if he wins. Taylor did drop out of the race on Wednesday,increasing the chances that the Democrats can retain control of the Senate. While there has been speculation that the Democrats might be able to beat the incumbent Republican in Georgia or Kentucky, this probably does make Roberts the most vulnerable Republican.

One reason that Orman out polls Roberts in a two-way race is that Roberts has run a poor campaign. In response, the national Republican Party now seeks to take control of the Roberts campaign. This further shows that they do feel that Roberts is now vulnerable.

Different pundits differ on how much of a difference this will make. Sam Wang now gives the Democrats an 85 percent chance of retaining control of the Senate. Nate Silver been far more pessimistic, and in his model this only increases the chances for the Democrats retaining control from 35 percent to 38 percent. The difference is that Wang has been concentrating more on polls, where Democrats have been out-performing expectations. As polling in these Senate races is of variable quality and number, it is also possible that Silver is correct in discounting them.

There remain complications. Earlier in the day The Hill pointed out legal issues which might prevent Taylor’s name from being removed from the ballot. Subsequently Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced on  Thursday afternoon that Taylor’s name will remain on the ballot. There is bound to be a legal battle over this. Even if his name remains on the ballot, Taylor’s decision to end his campaign might still result in enough Democratic voters backing Orman to enable him to beat Roberts.

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/election/article1504835.html#storylink=cpy

Democrats Take Lead In Party Affiliation

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Gallup consistently projected a lower percentage of the vote for Obama compared to most other polls. A major factor was probably underestimating the percentage of the total voting population which leaned Democratic. Gallup may or may not still be underestimating Democrats, but regardless of total numbers they now report (probably well after the fact) that Democrats have reestablished a lead in party affiliation:

An average of 47% of Americans identified as Democrats or said they were independents who leaned Democratic in 2012, compared with 42% who identified as or leaned Republican. That re-establishes a Democratic edge in party affiliation after the two parties were essentially tied in 2010 and 2011…

Americans last year continued their trend toward greater political independence. The 40% who initially identified as political independents matched the record high from 2011. That is particularly notable, given that the usual pattern is for the percentage of Americans identifying as independents to decline in a presidential election year. In each of the last four presidential election years, dating back to 1996, the percentage of independents was lower than in the year prior to the election…

The rise in independence is perhaps not surprising, given the low esteem in which Americans hold the federal government and the political parties. But with most Americans willing to at least express a leaning to either party, it does suggest the potential for the parties to gain more solid adherents in the future.

I’m not at all surprised to find a large segment of voters who both consider themselves independent and acknowledge that they are most likely to vote Democratic. I see no reason why voting for the more sane party in a two-party system must mean personal identification with the party. I’ve never really considered myself to be a Democrat, but with the Republicans having been taken over by extremists I certainly would not vote for them. Of course the crazier the Republicans become, the more I have begun to identify with Democrats by default. Republicans seem determined to compete with themselves in taking extreme views which are totally out of touch with reality, becoming an increasingly smaller tent.

One of several factors involved is that the Democrats are a large tent with a wide variety of viewpoints and no unifying philosophy beyond not being bat-shit crazy like Republicans. I will agree with any given Democratic candidate a variable percent of the time. On the other hand, it has become very rare to agree with anything coming from the Republicans, and even when I disagree with Democrats I can at least see a coherent argument for their position.

Of course there may be nothing new here. It has been well known that most self-identified independents tend to vote for one of the political parties. Then there’s  Will Roger’s famous quote, “I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

Politics Is A Game Of Inches

Thomas Friedman once again wants Michael Bloomberg to run for president. We currently have a center-left candidate from the Democrats and a combination center-left, centrist, and far-right candidate from the Republicans depending upon which positions Romney decides he wants to hold on any particular day. The big problem with Friedman and others who want to see a centrist candidate run and break the partisan gridlock is that the positions such people tend to advocate are essentially the positions held by Democrats. Steve Benen explained:

Friedman wants a party that will commit to investing in infrastructure, education, and short-term economic growth, but is also willing to make concessions and compromises on long-term fiscal challenges on entitlements. But he’s also under the impression that the two-party system is failing him — even though one of the major parties already agrees with him.

The columnist wants Bloomberg to run as independent in order to push Democrats to be more … Democratic?

Matthew Yglesias argues that this won’t even help Friedman’s problem with dropped calls.

I guess politics is a game of inches. Michael Bloomberg is perhaps inches closer to the center than Obama, making him preferable to people like Thomas Friedman. Similarly it takes just a very slight increase in the top marginal tax rate to make Obama a socialist in the eyes of the know-nothing right while the Republicans (who have done more than any group, including true socialists, to destroy a working system of capitalism) are their heroes.

Independent Voters Can Be Won By Democrats–With the Right Arguments

A swing state poll from Global Strategy Group has some good news for Obama, and a lesson as to how Democrats should concentrate on attracting more independent voters. They found that swing state independents prefer Obama by six points, but over a third remain undecided. The generic Congressional ballot is tied, with six in ten remaining undecided.

There is a key finding which I am totally unsurprised by but which I fear many Democratic strategists don’t get:

We find that Swing Independents are “opportunity” voters—preferring an optimistic, opportunity framework on the economy over one based on fairness. Why? Opportunity addresses their anxieties about the future, concerns that America is slipping, doubts about how the next generation will succeed, and questions over how we will strengthen our economy.

We all know that Republican voters are motivated by greed, in their case by promises of lower taxes. Other voters are also motivated by self-interest. There are strong arguments as to why Democratic policies lead to a stronger economy and higher incomes. These arguments will win votes, but arguments based upon fairness will not. Sure there are strong arguments that the increase in income disparity, unprecedented since the gilded age, is harmful to the economy as well as unfair. That just doesn’t make a clear enough “elevator pitch” to win elections.

Obama and Reality Versus The Republicans

Now that Barack Obama has decided that there is no point in negotiating with terrorists, we are seeing a more effective advocate for the reality-based community.  After all, you cannot negotiate with Republicans whose primary goal is to prevent Obama from having any successes, regardless of how badly this hurts the country. As for the erroneously-named Tea Party movement,  you certainly cannot reason with a group which lacks the basic background knowledge or ability to think rationally about the issues and which sees ignorance as a virtue. Obama directly took on the Republicans in a trip to the west coast:

At a fundraiser in San Jose, Calif., Obama said that some in the audience might be former Republicans “but are puzzled by what’s happening to that party,” and voters should back him if they believe in a “fact-based” America.

“I mean has anybody been watching the debates lately?” Obama said. “You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change.

“It’s true. You’ve got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don’t have healthcare. And booing a service member in Iraq because they’re gay.”

The remarks represent some of the most direct and combative for Obama so far as he has struck out on the campaign trail in earnest following the July debt-ceiling debate and the August break.

Obama continued his critique of Republicans, saying of the boos in the audience at recent GOP debates: “That’s not reflective of who we are.”

“This is a choice about the fundamental direction of our country,” the president said. “2008 was an important direction. 2012 is a more important election.

It is important that over the next year Obama provides a clear message as to what his actual policies are as opposed to continuing to allow Republicans to define him and spread misinformation as to what Democrats believe. Today we say another in a long string of people calling for a third party due to the failure of the Democrats or Republicans to solve our problems. Matt Miller called for a third party, but as many bloggers have already pointed out today, Miller’s proposed solutions come very close to what the Democrats support. Miller does have a point that the Democrats are somewhat limited by the need to please the groups which support them, but this would be true of any party which raises the money needed to campaign nationally.

Miller spreads the false impression that the two parties are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, sort of mirror images of each other. In reality, we have one centrist party, the Democrats, and one far right extremist party. The best way to advance  center-left, pragmatic solutions to our problems at this point in time is to vote Democratic next year.  The other alternatives, the far-right Republicans or  the imaginary solution of a third party, will lead to failure.

Would You Trust Your Retirement With A Political Party Which Considers Social Security To Be A Ponzi Scheme?

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney are far from the only Republicans who consider Social Security to be a Ponzi scheme. Many conservative writers, such as Charles Krauthammer are making the same flawed argument, confusing tax-supported government programs with actions which are allowable in the private sector, and ignoring the possibility of changing with changing conditions. Mona Charen has a column showing that Mitch Daniels has also called Social Security a Ponzi scheme, but this should cause no surprise . The echo chamber of the right wing noise machine has claimed this so often that, like a long list of other fallacies, it is very widely believed to be true on the right.

Opposition to Social Security will hurt the Republicans in the general election, a fact which is more important than polls taken today, but it might not hurt candidates for the Republican nomination. This is demonstrated in a new Gallup poll:

Texas Gov. and presidential candidate Rick Perry’s comments on Social Security, which include calling it a “Ponzi scheme,” appear to be a non-issue for most Republicans. However, they could cost him support with independents should he ultimately win the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. As many Republicans say they are more likely to vote for Perry for president because of his views on Social Security as say they are less likely — 19% each. Among independents, 12% are more likely to vote for him and 32% less likely…

Perry’s decision to critique the financing structure of Social Security in stronger terms than are typically heard from most presidential candidates may not be risky within Republican circles. As many Republicans say they are more likely to support Perry as a result as say they are less likely, with most indicating it won’t make a difference. However, independents view his comments more negatively and, in line with Romney’s argument that this makes Perry unelectable, nearly 4 in 10 Republicans agree it could hurt Perry in a general election.

Tactically speaking, Perry might benefit in the short term by playing to the large minority of Republicans who favor more radical changes to the system. That could help him consolidate conservative support, further squeezing out Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and others. But as the Republican presidential field is winnowed during the primaries — and particularly if it is reduced to just Perry and Romney — this controversy could complicate Perry’s chance of winning the nomination and, ultimately, the general election.

Most Americans understand what a major success Social Security has been to provide financial assistance for the elderly and disabled and would not want to see this program destroyed. The views which gain support from the extremists who dominate the Republican primaries will be rejected by a large majority of Americans.

Independent Vote No Longer Strongly Republican As In 2009 Senate Elections

Polls early in the year looked very bad for Democrats but we also knew there was plenty of time for them to improve before the midterm elections. Republicans won the independent vote in Senate elections held in 2009.  Public Policy Polling has mixed news for Democrats today. Independents continue to favor Republicans, but by much smaller margins than earlier in the earlier Senate races.

In the early contests such as in Massachusetts, Republicans won the independent vote by a mean of twenty-eight points. Republicans continue to lead among Democrats in seven of the nine Senate races being polled but in comparison to the races which have already taken place the Republicans lead by a mean of seven points and their maximum lead is fifteen points. Democrats still have a lot of ground to make up but it also seems like the Republicans peaked too soon and the Democrats now have the momentum.

Gallup Poll Shows Greater Acceptance of Gay/Lesbian Relations

In 2004 one of the reasons that George Bush narrowly won reelection was by increasing turn out on the right by using ballot initiatives outlawing gay marriage. It worked for the Republicans in 2004 but they subsequently lost badly in 2006 and 2008. While the fundamentals of this year’s off-year election favor the party out of power, any victories by the Republican Party might just be a dead cat bounce as long term trends continue to work against the views of the authoritarian right.

Another example that Americans are gradually rejecting the views of the American Taliban comes in a new Gallup poll showing greater acceptance of gay relationships:

2001-2010 Trend: Perceived Moral Acceptability of Gay/Lesbian  Relations

Americans’ support for the moral acceptability of gay and lesbian relations crossed the symbolic 50% threshold in 2010. At the same time, the percentage calling these relations “morally wrong” dropped to 43%, the lowest in Gallup’s decade-long trend.

Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey, conducted each May, documents a gradual increase in public acceptance of gay relations since about 2006. However, the change is seen almost exclusively among men, and particularly men younger than 50.

Additionally, Gallup finds greater movement toward acceptance among independents and Democrats than among Republicans, and a big jump in acceptance among moderates. Liberals were already widely accepting of gay relations in 2006, and have remained that way, while conservatives’ acceptance continues to run low.

Notably, there has been a 16-point jump in acceptance among Catholics, nearly three times the increase seen among Protestants. Acceptance among Americans with no religious identity has expanded as well…

There is a gradual cultural shift under way in Americans’ views toward gay individuals and gay rights. While public attitudes haven’t moved consistently in gays’ and lesbians’ favor every year, the general trend is clearly in that direction. This year, the shift is apparent in a record-high level of the public seeing gay and lesbian relations as morally acceptable. Meanwhile, support for legalizing gay marriage, and for the legality of gay and lesbian relations more generally, is near record highs.

I think that sometime in the future we will reach a tipping point where intolerance of gays becomes as unacceptable as racism. Some on the right will hold on to their homophobia, as some have continued to embrace racism. This will further alienate right wing views from the mainstream, especially among younger voters (who unfortunately will not turn out in high numbers in 2010 if historical trends continue).