Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Who Are You Voting for Today? It's Not Who You Think It Is

As noted not long ago, elsewhere in these pages, when voters go to the polls today to cast their ballots for President and Vice President, they are not actually voting for Donald Trump or Gary Johnson or Hillary Clinton. Those candidates receive votes only indirectly.

Voters cast their ballots, instead, for slates of electors selected by the political parties (or, in the case of independent candidates, by the campaign organization).

electoral college t-shirtIn Virginia, each party selects two at-large electors and one from each of the eleven congressional districts. The Republican Party (and, I would guess, the Democratic Party) selected its slate of electors at the state party convention (for at-large slots) and at congressional district conventions.

The executive committee of the Libertarian Party selected its slate late in 2015 because all 13 names had to be included on the ballot access petitions that were circulated for the purpose of collecting a sufficient number of signatures to qualify the LP’s candidates for the ballot. The ballot petition included "stand-in" candidates for president and vice president, because Gary Johnson and William Weld were not nominated until nearly six months after the petitioning process began; their names were substituted after the petitions were turned in to the State Board of Elections. Presumably the Green Party followed a similar process.

Evan McMullin’s elector selection process was more opaque; even his running mate listed on the ballot, Nathan Johnson, is not McMullin’s actual running mate (Mindy Finn), although it’s unlikely that will matter by Wednesday morning.

Names of electors this year may be more relevant than in past years because of the possibility that one or more of them may go rogue and cast a ballot for candidates other than those who win the popular vote in their states. Two Washington state electors, who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries, have already announced that they will not vote for Hillary Clinton if she wins in the Evergreen State.

For the sake of full transparency in the electoral process, and to document this election thoroughly for future historians, here are the names of the 65 individuals who have agreed to serve as electors if their favored candidate wins the popular vote in Virginia on November 8. (Names are followed by “city of record,” as noted by the State Board of Elections.)

Green Party electors: Audrey R. Clement, Arlington; Becker Sidney Smith, Pamplin; Clifford Barry Anderson, Radford; Daniel A. Metraux, Staunton; Edmund E. Dowe II, Virginia Beach; Gerald L. Anderson, Fredericksburg; Jana Lee Cutlip, Charlottesville; Jeffrey B. Staples, Chesapeake; Kirit Mookerjee, Washington, DC; Patrick O. Hopkins, Herndon; Richard D. Johnston, Louisa; Ryan R. Ruff, Portsmouth; William Michael Lupinacci, Oakton
Notice that the “city of record” of one Green Party elector, Kirit Mookerjee, is listed as “Washington, DC.” Is this legal?
Democratic Party electors: Bethany J. Rowland, Chesapeake; Debra Stevens Fitzgearld, Harrisonburg; James Harold Allen Boyd, Culpeper; Jasper L. Hendricks, III, Pamplin; Jeanette C. Sarver, Dublin; K. James O'Connor, Jr., Manassas; Kathy Stewart Shupe, Sterling; Keith A. Scarborough, Woodbridge; Lashrecse D. Aird, Petersburg; Susan Johnson Rowland, Chesapeake; Terry C. Frye, Bristol; Virginia L. Peters, Alexandria; Vivian J. Paige, Norfolk
Here’s an oddity: Both the Democratic Party slate and the Green Party slate include an elector whose city of record is Pamplin, a postal designation in Virginia that I’ve previously never encountered. Is that coincidence?
Republican Party electors: Alan John Cobb, Falls Church; Anne Taetzsch Fitzgerald, Staunton; Cynthia Marie Miller (Byler), Virginia Beach; Donald L. Boswell, Glen Allen; Erich D. Reimer, Charlottesville; George William Thomas, Jr., Richmond; Henry Michael Ziegenfuss, Norfolk; James G. Huber, Leesburg; John V. Rainero, Bristol; Laurie K. Tryfiates, Fredericksburg; Lynn A. Tucker, Richmond; Samuel A. Howe, Lynchburg; Sean M. Spicer, Alexandria
That last name listed for the GOP, Sean Spicer, is principal spokesman for the Republican National Committee. He’ll probably be too busy today to campaign for himself outside his home precinct in Alexandria.
Libertarian Party electors: Alvin Scott Bandy, Charlottesville; Brian A. Hiner, Roanoke; Constance Hannigan-Franck, Broadlands; David W. Saum, Falls Church; Donna L. Grebas, Chesterfield; Gregory Ivan Lloyd, North Chesterfield; James J. St. John, Norfolk; James W. Lark, III, Free Union; Juanita A. Walton Billings, Fredericksburg; M. Anne Panella, Pembroke; Robert F. Shuford, Jr., Hampton; Sanford Brotman, Fairfax; William B. Redpath, Leesburg
The Libertarian Party slate includes two former national party chairmen, Jim Lark and Bill Redpath. (Full disclosure: I was on the LP elector slate in 1992 and again in 1996, but the GOP electors were chosen by the voters those years.)
Evan McMullin/Nathan Johnson electors: Andrew Hemby, Henrico; Annie H. Pratt, Gainesville; Bruce M. Andrew, Fredericksburg; Daniel Martin Eaton, Charlottesville; Deborah Kathryn Strader, Newport News; Jonathan C. Morris, Norfolk; Joseph R. Mayes, Chester; Kelsey C. Carreon, Clifton; Matthew Phillip LaPointe, Falls Church; Monica G. Shafer, Smithfield; Nanette M. Gagnon, Woodstock; Steven D. Bridges, Marion; Wilson R. Dodge, Jr., Burke
The McMullin/Johnson slate contains nothing noteworthy, from what I can see – but if it does, please tell us in the comments section, below.

Whichever slate of electors is elected by voters tomorrow, the lucky thirteen will meet on Wednesday, December 19, at 12 o'clock noon in the Senate Chamber at the Virginia State Capitol. A limited number of tickets are available for members of the public to watch the balloting ceremony.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Today's RTD: Should presidential electors exercise independent judgment?

In the commentary section of today's Richmond Times-Dispatch, I argue that presidential electors can, and should, exercise independent judgment when they cast their states electoral votes in December.

In "Electors should vote their consciences," I begin by telling the story of Roger MacBride, a Virginia elector in 1972 who was pledged to vote for incumbent Republican President Richard Nixon. MacBride chose, instead, to cast his ballots for the Libertarian ticket of John Hospers and Tonie Nathan.

The Libertarian Party had been founded barely a year earlier, and its presidential ticket appeared on the ballots of only four states. (Nixon, you may recall, thumped George McGovern that year, winning every state but Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. He went on to resign in disgrace two years later.) The notoriety MacBride achieved by this brazen act catapulted him, four years later, to become the LP's second presidential nominee.

While "faithless electors" may break the law in some states, what few court decisions that have addressed the matter indicate that presidential electors may vote their consciences:

State laws (like Virginia’s) that bind electors to particular candidates have rarely, if ever, been tested. An Oklahoma elector in 1960 who voted for Virginia Sen. Harry F. Byrd rather than Richard Nixon did so even though he was threatened with a $1,000 fine. “I am not worried about $1,000,” he said, and the only penalty imposed on him was a refusal to pay his travel expenses to Oklahoma City.

Few court decisions have addressed the independence of presidential electors. An 1896 Kansas court decision said that electors were under “no legal obligation” to support any particular candidate and were “authorized to use their own judgment as to the proper eligible persons to fill these high offices.” In 1948, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that all electors were free to vote as they pleased, because it was “only by force of a moral obligation, not a legal one, that the presidential electors pledged to certain candidacies fulfill their pledges after election.”

Each elector can make up his or her mind about whether to follow the election returns or to vote independently, but this year's decision making process carries unusual moral and ethical weight. Both of the two largest parties have nominated flawed presidential candidates. While Democratic electors are, for the most part, satisfied with Hillary Clinton (if not enthusiastic about her) as their party's candidate, Republican electors are, like Republicans at large, conflicted about Donald J. Trump.

So, I argue:

The electors’ right to independent judgment may be most pertinent this year, when GOP presidential electors are expected to vote for a nominee who has brought shame to their party. The vulgar and impolitic Trump has expressed contempt for the Constitution, undermined confidence in the integrity of the electoral system, dismissed any interest in the legislative process, and been at loggerheads with time-tested conservative, Republican values.

A Republican “faithless elector” in 2016 will bravely and astutely avoid the future taint of association with Trump, the most unfit character ever to seek the presidency, simply by casting his ballot for Gary Johnson (my choice, and the choice of this newspaper) or another suitable person.

If either Democratic or Republican electors, in Virginia or elsewhere, choose to vote their consciences on December 19, I'll give them full credit for having moral courage. It would be nice to think my op/ed piece influenced their choices -- and perhaps some of them will have seen it, since (if the metrics app is believable) more than 3,700 readers have recommended the article to their friends on Facebook.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Gary Johnson on Donald Trump's contempt for democratic transitions: 'Unbelievable'

Last night, in the third and final Democratic-Republican presidential debate, GOP candidate Donald J. Trump suggested that he may not accept the results of the election on November 8, continuing his theme of asserting that massive electoral fraud will take place and that is the only reason he will lose to Hillary Clinton.

Today, Trump doubled down on his refusal to accept the central tenet of American democracy, that when a person or party loses an election, they become the loyal opposition and wait for another opportunity to win public office.

According to the Associated Press:

Trump kicked off a rally Thursday in Delaware, Ohio, by saying that he "would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supports and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election."

But he added: "If I win."

In response to Trump's bizarre break with tradition, the Libertarian Party's nominee for President, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, issued this statement:
Gary Johnson
“As a former Governor, who was elected and served as a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, I have to say that Donald Trump’s refusal to say he will accept the outcome of an election is just one more straw too many. It’s offensive to the thousands of election officials across the nation, and it’s offensive to a nation for which the integrity of elections is what sets us apart from much of the world.

“Peaceful transition of power, which depends entirely upon honoring the results of elections, is as fundamental to our greatness and Constitution as anything else we do in America, and Donald Trump can’t even accept that fundamental without hedging.

“Unbelievable.”
Johnson and his running mate, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, have achieved ballot access in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia -- the first third-party presidential ticket to do so since Libertarian Harry Browne and his running mate, Jo Jorgensen, did it in 1996.


Guest Post: Vote Against Both Evils, by Will Hammer

This November 8th, if you decide to vote, you have a huge choice to make. You can either vote for a corrupt crony politician, or you can vote for a vulgar corrupt crony reality TV star. Because of the media, the partisan Commission on Presidential Debates, and the two major parties who have a vested interest in only having two parties, you would think those are your only choices.

Will Hammer, left, with Robert Sarvis in Buena Vista, Virginia
Well, you actually do have a choice at the ballot box this November. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, is on the ballot in all 50 states and D.C. He is an honest and a great man, not your typical crony politician or a bigoted, morally corrupt, gaudy salesman. Do I agree with Johnson on everything? No, but he is leaps and bounds better than Clinton or Trump and represents real change from the business as usual in Washington that has gotten us here. Is Gary Johnson perfect? No, but he actually admits that and it’s refreshing when a politician admits their humanity. Will you agree with him on everything? Probably not, but at least you know he does not have an agenda and he’s not speaking out of both sides of his mouth, or other orifice.

The biggest smear the media can come up with for Johnson is his ‘Aleppo moment’, in which he didn’t know what Aleppo was when randomly asked during a live interview. Should he have been able to answer that question? Of course, he’s running for President, but it’s definitely not a disqualifier. I’d rather have someone whose foreign policy won’t cause Syrian and other middle eastern strife, than someone who would know, but only because she was part of the administration that caused the major humanitarian crisis. He had another moment where he couldn’t name a foreign leader he respected. A week later, he still can’t. The media would have you believe that he couldn’t name ANY foreign leader, but that’s untrue. He cannot name a current foreign leader he admires and he explained that he doesn’t want to defend them against things that he’s not even aware of. Again, this was an unscripted, live question. The other candidates NEVER have unscripted questions. They are screened, planted, and given well beforehand to prepare.

So those are Gary Johnson’s big ‘scandals.’ Now, let’s compare those to Trump and Clinton. If I were to include all of them, this article would take up the whole newspaper, not 1600 words. Trump and Clinton are different sides of the same corrupt, crony coin. One sells her political power and influence and the other buys it. Trump is definitely no outsider, and Clinton is no progressive politician putting people before profits.

Trump has a horrible temperament and would be a disaster diplomatically, saying whatever came to his head on a whim in public, completely alienating us and quite frankly being a national embarrassment. He has spoken about media organizations such as the Washington Post having issues if he becomes President because of stories they have written about him. He has spoken about companies such as Amazon (both owned by Jeff Bezos) getting taxed essentially out of business. His careless speech may even incite violence, with him making suggestions about gun owners taking care of Clinton and many other situations. Trump has exploited horrible eminent domain laws to obtain private land to build his developments. He scammed people with Trump University, used bankruptcy to screw people and contractors over while walking away with millions, and the list goes on. He’s a bigot, demonizing Mexicans and others. And he’s a misogynist, saying crude and horrible things to and about various women. That’s bad enough, but we have just found out that he sexually assaults women and brags about it in private. This latest revelation was caught via a hot mic. Some are defending him, saying that it’s ‘locker room’ talk. Of course men do that, just as women do the same. But, there is a HUGE difference between what Trump said and ‘locker room’ talk. Trump actually talked about how being famous and a star allows him to sexually assault women and get away with it. I could care less about the “lewd language”, I care about the actions he described and he gets away with. This is DISGUSTING. This is it, this is your moment of truth. Are you going to defend and vote for this loathsome egomaniac?

Gary Johnson and William Weld at Libertarian Party Convention, May 2016
Clinton is definitely no saint either. Clinton is about as hawkish as they come. She voted for the Iraq War, costing thousands of US lives, an estimated 250-500k Iraqi lives, instability, and nearly $2 TRILLION. She was Secretary of State while the Obama administration bombed at least 8 countries, thousands upon thousands of innocent lives. She was part of regime change that created more and more instability, which led to the rise of ISIS. Simply put, she is one of the biggest advocates for and participants in our horrible foreign policy that has cost us US lives, innocent foreign lives, trillions of dollars, created more terrorists and allowed for ISIS to fill the void, and so on. War is a racket and Clinton is no peace candidate. The Clinton Foundation and pay to play with foreign governments/leaders. Recently she has also had some scandals involving emails. A leak revealed the DNC conspired to make sure Bernie Sanders did not receive nomination and that Clinton would. As a Ron Paul supporter in 2007 and 2012, I feel your pain and disgust Sander supporters.There is also the private email server that was in a bathroom that Clinton used instead of secure servers provided by the government for classified and official business while Secretary of the State. The FBI decided not to pursue charges against Clinton, but made it clear that she was extremely careless and frankly inept at handling classified information. But, why the double standard? Others have been charged with mishandling classified information, not intentionally. 30,000 emails deleted with BleachBit, 30 new emails recovered by FBI recently related to Benghazi, Clinton IT specialist asking Reddit how to alter ‘very VIP’ emails, and the list goes on. And now, the same day that Trump’s sexual groping audio comes to light, Wikileaks has released emails from Clinton’s campaign manager, revealing excerpts from Clinton’s Goldman Sach and other speeches, where she has earned more than $22 million, such as “If everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.”

I recommend voting against both evils and voting for Gary Johnson. He is a two term Republican governor from a heavily Democratic state, as is his running mate Bill Weld. They will bring sanity and non-partisanship to the office, reaching across the aisle and working with coalitions of all parties. They are fiscally responsible and socially accepting, like the majority of Americans. They do not want to continue our failed foreign policy of drone strikes, invasions, backing various rebel groups, and overthrowing governments. They want to balance our budget and stop the growing $20 trillion deficit, which has doubled under Bush and then again under Obama. Reject both of the two major party Presidential candidates, the most hated in US history. The Democrats and Republicans believe they own your vote. They do not, you own your own vote. A vote for anyone is not a vote for someone else, like the narrative they are trying to play right now. Gary Johnson is polling roughly 10% nationally. But these are polls that do not include people under 40 (which actually favor Johnson) and/or have only Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on the top line, head to head. In reality, they are not going head to head. This is at least a 3 way race in all 50 states, and a 4 way race in most states with Jill Stein. Johnson is polling over 19% in five states, over 15% in 15 states, and over 10% in 42 states. He currently is actually polling within margin or error to Trump in New Mexico. If Gary Johnson does get 10% in Virginia, then the Libertarian Party would get major party status and be able to run candidates within obtaining the ridiculous amount of signatures required currently. There are many other states where Johnson’s success would create more choice on the ballot as well. If he was allowed on the debate stage, run by the Commission on Presidential Debates which was founded by former Democrat and Republican national chairs, then I have no doubt that he would be even higher, and possibly overtake both candidates. But thanks to Ross Perot’s success, who was polling lower than Johnson and was allowed to debate, the CPD raised the arbitrary percentage to be in the debates. It’s a scam and even the League of Women Voters, who used to run the Presidential debates, dropped their sponsorship because they did not want to help “perpetuate a fraud on the American people.” Even dozens of major newspapers and publications are calling for Gary Johnson’s inclusion into the debate, with over 60% of polled Americans wishing for Johnson to be included. Gary Johnson has even received six major newspaper endorsements, to Trump’s zero.

Will Hammer is a Libertarian who ran in 2014 for U.S. Congress and 2015 for Virginia House of Delegates. Hammer was the sole recipient of the Libertarian Party’s Patrick Henry award in 2016, which recognizes a very effective campaign for public office at the state or federal level, while communicating Libertarian ideas, principles, and values.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Guest Post by James Copeland: 'How I Would Coach Donald Trump for the Next Debate'

Publisher's Note: This guest post was written by James Copeland, executive director, emeritus, of the National Speech and Debate Association. He was a member of the Associated Press Presidential Debate Evaluation Panel, 1976-2000. He is the author of Cross Examination in Debate (1983) and has advised gubernatorial and congressional candidates about campaign debates.

Donald Trump, like Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan, is a leader, not a man of study.  Men of study like Bob Dole, Jimmy Carter and Al Gore were good with briefing books and detail.  But briefing books and practice debates are not the best way for Mr. Trump to prepare.

Preparation for the next debate must be based upon Trump's considerable skills. His greatest skill was exhibited on “The Apprentice”, where Trump evaluated and judged the arguments of others. Trump is a counter puncher and this skill can be honed to create retorts to opposition arguments.

The retort is the most effective and dramatic argument that can be posed in a debate: It takes the PREMISE of the opponent's attack and turns it back against the accuser.
Example #1: [Premise: Transparency]
Secretary Clinton insists I release my tax returns.
I insist she release the transcripts of her speeches to Wall Street firms, which paid her thousands of dollars in speaking fees. How do we know what she promised them? She demands I provide transparency, yet she provides none.

Example #2: [Premise: Honesty]
Secretary Clinton accuses me of not being truthful when I say I did not support the Iraq war.
My opinion was that of a private citizen. I accuse Secretary Clinton of not being truthful about the Benghazi attack. Publicly she blamed the attack on an anti-Muslim video. Privately she tweeted her daughter, Chelsea, that it was a terrorist attack! She demands honesty from private citizens, yet refuses to provide it as a public official.

(NOTE: A retort is NOT a pivot. A pivot tries to dodge an argument, not turn it back on the accuser.)

If I had the honor to coach Mr. Trump I would follow this plan:
1] Mr. Trump should be seated in an executive chair behind a table, like “The Apprentice”
2] Facing Mr. Trump about ten feet away should be two side by side podiums.
3] At one podium is the Clinton surrogate; at the other a Trump surrogate.
4] Staff will have prepared a list of Clinton personal attacks on Trump and a retort for each.
5] Staff will have prepared a list of Trump issues, Clinton's rebuttal and Trump's retort.
6] Each surrogate will be scripted with the material prepared by staff.
7] The surrogates will act out one attack or issue at a time. THEN
8] MR. TRUMP WILL REFINE EACH RETORT ON CONTENT AND WORDING .
9] MR. TRUMP MAY DEMONSTRATE HOW HE WOULD SPEAK THE RETORT.
10] Roger Ailes should attend each session and privately offer his critique to Mr. Trump.
11] Each session will not last more than one hour (15 minutes for each issue).

For James Copeland's assessment of the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, see this post on Bearing Drift:  "Champion Debate Coach Assesses Trump-Clinton Performances."

Monday, September 26, 2016

From the Archives: LP presidential hopeful Gary Johnson calls two-party debates a 'waste of time'

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com on October 21, 2012. The Examiner.com publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to Examiner.com since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

LP presidential hopeful Gary Johnson calls two-party debates a 'waste of time'


With the third and final Democrat-Republican presidential debate approaching, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party's presidential nominee, said in an interview that such debates are “a waste of time,” also offering his thoughts about U.S. policy in the Middle East and North Africa. He also indicated that he may win a large percentage of votes in his native New Mexico.

Johnson, author of the new book, Seven Principles of Good Government, spoke to the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner during a recent campaign stop in Washington, D.C.

Although a social gathering at The Board Room on Connecticut Avenue was meant for Johnson to engage with his supporters and campaign volunteers, he spent the greater part of the evening answering journalists' questions on a wide range of policy issues.

Asked about the value to voters of the debates between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Johnson said they are “just a big waste of time” and that the two participants are like the Lewis Carroll characters “Tweedledee, Tweedledum.”

'State of war'

The former New Mexico governor offered this prediction: If “either one of them get elected, we're going to have a heightened police state. We're going to find ourselves in a continued state of war. Military interventions are not going to stop, and spending and debt [are] going to continue to be unsustainable. At some point,” he concluded, if Obama or Romney is elected, the economy “will collapse.”

In response to a question about radio and television advertising for his campaign, Johnson said he will soon be airing TV commercials “in areas we might actually win, or potentially taking second place” although “probably not” in Washington, D.C., despite that city's small number of Republican voters.

Johnson also predicted his vote totals will be relatively high in some Western states and one Midwestern swing state.

“I think there's opportunity in Nevada,” he said, noting that “something that really has gone unpublicized is in Ohio last week, I was polling at 11 percent.”

That is “probably an aberration,” Johnson conceded, “but nonetheless, all these polling numbers are going up. They're not going down.”

The first-time presidential candidate said he believes it is possible he could win more than 10 percent of the vote in New Mexico, where he served two terms as a Republican governor in a majority-Democrat state.

“I really believe that, I really do,” he said, “and we're not focusing anything on New Mexico. The notion is that we're trying to treat everything equally and see how that pans out but I would have to think that, [given] my experience in New Mexico, I'm really looked at favorably. I really am.”

Libya question

In the foreign policy debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, on October 22, the question of U.S. policy in Libya and reactions to the September 11 murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans will be in the forefront of the discussion, just as it was in the town hall debate at Hofstra University on October 16. Johnson has some strong views on what U.S. policy in that region should be.

“I would pull all of our diplomats out of our embassies” there, he said. “I would not set us up as being targets.”

In the “long term,” the United States and other countries should “take part in what I would hope would be mutual benefit but when I hear that” American diplomats in the region are supposed to be “protecting vital American interests, I just ask rhetorically, out loud, What are vital American interests? Are they propping up the new dictatorship that we deem better than the old dictatorship?”

In response to a question about whether American influence is better projected using soft power than military power, Johnson explained, “that's right. It's walk softly and carry a big stick. That's what [George W.] Bush said but none of that none of that was reality. None of it.”

Suggested Links

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson assesses Romney, Stein, and Goode
Presidential hopeful Gary Johnson on health care, marriage, and Colbert
Libertarian author Brian Doherty compares Ron Paul and Gary Johnson
Constitution Party presidential nominee Virgil Goode talks politics on Labor Day
Libertarian VP nominee Jim Gray reflects on electing judges, Gary Johnson