Episode 1 Script: Third Parties; Third Place
In addition to posting the scripts for the podcast on our website, I’m putting them up here on medium for the more mobile-inclined. They’re big scripts and I realize this is not the best platform for 40 minute reads. The audio version of this script ought to be up on iTunes by tomorrow morning and we anticipate updating every Tuesday and Friday with new stories.
Third Parties; Third Place
Hello and Welcome to the Kid’s Table, I am your host Justin Abdilla.
We’ll begin this podcast with a story that takes from an area of news that’s under-reported, under-discussed and sometimes under-reasoned. We’re going to talk about the failures of third parties to find a place in America’s general elections. Let me give you a roadmap for what we’re going to discuss in the next hour of your time.
Hillary Clinton! Donald Trump! Bernie Sanders! Those… aren’t my stories, and they aren’t stories for The Kid’s Table. I’m saturated with those stories right now, I don’t know about you, but I certainly just can’t find any new or interesting angles to talk about in those stories.
Gary Johnson! Dr. Jill Stein! Libertarians! The Green Party! For the first time in modern recollection, the alternative candidates — and sure, include Sanders if you want — are more likeable than the established candidates. It’s notably rare when this country gets even one decent alternative. Only Ross Perot, Ralph Nader and Gary Johnson’s 2012 campaign have topped a million votes in the general in thirty years. No third party candidate has gotten a single electoral vote since the civil rights movement. We’re going to talk about why they have failed. This is a story that starts with the electoral college and its institutional problems. We’re going to move onto a story of how the parties have failed to utilize the talent of their candidates, and then we’re going to talk about how they just don’t play the media. Take a seat and join us at the Kid’s Table.
<Sunday by CDK begins, 00:19 queue>
The Kids Table is a new podcast focusing on under-reported, under-discussed and occasionally under-reasoned stories generally coming out of the political arena. We see the kitchen table as a place to discuss a difference of opinion, and this podcast is going to do that, just through my own lens. The big stories are talked about by adults at the dinner table, but sometimes the interesting ones stay at the kid’s table. Let’s embrace the fact that every bit of commentary has a tone of persuasion to it. Whether I realize it or not, whenever we tell these stories, we’re promoting one narrative, one fact pattern or one worldview to the exclusion of others. So, where we can make the dialogue strictly factual, we’re going to keep it there, but where we can’t, there’s going to be some bias. Let’s acknowledge that, and enjoy those fun parts.
Starting Out, a list of the players!
The Libertarians AND the Green Party are both running the same candidates they had, respectively, in 2012. This makes my job easier, because I’m only going back three candidates when I give you the history for each party since 2000. Both parties have been in the game over 20 years, but I’m going to stick to their performances in an era with the Internet and a 24 hour media cycle.
The Libertarian party has been around since 1971 and claims to be more culturally liberal than the Democrats and more fiscally conservative than the Republicans. It has 143 elected officials as of 2016 throughout the united states and just under half a million registered members. Their platform emphasizes individual liberty, minimizes foreign intervention and wants clearly defined roles of government. We’ll come back to this. It also strongly believes in omissions, which believes that where the people have not spoken, they have chosen to not permit government to enter into an area, rather than silently agreed that government may intervene there.
Some specifics on their platform:
- Smaller government
- Stronger civil liberties including LGBT rights
- Getting the state out of marriage laws
- Legalizing and liberalizing drug laws.
- Separation of church and state entanglements.
- Open immigration
- State neutrality.
- Repealing NAFTA, CAFTA, the WTO treaty.
- Exiting NATO.
Now, for the Greens. The Green Party has been around since about 1991, although it changed identity shortly after the populist successes of the Nader candidacy. They have 75 elected officials throughout the united states and about a quarter million members. Their party ideology platform is numbered, making a comprehensive statement of their platform easier to talk about here.
These first four values are their pillar values.
- Grassroots Democracy. They do not accept corporate donations, PAC donations or soft money whatsoever.
- Social Justice.
- Ecological wisdom.
These next six are their “key values”
- Community-based economics.
- Respect for diversity
- Global responsibility
- Future focus
Now that we’re acquainted with these parties and their ideologies, lets get to the hidden cause of why the Democrats and Republicans stay successful. Let’s talk about why the two titans succeed before we talk about why the challengers fail.
So let’s talk about the electoral college. As you may be aware, the popular vote of the United States does not determine the outcome of the presidential election. What happens is that each state gets a number of votes equal to its representatives and senators, which are allocated winner-take-all in every state but two. When you vote, your state counts the vote, and the winner of the vote by highest plurality in the state gets all its delegates. If you’re keeping track at home, the winner with 51% of the vote in California gets 55 delegates, but a unanimous winner in Illinois would only get 20 delegates. The margin of victory is irrelevant. Second place is irrelevant. In the words of Ricky Bobby’s dad, if you ain’t first, you’re last.
The electoral college makes it a polar debate rather than a plurality. In a four candidate system, the electoral college reduces us down to two candidates quickly. This pushes all voters to assess the impact of their vote as either north or south, Democrat or Republican, left or right. There is not a spectrum, only ends. In every state a candidate doesn’t have a plurality in — and therefore has no electoral college votes — the party has wasted its money. If we looked at the US system compared to something like a parliamentary system, getting 5% in a parliamentary system gets you in the government. Getting 5% in the US system is a total loss. Nader’s 3% turnout in 2000 was extraordinary for a third party candidate in 2000, but his voting bloc the size of Nevada did not get him a single Electoral Vote.
By having a two-party system at the presidential level, the brand recognition trickles down to all levels of government creating name recognition issues that help only these two parties. For years, when you saw the (I) next to Joe Lieberman or Bernie Sanders, it was a curiosity. But, it was quickly explained away. He “Caucuses” with the Democrats was how the big parties brought the mavericks back into the fold. The Dems and Republicans are in charge of virtually all parts of Federal government. They privately run the primaries. They privately manage the media debates. The laws on media coverage only contemplate the two major parties. They have all the lobbyists. You can read more about this by looking at Coattails theory. We’ll try to throw up a link to this in the description once we have our own download repository.
One of our founding fathers wanted to do this differently. What the US has now is called the first-past-the-post system. The candidate who wins the race gets everything. But, the Jeffersonian system works out to a highest averages system, taking into account the average best preference. Lots of western democracies use this system, from EU members, NATO members, just about all of south America and some countries throughout the Balkans.
Here’s how it works. You take the number of candidates and the number of seats. So, big numbers here, if we’re talking about a full house of representatives election, you’re looking at 36 seats in the state of Texas. Let’s say our four parties each run a candidate for every district, so that’s 144 candidates. Let’s then take all the votes for each party, not each candidate. It’s like curving a science test and the best student gets 100. Again, we’re looking at votes by party, not votes by name. we divide the highest earner’s votes first by 1, then by 2 and eventually all the way to the number of seats, so in this case all the way to 36. We do this with each party. Then, out of everyone, all parties, the top 36 numbers will get a seat on proportional allocation.
Let’s translate this to a bit more reality. Texas is a heavily republican state. In 2014, 11 Democrats won, as opposed to 25 Republicans. But, in some specific districts, the Libertarians and Greens showed extremely well. In Texas 3, Paul Blair got 18% for Green. In Texas 5, Ken Ashby took 14.5% for the Libertarians. In Texas 20, Jeffrey Blunt picked up 24% of the vote for Libertarians. Antonio Diaz took 15% for the Greens in Texas 21, with Ryan Shields taking 13.5% for the Libertarians in the same district. Marc Boler picked up 17% for the Libertarians in Texas 26. Texas 28 and 29 both had 10% or better for Libertarians, as did Texas 33.
All told, Republicans took 2.7 million votes, Democrats took 1.5 million and Libertarians took 225,000. Under the first past-the-post method, this means 25 republican seats, 11 democrat seats. Under a Jeffersonian system, one thirty-sixth of the 4.7 million voters for your party will get your party a representative. That means one seat for every 130,000 votes once I did the math. We’re going to round a little bit, because it makes our math cleaner, and, and we acknowledge our bias. But, under a Jeffersonian system, the Republicans would have taken 21 seats, the democrats take 12, Libertarians take 2, and Independents/Green get 1. This is the average representation of texas, but the first-past-the-post system awarded the delegates in a binary way for either this guy or that guy. This means that almost a half million voters in Texas weren’t big enough in any one congressional district to matter, although they certainly did vote collectively enough to make a difference.
So let’s talk about the politics of the greens and libertarians. I aim to show you that both the green party and the libertarian party are bad at adjusting pressure to today’s issues. They’re static to issues whose time in the sun has not come yet. But, as the saying goes, a broken clock is right twice daily. This could be one of those years.
The Green Party doesn’t identify the priorities of American politics the same way as the larger parties. It identifies climate change as the top priority, which usually comes in below average for any analysis of electorate issues. According to the Gallup Poll’s Jan 21, 2016 survey, only 21% of Republican leaners and 69% of Democratic Leaners viewed Climate Change as important. This ranked dead last for Republicans, and 9th out of 15 issues for Democrats. It was the lowest issue for democrats that was not a “Republican” issue, like abortion politics, immigration or the military.
Meanwhile, the libertarian party focuses on the size of government. To be fair, this issue was last for Democrats, and out of the top 5 for republicans. The issues of this election are issues that libertarians would have to concede must be within a functioning government’s power, including: state security — which is always a governmental issue; benefits, which requires government intervention; immigration reform; and police bias. You just can’t effectively privatize the military or the police force.
Meanwhile, the titanic parties, the republican and democrats, are arguably not all that different. They are two sides of the same coin on the top four issues. I stress, the top four issues on the election are top five priorities for both republican and democrats, meaning that they stand aligned with the votes and not ideologically for their platforms. Terrorism, Economy, Jobs, Healthcare. These are all top issues for both parties. Budget Deficit placed for the republicans, Education was #1 for the Democrats. We can thank Sanders for that one again, and I promise it’s the topic of an upcoming podcast.
Both titanic parties collaborate in the media to set the agenda, and we don’t often talk about their commonalities. The Venn diagram can look like a circle if you’re close enough to it.
- Both parties want a large, authortarain executive branch. Both Hillary and Trump are big names, big personas and have a proven track record of being very hands-on leaders. Their statements are all “When I am elected, I will.” We haven’t seen a major candidate say “when I am elected, I won’t” since George HW Bush’s “Read My Lips, No New Taxes” at the 1988 Republican Convention. We have the Libertarians pushing a platform of government won’t, and we have the Greens pushing a platform of decentralized federalism. We simply don’t see a major party voice for either option.
- Neither titanic party has created a policy to even minimally acknowledge government waste and corruption. It’s time to talk about this. The United States is 16th in government corruption according to the 2015 Global Corruption Perceptions index. Being closer to first is a good thing here, so I’m not saying the US is awful. But, over the last few years, our scores have been in the mid-to-low 70s and we’re about on par with western South American Countries instead of northern European Countries. Something can be done here, and it’s a chief position of both the greens and the libertarians. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_Perceptions_Index#2015
- Both titans want similar sizes of military. The Defense Department was 16% of the national budget, or 583 billion dollars of federal spending in 2015. Some figures have placed military spending as high as 28% of the budget, but we’re going to say it’s lower. Jill Stein’s stated platform was to reduce this by 30%. That’s either a 2% cut in the tax rate in all brackets or like suddenly finding $200,000,000 to fix your governmental problems, before considering the unemployment caused by reducing the military. Either way, millions in this country want to have this dialogue.
- Neither titanic party wants to touch Medicare or Medicaid. Healthcare was a near trillion dollar expense in 2015. It was 25% of the government’s budget. If our system could be made 9% more efficient, we’ve doubled the funding to the department of Education, a green party plan. If our system could be made 3% more efficient, we would double Science funding in the United States or open the room for privatization in aerospace with funding initiatives, a libertarian point. There’s a consensus between the democrats and republicans on not talking clearly about the future of social programs. Medicare alone was a six hundred billion dollar expense, and nobody is talking about it. It’s the size of the military. This will be another show.
- Speaking of, neither titanic party wants to restructure social security. Social Security is payroll tax funded on a 12.4% rate. It was an 850 billion dollar expense in 2014. Maybe we can use that money better, but not since 2008 have we even discussed changes to social security, privatizing the fund, marketing the Social Security Trust Fund or any other adjustments. To give you an idea of comparative expenses, if we cut social security payments by 10% (a disaster for the lower and lower-middle class retirees, granted), we could fund full satisfaction of all student loans. The Greens have a future focused platform, and the Libertarians have a platform of smaller government.
Without looking at medicare, medicade or social siecurity, the scope of this election is looking at less than 15% of govermntment speding. That means 5/6 of the government isn’t being looked at. The size of the differences between Trump and Hillary is smaller than the superficial differences in how they talk.
The third party candidates in this election are very accomplished, and could make radical changes to the government. Radical is probably the wrong word here, because these are changes that a significant bloc of people want, and using our earlier example we’re looking at changes that 5% of Texas would want.
Moving on to the quality of candidates issues, we are presented with the big question of third party presidential runs. Why would you run as a Libertarian or as the Green Party Consensus Nominee in the United States General Elections? Why would someone with an accomplished political career run for a third party, when the third party always fails.
Dr. Jill Stein’s statements indicate that she views neither party is doing enough to make the political authority serve the betterment of humankind. Dr. Stein has succeeded in initiatives for sustainable economic development, renewable energy and healthy aging. She is considered an expert on public health and environmental toxicity. Up until 1998 she was a Democrat and campaigned for fairer elections through her career. She twice ran for Massachusetts governor, with small showings. She ran for house of representatives in 2004, achieving 21% of the vote, and won 18% of the vote when she ran for Secretary of the Commonwealth in 2006. Her 2012 campaign was indorsed by Noam Chomsky and Chris Hedges. She ran largely on platforms of lowering 1%er influence in politics, expanding the effectiveness of the franchise and improving the environment by denying more oil rights. Dr. Stein remains the most successful female presidential candidate ever, although her 2012 total will assuredly be surpassed by presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton this year if Mrs. Clinton makes the ballot come November.
Gary Johnson was the former governor of New Mexico who was term-limited and succeeded by Bill Richardson, a Democrat candidate for President in 2008. He ran on a fiscally conservative, low tax, low crime and non-interventionist viewpoint. He campaigned for public school funding reform, marijuana decriminalization and a cost-benefit approach to government finance. His reputation is hard-nosed and headstrong, having used his veto over 200 times during his first six months in office, more than all other 49 concurrent American governors combined. He advocated, as presidential candidate, a 43% decrease in all government spending, an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan and a restructuring of the tax code. Mr. Johnson has been successful at media coordination, receiving a noteworthy percentage of votes (albeit only 2%) to the point where Fox News allowed him on stage to debate with the 8 other republican candidates. He was credited as having won his debate. Mr. Johnson took 3% of voters in Gallup, but about 1% of the popular vote on the day. He has become a vocal critic of the Snowden revelations from 2013, and was CEO of Cannabis Sativa Incorporated until 2016. He received the highest score of any candidate from the ACLU regarding Civil Liberties policies. Classically speaking, Mr. Johnson is actually a liberal.
Let’s look at some shared problems they face before we look at individual ones. First, neither candidate has ever made a national name. The brand identity for both Mr. Johnson and Dr. Stein is very weak. As I stated previously, neither one of them are hitting issues that the majority of Americans rank as the best issues, even if they both hit many issues that Americans want to talk about. Also, they are both very weak at getting funding, because the sustainable energy lobby and the small government lobbies aren’t going to be big names in a self-interested capitalist economic system any time soon. Nobody has ever discussed Big Solar at the grown-up’s table, and I don’t think we’re going to talk about Big Entitlement Slashing soon either.
Individually, Dr. Stein has a knock that she isn’t a politician and has never succeeded at elected office. She is probably the best candidate you could ask for if you are a single issue voter on climate policy, and I have found her professional writings and career to be engaging and motivating when I read her work. Still, she’s plainly just too damned liberal for the general election. She won’t even take PAC money. She’s far more liberal than Sanders, and is more liberal than Trump is conservative. Dr. Stein is more left than any candidate you could think of, and we’ll have a future podcast on the rising differences between liberals and the left.
Gary Johnson picked the wrong horse in 2012. He should have waited. If Mr. Johnson stayed Republican in 2012, he could have gotten 15% of the vote in the primary on this election cycle. This matters because at varying points back in November 2015, candidates like Carson, Trump and Rubio were leading at 19–20%. His major strength and weakness is that his track record shows that he can’t work with legislatures. When Congress has an 18% approval rating, this is a strength, but traditionally one would suffer for not cooperating with the rest of government. He does not do well acknowledging the concerns of Americans who need the state’s safety net, and won’t get their votes if they turn out to vote. Big Cannabis is not deciding elections, although it might someday soon. He is at this very strange crossroads where his position on social issues (despite being socially liberal) alienates the left on the government benefits conversation, and his fiscal conservatism alienates the right on foreign policy, the economy and healthcare.
We’ll do the Greens History for a second here to frame their current candidate, and then we will move on and do the same for the Libertarians. I want you to have a clear picture of these parties’ legacies so you can contemplate the place of their 2016 candidates and why they were picked.
The Greens ran Nader in 2000. Nader was the greatest consumer protection advocate in recent memory, and a true populist. Over the course of his career, he has received 4.7 million votes for president over 4 elections. It is largely believed that Nader spoiled Florida in the 2000 general election, where his 100,000 progressive votes in either direction would have changed the outcome of the national race. Nader was a great progressive candidate and it is difficult to see Nader as a third party candidate rather than as a populist democrat, again, like a Bernie Sanders with far fewer votes.
In 2004, the Greens ran David Cobb, a Texas native and attorney. Politically he is a citizen’s activist and campaigns against the ability of corporations to govern citizens. We’ll do a podcast on this soon. He was general counsel for the Green Party’s 2000 campaign with Nader, which was a big task and I’m not going to diminish the accomplishments of the Nader campaign that ran against a President’s son and the sitting Vice-President. He is the chair of Move to Amend, an organization that seeks to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the decision in the Santa Clara Railroad case, as well as Citizens United and end corporate personhood. Mr. Cobb and Mr. Badnarik whom we will discuss later joined forces briefly in 2004 to attempt to debate the major parties and get a recount in Ohio. Mr. Cobb received approximately 0.1% of the popular vote.
In 2008, the Greens ran Cynthia McKinney, a former democrat and the first black woman to represent Georgia in the House of Representatives. McKinney was controversial in the way that the media uses controversial to describe people who capture the viewpoint of approximately nobody. She is a 9/11 Truther. McKinney, in 2004, had advocated for the CIA to admit to its assassination of Tupac Shakur and introduced articles of impeachment against then president, vice president and secretary of state George Bush, Dick Cheney and Condaleeza Rice. In 2006 She punched a capitol hill police officer in the chest when he called after her upon entering the capitol building bypassing security when she was not wearing her congressional identification. She advocated strongly for the United States to support the causes of arabs and muslim countries over Israel. She received only 0.1% of the popular vote.
Transitioning into the Libertarians:
In 2000 and in 2004, many of the Libertarian voters went to Ralph Nader although the Libertarians ran Harry Browne, a financial writer, in 2000 and Michael Bednarik, a software engineer and radio host in 2004. Neither were memorable in any way politically. Badnarik, like Cobb, played undercard to Bush and Kerry in 2004. They both placed behind Nader’s independent campaign.
In 2008 the Libertarians ran Bob Barr. Barr was one of the principal leaders of the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton. Barr was involved with creating limitations built into the USA PATRIOT Act, adding sunset clauses to the bill creating a termination date for many of its provisions that helped attract congressional voters. He has publicly recanted those statements in support, and is a vocal opponent to the USA PATRIOT ACT. He campaigned strongly for repeal of the law. Barr was on the ballot in 45 states, and polled at about 6%. He distinguished himself throughout the election by coming out against financial bailouts, against national security legislation and against expanding governmental powers. He received only 500,000 votes nationally. Mr. Barr now identifies as Republican.
So, let’s look at some commonalities and differences between these candidates and do a bit of actual analysis rather than reading. Both the Greens and Libertarians have championed candidates who, frankly, did not get into the top five in their prior party, with the exception of Nader. McKinney and Barr were both established politically, but they were established locally, and not nationally. Mssrs Cobb, Bednarik and Browne were nationally irrelevant, although their principles were beyond reproach for their respective party credentials. We’re going to see that the media control, agenda setting and play for exposure is an indispensable part of modern election science, and how it frames the struggles of dissenting dialogues in the election cycle.
I confess that it puzzles me that in this day and age, parties would run people who have no face to get on TV. The Libertarians might have it easier than the Greens, but they have not parleyed their advantage in political rhetoric into success in agenda setting. The Libertarians only have to say, “You know what’s going on in Washington right now, we want to do a lot of that, but much less of that” and it’s easy to look good when you want to do less of what’s getting congress an 18% approval rating. But that’s a national approval rating, and the actions of local voters suggest that most people think that their guy is doing a good job in Washington. I say guy because in my neck of the woods, guy means the person you’re standing by and not necessarily a man. My guy is Bill Foster from Illinois’s 11th and I like his voice on sciences, so my relationship with my candidate conflicts with my feelings on Congress’s actions too. This is a mea culpa on how I’m part of the problem as a voter. Like many others, personally, I think each and every Speaker of the House since 2003, so that’s Hastert, Pelosi, Boehner and now Paul Ryan has been loathsome. Wisconsin’s first congressional district, that’s Paul Ryan’s district, isn’t that far from me, and my own opinion is that Wisconsin’s elected officials are doing a poor job embodying the State’s laboratory of democracy libertarian and progressivist ideals. But, Mr. Ryan got 67% more of the vote in his last election than I’ve ever gotten in anything. Of note, as Vice-Presidential candidate in 2012, Mr. Ryan only beat Obama/Biden by 5% in his home district.
But let’s look at the Greens. Environmental impact, decentralization, the future, minority inclusion, grassroots… these are all local issues. It’s hard to kindle a Green party candidate, because the flames don’t go from twigs to branches. They haven’t found a good way to scale their ideas. It’s the same problem a start-up faces. Harvard’s Family Research Project says that an advantage of scaling is that larger networks allow interventions to produce bigger outcomes and at a faster pace than any individual site may be able to produce on its own. The Greens’ problems result from producing a national dialogue that is smaller than the sum of all their local dialogues. I’m speaking to you from the far suburbs of Chicago, and I can tell you right now I don’t know anything about the environmental problems fifty miles away in any direction. I don’t know the mayor of any town 50 miles away. I can’t tell you the urban planning of places like Rockford or Madison. This local focus has not translated to the national arena, and I would theorize that it will not in a very individualist culture like the United States.
Let me explain this. I assume I’m someone’s first introduction to Jill Stein. I would wager she is at about 5–10% name recognition. Susan Saulny of the New York Times said that Dr. Stein is “very likely the only candidate to be asked, ‘For president of what?’” That’s the identity problem, the green party focuses on local issues for a campaign that must be run nationally. If you want to focus on local issues, local environment, local sustainability and local development… focus on Congressional seats. It doesn’t make sense to ignore foreign ties, international trade agreements and industrialism when you’re running for the Presidency. Congressional districts are held by local citizens who then go to Washington to represent the interests of the locality. They just aren’t held by national big thinkers who go to Washington for collective betterment.
Eventually, a Green could get into a Congressional debate. If you remember back to the Texas examples I gave earlier, we had a Green poll 18% in conservative Texas. We could see something like that go to the blogosphere as a third party making headway in a state. Then they try to scale the local successes into national debates about beating the establishment and getting people focused on the future of the environment and sustainability. This strategy of “We have a $1 mil campaign fund for president” stinks, because the Greens don’t have anyone getting free media exposure. If you’ve only got $1,000,000 to spend on campaigning, you’ll need all the free media exposure you can get from the Grown Ups’ Table.
The Greens only had five candidates who met the campaign requirements and were supported by 100 party members with a pledge to appear on all available ballot lines. It’s frankly absurd to base a party’s national representative on who can remain ideologically most pure when you’re deciding how to spend a million dollars. It ignores the realities of western democracy. Since Marcus Crassus in 55 BCE, Politics has been about spending money on public perceptions. The Green Party has a ready-made lobby in Solar companies, sustainable and biodegradable polymers, non-GMO foods, sustainable agriculture and fitness. Why they choose not to court sympathizers on general principle remains a mystery to me
Gary Johnson, though, he gets how to do politics. When the establishment shut him out, he went to the internet. He famously recorded every question the moderator asked the candidates in a 2012 debate and youtubed his own reaction and policy statements to those questions. He made himself visible. He’s done some really cool stuff that can get him in the news, such as climbing all seven summits, those are the tallest mountains on each continent like Everest and Denali. He records well, which we’ll get to in a moment, having pithy soundbytes like “my dog created more jobs shoveling than Obama.” He’s honest about his campaign’s difficulties, “In retrospect, 90 percent of the time I spent [trying to become president] ended up to be wasted time.”
Gillespie, Nick; Bragg, Meredith (July 16, 2015). “Gary Johnson on Trump, the Presidential Election, and Life as a Pot Company CEO: Johnson says he wants nothing to do with the GOP”. Reason Foundation.
But let’s wrap it up, we’re at 5000 words. Let’s finish on talking about how neither third party is great at gift-wrapping a soundbyte. My editor tells me that the news wants a soundbyte to bite into, and that sticks with me. I’ve heard it said that the reason Jon Stewart succeeded with the Daily Show is he knew exactly what to give you in a five-minute edit that would make you share it.
Trump is masterful at it. Donald Trump ended decade long political careers in a few sentences preying on confirmation bias: “Low Energy” Jeb Bush, “Little” Marco Rubio, “Lyin’” Ted Cruz, “Golly Gee” John Kasich. He’s great at it. You want to share him when you hear him, consciously, unconsciously and maybe even against your own self-interests because he’s funny.
Hillary does it too, but she does it by bringing her femininity to the front even when she absolutely knows it’s a non-issue. “I’m not establishment, I’m a woman.” If you didn’t stop to think, if you had the debate on in the background… you didn’t notice how absurd that statement is. “It’s time for a woman in the White House” says nothing about Hillary’s qualifications, but one would only think of her even when Jill Stein was a more successful female candidate in 2012.
A radio guy I really admire, Dan Carlin, said that Hillary’s strength is from a failure of the system to field multiple competing female views that could all be viable, and I like that. It’s not that Hillary is a great candidate or that Trump is a great candidate. It’s that if you wanted a politically center female or a hard-ass conservative male candidate, those were your only choices. Sanders, Cruz, Kasich, Carson and O’Malley just talk about too much policy to be effective. Branding experts will tell you that people don’t buy what you do, they buy the narrative on why you do it. I can only imagine you doing so much, I’ve got to imagine liking you first!
It helps the Conservatives that the right is just better at being pithy than the left, and always has been. The right tends to debate better because they scale facts into narratives . It’s less intrusive than how the left debates by finding facts to fit narratives. Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Milo, Ben Shapiro all have huge gigs. The left has Rachel Maddow, Al Franken, John Oliver and The Young Turks. It’s easier to be funny when you’re reacting to someone else’s initiatives, because you’re on offense in the first round of the debate. The reactionary right is simply so good at making these lasting commentaries today because they are in tune with how the electorate was raised to think twenty, thirty, forty or more years ago. You can confirm this theory by looking at how funny the left was in 2004–08 when Bush’s administration was bungling everything. To tell someone how they need to think now is to persuade, but to talk about traditional values is to remind. It’s less of an intellectual hurdle.
Here, both the Greens and Libertarians are facing a Sisyphean task. Gary Johnson has an easier job of rolling the boulder this year, because Trump is already taking his rhetoric and spreading it with reactionary conservative politic behind it. “Government is inefficient,” “Trust in the citizen to provide market needs,” “America deserves greater liberties” are all things the right is parroting this year. The Libertarians have got good media, like #legalizefreedom . It might not really make any sense when scrutinized, but it’s catchy. His branding is good enough that Johnson might make a memorable showing with the malcontents in 2016 , and if there’s interest I’ll analyze that separately.
Dr. Stein, while having solid policy, doesn’t connect with my lizard brain. My emotional thinking doesn’t light up when she speaks and I have to chew the fat to get the taste. I can tell you that it’s uncomfortable because I’m used to liking how somebody thinks and not what they think. The Greens just don’t get this. I think, frankly, the Democrats don’t either, and I’ll own my opinion on this. But, these progressive policy statements aren’t going to be catchy and they’re not going to be pithy. Sanders did Progressivism in the media very well, because “Free College!” is a three syllable trillion-dollar issue. The ten key values we talked about earlier are five or more key values too many. When I look at the Green Party’s website I see a paragraph about their four pillars ending with the statement “The longer we wait for change, the harder it gets.” When I look at the Libertarian party’s website, I’m greeted with “Minimum Government, maximum freedom.” If the Green Party has a slogan, they aren’t branding it well. I can remember the four words, but I’ll forget the four pillars. I suggest the Greens change their entire party slogan, party platform, nominating process and media campaign agenda to just two words: “Future First.”
Ultimately, neither party has a branding platform like those we’ve seen be successful previously. Obama did “Hope” and “Change” in 2008 and owned those words his entire presidency. Romney’s campaign slogan in 2012 was longer, “Believe in America.” John McCain’s 2008 slogan was recycled by Donald Trump, “Country First.” Neither the Libertarians nor the Greens have embraced a hashtag sized vision of their platforms, and I predict that will be a major reason they do not progress in this campaign season even when conditions are right for them.
So I’ve taken enough of your time, and if you’re still with me I appreciate you giving me the forty-five minutes or so of your day at the Kid’s Table. We talked about the electoral college fostering a polar system rather than weighted averages. We talked about failures to use party talent by the greens and the libertarians. We talked about the failures to recruit high profile talent and how both the libertarians and greens addressed that. Finally, we closed with a conversation on market identity for both parties.
I want to finish by saying that if you’ve agreed with me, speak out to the third parties about how they can do better on the national stage. Tell them, be free market research. Market institutions thrive on feedback and customer service. Call the libertarians at 1800ElectUs or find them online at LP.org. Call the greens at 202–319–7191 and find them online at GP.org. Volunteer, go to rallies, caucus, donate, whatever. And if you liked what we’re starting to do here at the Kid’s table give me a tweet @KidsTablePC, visit me at KidsTablePodcast.com. let me know what you think and please subscribe.
A teaser for our next episode that I’m writing now, “The Hidden Side of the Job Issue.” We’re going to explore the side of the job market that pundits stay away from, employers. I’ll talk about payroll tax, the costs of regulation and what to do with the $15/hr minimum wage idea.
Our credits. The editor, who deserves a writing co-credit on this episode is Gail Oesterle. Earlier, we grabbed some excellent free for commercial use music which is a track called Sunday by an artist named CDK. It features Aussens@iter remixed on guitar. You can find the full Creative Commons attributions required at CCmixter.org/files/cdk/53755. You can find CDK at www.cdk.me. Thanks again for sitting at the kids table.