His question: Which candidate should progressives support in 2016? He then adds, "It depends a bit on your priorities." But the truth is that, priorities aside, it depends upon your definition of 'Progressive'.
"What do you want to do if you were president?", he was asked.
JOHNSON: What do I want to do?
JOHNSON: Well, I want, I want to reduce the size of government. I believe that less money out of my pocket is a good thing and then stand up for civil liberties. Included in those civil liberties, of course, legalizing marijuana, marriage equality, women's right to choose, and then let's stop with the military interventions with regime change that has resulted in a less safe world. How is that for starters? Let's, let's, let's bring the world together with free markets.
Notice that he immediately offered the Libertarian concept of 'reducing the size of government'.
Libertarians appear to place a far higher priority on the economic issues than on the social values that he mentions as a second effort. For anyone claiming to be progressive, universal medical care would be of major importance even as it increased the size of government.
Once he secures the money he has in his pocket, his other ideas are fine: stop regime change around the world and secure civil liberties at home are fine, but to the Libertarian mind, this is secondary to his own personal financial status... and what he really means by that, is 'reduce his taxes'. He's not progressive at all.
For anyone concerned with the overall health of the country and its population, Jill Stein is the obvious choice. And, at this point in history, concern for the planet and its population requires a vote for Jill Stein.
Mr. Milsted's article is interesting in the analysis of the election once an understanding of 'progressive' is in place.
from OpEdNews By Carl Milsted Jr.
Computing the expectation value of the two most progressive candidates in this year's race.
Which candidate should progressives support in 2016? It depends a bit on your priorities.
If you care more about socialized medicine than you do about peace, honesty, and civil liberties, vote for Hillary. The rest of this essay is not for you.
If you long to bring back the blue collar heyday of the 1950s by forming a national picket line, and can live with bringing back some of the racism of the 1950s, vote for Trump. The rest of this essay is not for you either.
But if you really care about civil liberties, if you want to end the Drug war, if you want black lives to matter to the government, you need to go third party. The question is which party: Green or Libertarian? Jill Stein or Gary Johnson?
Ideologically, I assume most of you reading this are closer to Stein. I will not attempt to change your mind. (I will, however, call attention to the substantial overlap in positions.)
Political campaigns are not shopping trips, however. You don't get exactly what you want. Political campaigns are about building coalitions to affect laws. Some compromise is inevitable.
In a typical election year, a third party campaign is mainly about sending a message. The metric of a campaign is thus: (quality of message) * (loudness of megaphone)
Dr. Stein is getting plenty of news hits. I assume that she is as good or better a speaker than Governor Johnson (this isn't hard!). So, for most of you reading this, Stein wins handily by this metric.
But this not a typical election year! Both major party candidates are incredibly unlikeable. Hillary Clinton would be in court or in jail if she were a notch or two less powerful. Donald Trump has serious personality issues, and has basically led a Know-Nothing takeover of the Republican Party. A third party candidate could actually win this year. So for this year the metric has an additional term: (quality of platform) * (probability of victory)
In a later section, I will make the case that the probability of victory factor is easily an order of magnitude higher for Johnson than for Stein. But first, let us look at the quality of platform.
Gary Johnson has been making a big deal over the I Side With quiz. When he took it, he agreed most with himself (Duh!), but next in line was Bernie Sanders! Take the quiz yourself and see how his answers compare to yours. If they are closer to you than the answers of Hillary or The Donald, then the "quality of platform" factor above is likely positive. You will, of course, need to adjust according to your own issue priorities.
For those who don't want to take the quiz, or don't trust the results, I'll list areas where Johnson is solidly progressive:
- For legalizing marijuana (he was for it long before it was cool)
- Again crony capitalism
- For marriage equality
- Against aggressive foreign intervention
- For civil liberties in general
On the mixed side, Johnson is a fan of the Fair Tax. If you are anti-globalization/anti-WTO, this is something for you to like. The Fair Tax hits imports and locally made products equally. Expect to see Wal Mart lose some business and some shuttered factories to reopen. Since the Fair Tax is brain dead simple, smaller business gain some relative advantage with respect to the big mega-corporations.
On the downside, the Fair Tax would allow the rich to compound retained earnings for generations before paying tax. Ouch! There are mitigating factors, however. Johnson is a deficit hawk, and federal deficit spending is a subsidy for the Old Money Rich. Also, a consumption tax acts as a brain dead simple tax deferral for ordinary savers. Working class Americans won't have to hire expensive financial advisors or go to Wall St. to take advantage of the tax system. They will be able to save tax deferred for anything: college, house down payment, medical emergencies, long vacation, car, sharks with lasers, whatever. And with the income tax gone, people will pay off their homes quicker, giving the investor class one less source of easy income.
(I have mixed feelings about the Fair Tax. I like the simplicity and some of the good features above. I also wonder about enforcement issues, and thus I am working on my own tax reform proposals.)
This Fair Tax fandom can lead to two hugely important things for progressives: a universal basic income and a carbon tax. The original Fair Tax creators included a small basic income; they call it a "prebate" and mean it to replace the personal exemption, standard deduction and lower tax brackets for the working poor. This could be a foot-in-the-door for something more substantial.
A national sales tax would also be a sales tax on fossil fuels. Given the low profit margins of the energy companies, and the high revenue/labor factor, a national sales tax might well act as a carbon tax. (I'll leave this as a question for the trained economists in the audience.) It would definitely be a tax increase on imported oil. Once again, we have a foot-in-the-door opportunity. As I mentioned above, a high national sales tax has enforcement problems. It's too easy to just sell in cash and not report it to the government. But it is very hard to hide an oil tanker, a refinery, or a trainload of coal! Excise taxes on fossil fuels are an easy way to tax the economy via a few collection points.
Here's the kicker, Gary Johnson said he was open to a universal basic income to simplify the welfare system, and he'd consider a carbon tax as well. Some support and pressure from enviro-progressives could do interesting things"
But you won't get socialized medicine under a Johnson Administration, so adjust your quality-of-platform factor accordingly.
If either Jill Stein or Gary John (or both) get in the debates, many undecided voters will change their minds. Hillary Clinton is shrill, unlikeable, and untrustworthy. Donald Trump is a clownish super villain. Even though Johnson is bashful and not bubbling with charisma, he easily wins votes against this pair.
Dr. Stein may have a more winning personality. I admit I haven't done my homework here. But Johnson has several qualities that give him a factor of ten edge in terms of winnability:
1. Both Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld are former governors. Americans have long considered state governor to be useful experience for becoming President. In terms of resume, the Libertarian ticket beats both the Green and Republican tickets.
2. The Libertarian Party will have more ballot access. The LP has some hardcore activists who are willing to drop everything and travel a thousand miles to stand in front of grocery stores to gather signatures. Nobody else has such a devoted and experienced cadre in this area.
3. The Never Trump movement is for real. National Review ran an entire issue against Trump, and at least one article endorsing Johnson. Red State has run multiple front page articles endorsing Johnson. Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush are on the record as Never Trump, and Romney came very close to endorsing the LP ticket. (He said he would have if Weld was at the top.) Several Republican state legislators and political consultants have come out for the Johnson/Weld ticket as well as one sitting Congressman to date. This a substantial voting block available to Johnson but not at all available to Stein. The Never Trump Republicans would vote for Hillary before Stein.
Successful electoral politics is about building coalitions, not about simply voicing your wish list. Usually it is the Libertarians who fail to make this distinction, but not this year. Let's compare potential coalitions:
Jill Stein: Burned Bernie voters + Not-Hillary Democrats + hardcore Greens + independents disgusted with the major party candidates and charmed by Dr. Stein's personality.
Gary Johnson: Burned Bernie voters + libertarians + Never Trump Republicans + independents disgusted with the major party candidates and impressed with Johnson's record and/or personality.
Even if Johnson wins a smaller portion of the Burned Bernie voters, this is still a much bigger potential coalition. The core of the Democratic Party is behind Hillary. There are few not-Hillary Democrats other than the Burned Bernie voters. It would take a truly colossal scandal, on the order of Hillary Clinton kidnapping Dalmatian puppies to make a fur coat, in order for Dr. Stein to have a winning coalition.
Or a major health breakdown might also work. This is possible. Hillary is getting old. Some bloggers claim to see evidence. Whether they are right or engaging in wishful thinking is an exercise I leave to the reader.
The Never Trump Republicans, on the other hand are a proven factor in this election. And Johnson has an edge with non-ideological independents. Such independents really, really, really, care about resume issues. I have learned this the hard way trying to sell candidates on ideology alone. Johnson is a successful businessman, governor, and athlete. (On the downside, he has smoked pot -- but so have most Americans under 60.)
Here's the big trump card in the Stein vs. Johnson calculation: if Stein wins a few electoral votes -- enough to deny either major party candidate a majority -- Trump wins. If Johnson wins but a few electoral votes, he may well become the next President of the United States.
If no one wins a majority in the Electoral College, the decision goes to the House of Representatives. In this case the House votes by state. The Republicans control an overwhelming majority of state delegations. The odds of the Republicans going for Stein are tiny indeed. Trump is the likely winner, with Hillary Clinton a distant second.
If Johnson is the third place winner, he might well win in the House. The Never Trump movement is for real. The Donald has personally insulted many Republican House members including Speaker Ryan. We already have the first Republican Congressman endorsing Gary Johnson. A combination of Never Trump Republicans plus some Democrats could give Johnson a majority. All it takes is some rationalizations about Trump being "temperamentally unfit for office" for Republican Congresscritters to pick Johnson over Trump despite popular vote totals.
The odds of a Johnson victory are easily a factor of ten higher than a Jill Stein victory. Take this into consideration when you decide who to support.
Carl Milsted is a physicist by day and dabbles in economics and political activism in his spare time. For a quarter century he was a member of the Libertarian Party, but has since realized that narrowing the wealth gap and preserving the environment are as important as constraining excessive government. Today he works on recreating the original liberal alliance, between those who despise oligarchy and those who dislike excessive government. For the past few years he has been collecting an eclectic assortment of ideas to more economically accomplish modern liberal ends while maintaining the sparse, and accountable government sought by the early liberals.