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Political parties are at a comparative advantage when they unify behind their Presidential nominee. Predictably, supporters of the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will do everything possible to heal the chasm with the progressive left: those who supported her primary opponent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT). Their fear is, assuming Hillary pockets the nomination at the Democratic National Convention in July, Sanders supporters will not support Hillary in the General Election, enabling Republican Donald Trump to win the Presidency. To propitiate Sanders’ supporters, Democrats will likely incorporate part of his message into the party platform and grant him a primetime speaking slot at the Convention.

In 1880, the Republican Party was split asunder between supporters of Civil Service Reform and those who supported the status quo. The party nominated U.S. Representative James Garfield (R-OH) for President. Garfield was a vociferous supporter of Civil Service Reform. To unify the two competing factions, the party nominated Chester A. Arthur, a hero to opponents of Civil Service Reform. Arthur had been fired from his position as Collector of Customs for the Port of New York by Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes for refusing a Presidential directive to disallow his employees from concomitantly working as party functionaries. The integrated ticket of Garfield and Arthur managed to eke out a narrow victory.

Contrariwise, in 1896, with the country mired in an economic depression, the Democratic Party nominated William Jennings Bryan, a populist who heralded government intervention in the economy, favored implementing a graduated income tax, and favored bimetallism (allowing both gold and silver to be certified as legal tender). These progressive policies were in direct contrast to Democratic President Grover Cleveland’s policies. Cleveland opposed all three proposals and preached the gospel of fiscal austerity even during such economic peril.

Bryan’s recreance to Democratic orthodoxy was too much for establishment Democrats, including Cleveland. Inflamed by Bryan’s nomination, they hastily formed the National Democratic Party and nominated U.S. Senator John M. Palmer of Illinois, who held to the party’s conservative ideals. The party’s platform supported: “sound money” and was “opposed to paternalism in class legislation.”

The party schism contributed to Republican William McKinley winning the Presidency that year. While the National Democratic Party soon dissolved, an internecine bloodbath continued for the next three elections between the liberal and conservative factions of the party. The shattered party lost the next three Presidential elections. Bryan won the nomination two more times, in 1900 and 1908. When the party chose the conservative Clevelandite Alton B. Parker in 1904, Bryan did not endorse him, averring: “No self-respecting Democrat would vote for him.”

More recently, in 1964 the Republican Party nominated the insurrectionist conservative U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) to the chagrin of the more moderate Republican establishment. Goldwater made little effort to mitigate his Conservative message, telling the American people at the party’s National Convention: “Let me remind you that extremism in the Defense of Liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Goldwater had horrified the Republican establishment by suggesting making Social Security voluntary. In addition, Goldwater embarrassed the party high command when he quipped in a discussion about the precision of nuclear missiles: “I don’t want to hit the moon. I want to lob one into the men’s room of the Kremlin and make sure I hit it.”

Consequently, Goldwater’s moderate opponents for the nomination (New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton) did not endorse him in the General Election contest. In addition, Republican Governor George Romney of Michigan, a rising star in the GOP, refused to back Goldwater. In fact, his re-election campaign mailed out about 200,000 mock ballots showing Wolverine state voters how to mark their ballots for Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson for President and Romney for Governor. Failing to garner much support outside of the conservative base, Goldwater won just six states in the General Election.

Four year later, in 1968, it was the Democrats who failed to harmonize. President Lyndon B. Johnson chose not to seek re-nomination after nearly losing the New Hampshire Primary to U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-MN). The party became bitterly divided chiefly over the President’s escalation of troops in Vietnam. Old-line establishment Democrats supported the President, while the “new left” demanded an end to U.S. involvement in the war.

After Johnson dropped out of the race, Vice President Hubert Humphrey jumped into the Democratic Presidential sweepstakes. Humphrey was not popular with the new left because of his support of the Johnson administration’s Vietnam policy. While the McCarthy brigades worked to secure delegates in the Democratic primaries, Humphrey only participated in one primary, South Dakota, which he lost. His campaign dispatched favorite son candidates like Governor Roger D. Branigin of Indiana to appear on the ballot in Humphrey’s place. These candidates then released their delegates to Humphrey at the Democratic Convention.

In addition, Humphrey collected the support of delegates in those states which did not hold primaries. In these states the party elite controlled the delegates. As a result of this somewhat undemocratic process, riots ensued in front of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and anti-war liberals embarrassed Humphrey on the campaign trail, sometimes heckling him at his rallies.

Humphrey was able to bring some McCarthy supporters into his fold late in the campaign by announcing that as President he would unilaterally halt the bombing of North Vietnam “as an acceptable risk for peace.” However, McCarthy did not endorse Humphrey until about a week before the election, and he did so in a very snide way, asserting to his devotees: “I’m voting for Humphrey and I think you ought to suffer with me.”Humphrey made the best of this tepid endorsement, declaring it made him a “happy man.” McCarthy’s luke warm support for Humphrey coupled with Humphrey’s failure to coalesce the support of the party base around his candidacy in the General Election is blamed by some in the Humphrey camp for giving the election to Republican President Richard M. Nixon.

To win a Presidential election, the nominee must unify all significant bloodlines of his/her political party. With the increasing ideological homogeneity of political parties, that task is easier today than it was in the past. For most of the Twentieth Century, both parties encompassed liberal, moderate, and conservative bloodlines. Conservative Southern Democrats often found little in common with Frostbelt liberals. Eastern liberal Republicans were rarely in concert with Western Libertarians. Today however, the Democrats are clearly defined as a center-left party while the Republicans are clearly defined as a center-right party.

From an ideological perspective, the differences between Sanders and Clinton are de minimus compared to the differences between Bryan and Cleveland in the Democratic Party in 1896 or the GOP establishment and Goldwater in 1964.

There are some Sanders supporters who will never support Hillary. They believe Sanders represents a revolution, and they cannot reconcile Hillary’s support for military interventions, accepting and soliciting financial donations from Wall Street, or past support for Free Trade Agreements. However, these supporters are in a minority. In fact, a recent poll shows that 86% of Democratic primary voters will support Hillary in the General Election. The Hillary camp will likely role out the red carpet for Sanders and genuflect to his supporters to get them to support Hillary in the General Election.

Follow Rich Rubino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichRubinoPOL


Former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Republican Party’s Presidential nomination, reluctantly endorsed presumptive GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump, averring that the race between Trump and likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is a “binary choice.” This is the mentality the Libertarian Party faces in presidential election cycles. Although the party has the political dexterity to get its Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees on the ballot in all or almost all fifty states and the District of Columbia, many voters either are not cognizant that the party has a nominee on the ballot, or immediately eliminate the candidate from consideration, believing that a vote for a non-major party nominee is a wasted vote.

The Democratic-Republican duopoly employs rhetorical brainwashing to maintain their electoral hegemony by using the hypnotic technique of “repetition,” continuing to repeat the message that a vote for a third party is a wasted vote, inculcating this notion in the minds of American voters until the vox populi eschew their conscience and select a nominee from one of the two major parties.

The Libertarian Party has been in an electoral steady-state in the Presidential sphere since it began nominating candidates in 1972. Only twice, in 1980 and in 2012, did the party garner at or near 1% of the national popular vote. Their Presidential nominees have often been non-politicians who appear to be in the race to wave the party’s flag rather than to be serious contenders. In addition, the candidates have sometimes been doctrinaire Libertarian ideologues who view any attempt to mainstream their message as apostasy.

This year, the applecart could be upset. The frontrunner for the nomination is former Republican New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Former Republican Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld has agreed to run as Johnson’s Vice Presidential runningmate. Both candidates are serious political players with redoubtable experience as Chief Executives. This is coupled with a political climate where neither of the likely nominees from the two major parties are favored by a majority of voters.

The Libertarian Party preaches a mantra of “Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom.” The party is generally thought of as a non-interventionist party. Libertarian devotees support limited government intervention in the economy, limited involvement in the affairs of other nations, and limited intervention in personal behavior. The Libertarian Party is often ideologically identified as the fiscally conservative, socially liberal party.

Though the party barely registers in the polls, a recent Gallop survey revealed that 27% of the American electorate are ideologically Libertarians. This finding illustrates that the party should work to consolidate the voters who actually support the candidate closest to their values.

Part of the reason why so many American voters identify as Libertarians but do not vote for the Libertarian Party nominee might be that voters who know of the party’s existence are more moderate Libertarians. While they support the idea of limited government, they would not eradicate the Social Safety Net. They might agree that the U.S. should stay out of foreign entanglements, but would not egress from all international organizations. They may support abortion rights, but favor restrictions on late-term abortions. In addition, voters could be turned off by Libertarian nominees who preach the Libertarian gospel but who have never actually run anything substantial.

Both Johnson and Weld are moderate Libertarians with both electoral and executive prowess. While Johnson is a more libertarian than Weld, neither is a rigid Libertarian ideologue. Both were elected twice as Governor with support from both Democrats and Republicans.

Johnson was elected in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1. Weld was elected in a state where GOP registration was only about 13%. Johnson was first elected in 1994, defeating three-term incumbent Democratic Governor Bruce King.

Johnson won the New Mexico Governorship not by proposing a radical reconstruction of the role of government but by bringing a “commonsense approach” and applying business principles to state government. He amalgamated traditional center-right conservatism. Johnson reduced the growth of the state budget, cut taxes, and advocated a school voucher program. Johnson entered the national political stage in 1999 by becoming the highest elected official to explicitly call for the legalization of marijuana, an issue which now strikes a resonate chord with the electorate.

Weld, a former U.S. Attorney, won the GOP nomination for Governor in 1990 by defeating the House Minority Leader Steve Pierce, a full spectrum conservative. In the General Election, Weld won over Democratic voters by highlighting his support for abortion rights, tax reduction, and taking a hard line on crime. He waxed sentimental about the days when prisoners experienced: “the joys of breaking rocks.”

Weld ran to the left of Democratic nominee John Silber on the environment. During a debate, Weld exploited a claim by the Democratic nominee, John Silber Ph.D., that beavers created so much wetland that preserving wetlands should not be of concern. Weld quipped: “Would you tell us doctor, what plans, if any, you have for the preservation of open spaces in Massachusetts, other than leave it to beavers?”

Weld was re-elected in 1994, pocketing a record 71% of the vote. Despite a modicum of Republicans in the state, Weld won 346 of the Commonwealth’s 351 municipalities.

While Weld often garners the Libertarian label, his record as Governor shows him to be a very watered-downed version. Weld supported the 1994 Federal ban on some semi-automatic firearms, Affirmative Action, and later in his term proposed and signed budgets which increased state spending. In his 1993 State of the State Address, Weld proposed more state spending and avowed: “We’re not against government spending. We don’t wish to dismantle government.”

When Weld ran unsuccefully for a U.S. Senate seat in 1996, he ran as a technocratic pragmatist, emphasizing his bi-partisan bone fides, exclaiming: “I have worked with Democrats, Republicans and Independents . . . Since I’ve been Governor, we practice good management in Massachusetts, not partisan finger-pointing.”

That year Nathaniel Palmer, an unpaid field operative for the Weld Senate campaign, approached the state chairman of the Libertarian party asking if the party would endorse Weld. Palmer recounts: “His response was indignant and incredulous – the way most Libertarian react, which I had naively forgotten. He said there was no way that would ever happen and that Weld was the furthest thing from a Libertarian.”

With a broad cross-section of voters across the political spectrum disaffected with the likely major party nominees, the Johnson/Weld ticket has a real electoral opportunity. The first step is to prove to the general electorate that the ticket is center-right fiscally and center-left on social issues, not a rarified Libertarian ticket. The ticket must support a retrenchment from foreign entanglements, and make the case that U.S. intervention effectuates blowback, ironically making the U.S. less safe. However, the ticket must emphasize that the U.S. will defend the homeland and will not enfeeble its military apparatus.

The ticket must create a master narrative of two outsiders with executive experience with a moderate Libertarian worldview. The ticket must also communicate that it is not confined to a Libertarian straight-jacket, and is willing to work with members of the two major parties.

A recent poll showed Johnson registering at 11% nationally. This is a number no Libertarian ticket has ever remotely reached. If the ticket registers at 15% in five national polls, Johnson would be allowed to participate in the Presidential debates. This would afford voters the opportunity to see Johnson on the same stage as the two major candidates, giving him nearly universal name recognition, and evidencing the fact that the American electorate has more than a simple “binary choice” between Clinton and Trump.

Some unadulterated Libertarians would be disconsolate at the ticket’s effort to broaden its appeal, but as Palmer points out, with the inclusion on the ticket of the more mainstream Weld: “I’m sure the anti-Johnson faction of the party now will point to further evidence that Johnson himself is not Libertarian, just an opportunist who couldn’t get the Republican nomination. And that generally sums up why the Libertarians do so poorly to advance candidates.”

A Johnson/Weld ticket must ignore this view, and present itself as an alternative to the two major parties. The campaign should repeat a quote by former U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy (1959-1971) in 1978: “Saying we should keep the two-party system simply because it is working is like saying the Titanic voyage was a success because a few people survived on life rafts.”

This is a once in a political lifetime chance for the Libertarians to present themselves as a viable and credible alternative to the electoral hegemony the Democrats and Republicans currently enjoy. A Johnson/Weld ticket will not likely win the election, but it could serve as a wellspring for qualified moderate Libertarians to run for down-ballot offices in the future, making the Party a “third force” in American politics, and making the party an electoral threat in future Presidential elections.

Follow Rich Rubino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichRubinoPOL


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A Bernie Sanders Presidency Could Revolutionize Bipartisanship

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Conventional wisdom dictates that should Bernie Sanders overcome all electoral hindrances and assume the presidency, much of his agenda would not get through the U.S. Congress. Since Sanders comes from the left wing of the political spectrum, it would be nearly impossible for him to persuade moderate Republicans to vote for his proposals. Traditionally, presidents […]

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Brian Schweitzer Would Be a Formidable Independent Presidential Candidate

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