Just How Libertarian is the Johnson-Weld Ticket?

The unpopularity of the two presumptive nominees this November has left many voters looking for alternatives. Currently, the alternative candidate receiving the most support is former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the recently chosen nominee of the Libertarian Party. Recent polls show Johnson receiving double-digit numbers in three-way mock elections with Clinton and Trump.

Johnson believes that he has a good chance of winning over a large swath of the electorate. “I’m trying to appeal to the majority of Americans whom I think are libertarian” he said on CNN after winning the nomination. “And libertarian, with a broad brush stroke,” he added: “fiscally conservative, socially-accepting liberal.”

Even if many Americans do not self-identify as libertarians, they may be drawn to some libertarian views on the issues. Some of Johnson’s positions are certainly popular: he wants to lower taxes drastically, for instance, and to legalize marijuana nationwide (Johnson recently resigned from his position as CEO of a marijuana marketing firm).

But since the nomination of Johnson and his running mate, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, a number of libertarians have questioned whether the former Republican governors are libertarians at all, citing both their political records and recent statements. Continue reading

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#NeverTrump Movement Struggles in Search for New Presidential Candidate

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both rather unpopular. How unpopular? According to one recent poll, 52 percent of the public views Clinton unfavorably, and 55 percent views Trump unfavorably.

Because of this disaffection, a large sector of the electorate is eager for an independent candidate. According to a survey by the firm Data Targeting, more than half of voters are in favor of seeing an independent on the November ballot, and the firm estimates that an independent would start off the general election with 21 percent of the popular vote.

Looking to offer another option is the #NeverTrump movement, led by conservative intellectuals, media personalities, and strategists who are looking to recruit and run a third party or independent candidate. Continue reading

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2016 Primary Results Indicate Many Independents Are Not Moderates

By sheer statistical coincidence, the percentage of Americans who self-identify as independents (approximately 40 percent) is nearly identical to the percentage of Americans who self-identify as moderates. This coincidence has nurtured a common misunderstanding: that independents are mostly moderates who want members of both parties to move toward the center.

But a growing body of literature studying the precise political attitudes of the public – and especially moderates and independents – is challenging the conventional wisdom: The research of David Broockman and Doug Ahler, for example, has revealed that so-called moderates tend to harbor specific opinions that are more extreme than previously thought, and Barbara Norrander’s research shows that the electorate in open primaries is more extreme – not more moderate – than the electorate in closed primaries.

These findings are corroborated by the results of the presidential primaries in the 2016 election cycle. Rather than open primaries benefitting the more moderate candidates in both parties, such as Hillary Clinton and John Kasich, the contests have actually benefitted the more “extreme” candidates in both races: Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Continue reading

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Trump Turns to Clinton Mentor for Foreign Policy Advice

On Wednesday afternoon, presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump met with Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state and national security advisor to presidents Nixon and Ford, to discuss foreign policy.

The meeting comes after a series of controversial interviews that Trump had on the subject of foreign policy, including with the Washington Post and The New York Times in March. In an interview with Reuters published on May 17, Trump raised eyebrows with his comments about his willingness to talk to North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un and his desire to renegotiate the terms of the Paris accord on climate change.

By meeting with Kissinger, Trump hopes to bolster his foreign policy credibility, which has been impugned in recent months, especially by fellow Republicans. In early March, more than 100 Republican national security experts published an open letter stating their opposition to Trump’s candidacy based on his a list of a number of objections. Continue reading

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An Independent’s Case Against Open Primaries

There is little doubt that the major national parties have, on the whole, behaved atrociously this election season. On the Republican side, there have been loyalty pledges, insubstantial RNC-arranged debates, and conversations about rule changes designed to thwart specific candidates.

But the Democratic Party has not been guiltless. From undemocratically enfranchising unaccountable superdelegates at the national convention, to acting impartially by fundraising for one particular candidate and by intervening in a dispute against another, to limiting the number of debates and excluding one candidate from a debate at the last minute, the DNC and its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, have angered many Democratic members and voters.

Naturally, the major parties are especially unpopular among independents, who, in many states, are barred from participating in a party’s presidential primary or caucus. In New York, for instance, more than 3 million voters were kept from the polls because of the state’s closed primary law – a law criticized by Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and defended by Wasserman-Schultz.

Yet no matter how contemptibly party leaders behave, and no matter how frustrating closed primaries might be, independents should resist the call for more states to pass open primaries – for both principled and pragmatic reasons. Citizens should not impose on parties their supposed right to help determine the parties’ nominees because it both violates these private groups’ freedom of association and because it will cause voters (and “outsider” candidates) to be drawn in and co-opted by the very entities they have chosen not to join in the first place. Continue reading

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Minimum Wage, the Constitution, and the Long Fight for Popular Control Over the Economy

On April 4, the governors of California and New York signed off on legislation raising their state’s minimum wages to $15 per hour. While the public may disagree about the merits of this measure and what the cumulative effects will be, there is little disagreement that states – as “laboratories of democracy” – are entitled to perform such economic experiments. After all, the first state minimum wage law was passed more than a century ago in Massachusetts in 1912, and a majority of states have minimum wages above the federal baseline today.

Yet states have not always had this privilege: in fact, the struggle over the public’s ability to exert control over the economy through state and local governments is a turbulent one – one that stretches back to the time of the country’s founding. Continue reading

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Corruption, Super PACs, and Why the Media Hasn’t Covered Democracy Spring

Twenty-nine seconds: according to Lee Fang and Zaid Jilani of The Intercept, this is how much time cable news networks Fox News and MSNBC devoted to daytime and afternoon TV coverage of the Democracy Spring protests as of April 12. On April 11, when 400 protestors were arrested for a sit-in at the Capitol, some were heard chanting, “Where is CNN?” which had not yet covered the protests.

The nonpartisan protest movement, which began on April 2 with a 140-mile march from Philadelphia to Washington D.C., aims to raise public awareness about the influence of money in politics and to pressure lawmakers to find “solutions to our deeply corrupt political system.” Between April 16 and April 18, a coalition of more than 200 organizations calling itself Democracy Awakening joined the protests, holding a series of events from teach-ins to a rally to visits with members of Congress.

Despite more than 1,200 protestors being arrested for acts of civil disobedience – including the founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, actress Rosario Dawson, liberal commentator Cenk Uygur, and Miss New Jersey Sameera Khan, the mainstream media’s coverage of the protests has been limited and dismissive. Continue reading

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