Nine percent

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I’ve seen this article from the New York Times going around on Facebook and Twitter. The premise, that the two major party nominees were selected by just 9% of the American population, is true. And in a year where people are shaking their heads at the deeply unpleasant candidates we’re left to choose from, it answers a common question: how did we get here?

But when you think about it, this is basically true every year. Admittedly, Trump won with a smaller percent of the Republican primary vote than previous nominees, and Clinton had a vigorous challenger as well, but even in a more settled year, that would increase the percentage of primary voters who selected the nominees only slightly. Ten, maybe eleven percent. Would that make you feel that much better?

Even if both candidates got 100% of their respective primaries’ votes, that would mean that 14% of the populace would have selected them. In practice, it would have been even fewer people, since uncontested primaries have low turnout. This year, Clinton got 16 million votes out of 30 million cast in the Democratic primaries. In 2012, President Obama had no serious primary opposition, so he got nearly 89% of the vote, but in a low-turnout election that only added up to a little over 6 million votes.

Add that to Romney’s vote total in the Republican primaries (10 million out of 19 million cast) and we get 16 million people selecting the nominees. That’s 4.9% of the American population. Even if Obama had fought a contested primary and received as many votes as Romney, that raises the total to 20 million–just over 6%. Does that make Romney’s and Obama’s nominations somehow less representative of the people’s will? Of course not.

There are many problems with the primary process, but this is not one of them. The barriers to entry are ridiculously low. In open primary states, you just have to register to vote. In closed primary states, you have to register to vote with a party. Both of these are free, and voting takes just a few minutes of one day. Caucuses take a little longer–a couple of hours, but still a minor commitment for someone who cares about the direction the country takes in the next four years.

The Times article is nicely presented and has their usual great graphics. But as an attempt to point out a legitimate problem in the electoral process, it falls short.

Unite or Perish

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Anti-Trump Republicans’ efforts to halt the party’s slide into Trumpism failed today in Cleveland as the Republican National Convention nominated Donald J. Trump for President. The defeat, the latest of many for the NeverTrump coalition, will not change the disposition of many in that group–never means never–but it does call into question what the next steps should be. NeverTrumpers must examine the situation and their own consciences and decide the course from here. Do they search among third parties and write-in candidates for the perfect person on whom to waste their protest vote, or will they unite and create a chance–even a small one–of winning enough electoral votes to throw the election into the House of Representatives. In short: do they want to make a point, or do they want to have a chance at actually winning?

There have been efforts, mostly futile, to get a conservative independent on the ballot, but in several states the deadlines for getting on the ballot have already passed. And the options are few. Mitt Romney is out. Tom Coburn is out. Even David French is out. There are rumors of a secret candidate, but as time passes they become harder to credit. If we want to have the chance of winning even one state’s electoral votes, disenfranchised conservatives must unite our efforts on some candidate who is actually on ballots nationwide.

I would say the choices are unappealing, but they’re actually better than what the major parties are putting up this year. So let’s look at the three “major” minor parties. The Libertarians are the biggest of them, and this year have nominated two credible ex-Republican former governors in Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. You may know some Libertarians who talk about privatizing roads and what not, but these guys ain’t them: they’re serious politicians with solid principles and a history of actually getting things done in state government. That’s more than can be said of Trump or Clinton.

The Green Party hasn’t nominated anyone yet, but look like to put up Jill Stein, who ran last time around. The idea of conservatives finding a home in the Green Party, a collection of people too socialistic to be Democrats, is unlikely. Nothing Stein has said convinces me otherwise.

The wild card here is the Constitution Party. Everything I knew about them can be summed up in this line from the party’s Wikipedia entry: “The party believes that the United States is a Christian state founded on the basis of the Bible…” Yeah, that’s a strange quirk in a party named after the Constitution. That said, their current nominee, Darrell Castle, doesn’t sound half-bad. In this interview, Castle says he’s more libertarian than the Libertarian nominees, calling, for example, for an end to the drug war. He’s also solidly pro-life, the only such candidate in the race (although, as I noted here, Johnson’s legal position on abortion is effectively more pro-life than Clinton’s or Trump’s.) Then again, he also wants to “[w]ithdraw from the United Nations, NATO, TPP, Nafta, Cafta, Gatt, WTO, etc.,” making him more isolationist than the Libertarians, too.

For now, I think that the Libertarians offer the best home for conservatives. But, having become unmoored from one party already this year, I’m not ready to shack up with another just yet.