The election is only a few days away. The most bizarre election in my lifetime, I think. The two major candidates are the most disliked pair of major party candidates we’ve ever seen. If Democrats had nominated someone else, that person would likely have an easy time winning against the Republican nominee. If Republicans had nominated someone else, that person would likely have an easy time winning against the Democratic nominee. But the parties saddled the country with these two and the media has done what the media does. And lets be clear: the fault is with the parties. President Obama is right that the way the Republican party operated in the 2012 and 2008 (and 2004, and 2000, and…) elections made Donald Trump’s rise possible. But similarly, the way the Democratic party has operated made Hillary Clinton’s nomination possible.
But we live in the age of disruption. Uber has disrupted taxi services and, to a lesser extent, public transportation and even car sales. Warby-Parker has disrupted the eyeglass industry. And the list goes on. Perhaps its time for a political disruption. Perhaps its time to put the duopoly parties out to pasture. Or perhaps they can survive the disruption in some modified form. In any case, I think we now have an opportunity for a major disruption of American politics–for the better. (I would not insist that all disruptions are positive or that all attempted disruptions succeed.)
How can that be accomplished? Evan McMullin was, for a few days if I recall, running neck and neck with Donald Trump in Utah. He’s now fallen behind, but that can change. If you’re in Utah, vote for McMullin. He can’t win the national electoral college vote, but he can get the 6 electors from Utah and make it harder for either of the duopoly candidates to get the needed 270 votes. I don’t think that’s the case in any other state, but I may be wrong. If you think he has a chance to take your state, help him.
Why vote for McMullin? Well, some of you may like him. He’s not my favorite candidate in this election, but I would put him ahead of the duopoly candidates. For those of you that don’t like him, just remember that what matters is getting 270 electoral college votes. If no candidate gets that, the next president is determined by a vote in the house of representatives with each state getting a single vote. That could leave us with a better president then the duopoly nominated. The vote would be limited to the top 3 electoral vote getters, meaning McMullin would have a chance. Some speculate that he would ask his electors to vote for Romney (or Ryan, but Romney seems more likely to me). That would mean Romney would have a chance. Indeed, given that 1 vote per state favors Republicans, that seems entirely likely. The Republicans could finally cast off the candidate that has caused them so much difficulty without having to go with a Democrat. (For more on this, see this. For the same strategy for Johnson, see this.)
In case you’re interested: the Senate would then choose the Vice President, from among the top two vote getters (assuming that the lack of an electoral college majority is present for the VP). Conceivably, that means a Republican President and a Democratic Vice-President. That could be cool. Of course, the V-P might resign.
But this is not the end of the story. Any political party winning 5% of the popular vote is automatically on every ballot in the country in the next election and automatically has access to federal funds for the next campaign. Imagine a 2018 election in which the Libertarian Party can suddenly compete for congressional seats–33 in the Senate. Imagine a 2020 election where the Libertarian Party can really compete for the White House. Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, for all their flaws, have done a world of good for the Party. Had they been in the debates, I believe they would have had a real shot at the White House. But that didn’t happen. Still, despite tremendous forces against them, they are polling at close to 5% (all of the polls seem to have the pair at between 3% and 8%). Hitting that 5% is clearly do-able this time around. And its hard to underestimate how big of a deal it is not to have to work to get ballot access everywhere and to have access to the federal funding. So, even if you don’t like Johnson, consider voting for him if you are (rightly) unhappy with your party’s nominee.
That 5% means that the Republicans and the Democrats won’t be the only major players. It means that a third-party–the Libertarian Party–can really run a contender and fight on (almost) equal footing. That would amount to a major disruption in American politics. That means that things change. Granted, in the long run, we’d likely be back to two parties. But which? One could be the Libertarian Party. Even if that doesn’t happen, the duopoly parties would have been forced to take notice–and change to get back the voters they lost. That would matter.
I realize, of course, that there are many difficulties to be overcome. Of course, if Clinton or Trump do get 270 electors, the game is over for this election. (If that happens, I hope its Clinton. But I really hope it doesn’t happen. We deserve better.) But if the LP gets 5%, the next election will be really interesting–and not, I think, in the “holy moly, that is a terrible train wreck, I can’t stop looking at the carnage” sort of way. Rather, we’ll have a party with better values being competitive with the duopoly, probably getting the Democrats and Republicans to improve, possibly winning congressional seats. (And if neither Clinton nor Trump gets the 270, we have a shot at a better president in January.)
Also, some worry that the LP would not take the federal funds. I realize that is a possibility, but I have hope that saner minds would prevail. Indeed, I hope that Johnson and Weld stick around to help, though I would not suggest they run again in 2020. Who the candidates should be is an interesting question, but I think we should leave that for after the current election is complete.
I end with a plea. Some people–I expect record numbers–are planning to go and vote on Tuesday but not vote for President. Please don’t do that. If you are going to vote but feeling (rightly) fed up with the presidential election, vote for Johnson (or, if you’re in Utah, for McMullin). Really, I encourage everyone to vote for Johnson and Weld. I unequivocally endorse them. But its now also clearly also worth looking past this election.