So A Third Party Vote Isn’t “Wasted?” Take A Look…It Is

GOP 2016 Trump
With all the turmoil over the 2016 Presidential campaign – and the choice between a duplicitous but highly qualified Hillary Clinton and a raving nutbag of racism, misogyny and xenophobia in the Tangerine Nightmare (that’s right, I don’t even begin to name him – my choice), never in the history of the United States has there been a riper time for a third party candidate to make an impact. Because the two “major parties” have been unable to nominate someone who could, you know, actually LEAD the country, someone like the Libertarian Party or the Green Party could step in and fill the void. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Let’s take the Libertarian Party first. The only other party to actually be on all 50 ballots in the U. S., the Libertarians have reached a crossroads in their existence. Long viewed as the “hippie” party because of their views on legalization of marijuana and policies that put more into personal responsibility than governmental rigor, the Libertarians are actually the only party (other than the two major parties) to actually register a notable percentage of the vote in 2012; in that Presidential election, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson garnered 1,275,951 votes across the U. S. – roughly 1% of the votes in the election (and the best ever showing by the Libertarians).

When it comes to the 2016 Presidential efforts, however, the Libertarians took a page from the GOP playbook instead of…well, being Libertarians. Johnson (who had previously run for President as a Republican in 2012 and, after losing that nomination, suddenly “saw the light” and became a Libertarian), believing that he would be easily nominated again for the party’s Presidential ambitions, instead had to fight off accusations that he wasn’t “libertarian” enough (heard that somewhere before?) and that someone who was a “true Libertarian” needed to be chosen. In the end, however, Johnson and his Vice President pick, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, earned the nomination of the party.

Turning our attention to the Green Party, they have also nominated the same candidate that they chose in the 2012 election. Dr. Jill Stein, a longtime activist with the party, was selected in 2012 and garnered absolutely no attention from anyone whatsoever. How bad was it? In that 2012 election, Stein drew in 469,628 votes, less than the population of Brevard County on the East Coast of Florida.

Fast forward to 2016 and, instead of picking someone who might be a “fresh face” for the party, the Greens picked Stein again. The choice was made despite the factor that she has been viewed by many as anti-science and has tossed her hat in the ring with 9/11 conspiracy advocates (like the Orangutan Mutant). Party officials obviously were looking for someone and, lacking anyone with even the inkling of name recognition that Dr. Stein (who also offered her nomination to former Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders if he would just switch to the Green Party) had, decided to stick with her (these things have pretty much eliminated her from contention, much like Johnson’s Aleppo mistake and, just this last weekend, his contention that “nobody got hurt” during the bombings in New York and New Jersey and the knife attack in Minnesota, dismisses him as a serious contender).

johnsonstein

There’s several problems with looking towards the “third party” option in this or any election, but we will only deal with a few of them here. First, voting for a “third party” option is the waste of a vote (and, as you will see, the statistics demonstrate this); second, that a solid third party has yet to form; and third, that the other parties are not following a path towards success if they are trying to infiltrate the two party system.

First, if you are considering a vote for a third party candidate this year, take a look at the numbers. Of the elected positions in national government – the President and Congress – how many of those seats are held by the Libertarian Party? The total would be zilch. What about governorships in the United States? That, too, would be zero. You have to go to the state legislatures to even find a Libertarian, and that total would be four out of 7383 seats available. In local elected offices (of which there are tens of thousands of elected positions), there are only 145 wielding power.

What about the Green Party? They don’t even register on the national or state scene, with no elected officials in any national or state government. The Green Party does register about the same numbers on the local scene as the Libertarians – an estimated 137 positions – but there’s problems for the party overall. When it comes to actually getting votes, they aren’t even on the ballot in all 50 states FOR PRESIDENT, let alone running in other races.

The second point – that no solid third party has formed in the past 30 years – takes into account those parties that “stood alone” from the two party system, of which none have been successful. The Tea Party was a subset of the Republican Party (in fact, if the Republicans didn’t want to be in the situation they are now, they should have cut the Tea Party loose from the start) and the Dixiecrats were a subset of the Democratic Party after World War II (and they were eventually cut off by the Democratic Party). Those parties that tried to stand alone – Ross Perot’s Reform Party had a nice run in the 1990s before petering out after the turn of the century and there are individuals who choose “Independent” as their party (despite the fact there isn’t a “dedicated” Independent Party) – have never been able to grasp the public’s attention for very long.

The third point – that the smaller parties are taking the wrong approach – is an easy one to correct. Instead of trying to elect one of your members to the Presidency, why not try to make inroads into the local and state realms of government. Remember those numbers presented earlier? The numbers that showed that, of all the state and federal elected positions, that only four seats would be occupied by someone that identified as Libertarian and zero by Greens? The numbers that showed that, of local governments, slightly less than 300 seats were held by someone not affiliated with either major party?

If the Libertarian or Green Party were able to actually make an impact on the local political arena – instead of 300, how about 30,000 elected officials? – then they would be able to spark the changes that they seek on the state and national scene. Even if either Johnson or Stein were elected, do you honestly think that the Congress – dominated by the two major parties – would choose to work with them? It is something that has to grow from the ground up, not from the top down.

chosenforyou

It is thought that pulling the lever for one of the non-mainstream candidates will be a form of “protest,” of “voting on principle,” when it will in fact be a waste of your voice. By pulling the handle for either Johnson or Stein (or any of the other candidates who may emerge on your ballot for President), you are saying that, while you don’t like either of the major party choices, you also don’t want to be involved in the process of choosing from the two most likely choices someone who WILL be the next President of the United States (and yes, it can sometimes seem like you’re getting screwed, but at least you made a choice as to who would be screwing you).

Who do you want making the key decisions, not only for our nation but also for the usage of our military men and women, for the conduct of our foreign affairs, for the security of the nation, for the efficient operation of our government and for raising up everyone instead of a select few? By voting for a third party candidate, you abdicate your ability to make the choice – the compromise that our democracy is built on – and choose the future leader of the country.

With all hope, it won’t have an effect on the outcome of the race. In 2000, the Green Party’s Ralph Nader was able to garner 2.9 million votes, with some saying that it doomed Al Gore’s hopes for the Presidency (and remember that, in Florida, Gore is reported to have lost by 527 votes despite winning the popular vote nationally). In 1992, Perot ran as an Independent (he had yet to create the Reform Party) and earned a whopping 19% of the vote, arguably denying the first George Bush a second term in office (Bush lost to Bill Clinton by roughly 5.8 million votes; Perot earned 19.7 million).

The choice may be an ugly one, but it has to be made. A petulant display of “making a point” by choosing a minor party’s candidate isn’t a protest but an abdication of responsibility. Perhaps someday these parties will have worked to the point where they can challenge the current stalwarts of politics, but that time isn’t now. Thus, we have to choose from the two candidates who represent the major political parties and, after the votes are tallied, WILL provide the 45th President of the United States.

fourwayballot

How Far Do We Let Law Enforcement Go in Stopping Criminals?

DallasShooting

The tragedy that occurred last week with the Dallas Police Department’s finest officers – seeing the death of five of their own and the injury to seven, not counting the civilians in the mix – being gunned down by a deranged former Army soldier has left the country stunned. This aftermath came after two shootings by police against black citizens in Louisiana and Minnesota, presumably without provocation or cause (investigation will reveal more…perhaps). As we try to figure out the problems with these prickly issues, there was another issue that raised its head during those frantic hours after gunshots rang through downtown Dallas.

The Dallas police did their job admirably, finally cornering the suspect in a parking garage in that downtown area. Concerned with the possibility that the shooter (and we won’t dignify him by using his name) could shoot and kill more cops and the threats from that shooter that he was ready to use bombs to take out as many people as possible, the Chief of Police for the Dallas PD, David Brown, made the difficult decision to use a remote controlled robot to deliver an explosive device of its own. The device, a Remotec Model F-5, carried a block of C4 weighing less than a pound to the shooter and killed him in the explosion.

RemotecF5

The Dallas PD issued a statement afterwards, stating that usage of the robot was “a last resort…to deliver an explosion device (sic) to save the lives of officers and citizens.” Chief Brown himself stated that “This wasn’t an ethical decision for me…I’d do it again,” commenting that the standoff with the shooter, the number of officers and civilians already injured and the potential for more casualties required the action. “I would use any tool necessary to save our officer’s lives. I’m not ashamed to say it,” Brown stated.

While the Chief of the Dallas PD made his decision and stands by it, the usage of remote controlled devices by law enforcement is something that has to be questioned. In examining the issue, however, we have to look at how dependent on mechanical, electronic and robotic devices we’ve become to do our “dirty work” for us.

There are the benign uses for robotics – the auto industry has been using them for car manufacturing for decades – and other arenas have also benefitted from their introduction. The medical field, agriculture, the airline industry – all have been able to improve their respective industries for the good of mankind. There are two areas, however – military and law enforcement – where the usage of robotics and the ethics behind such actions can be considered questionable.

The drone program that was started by the Bush Administration in the Middle East, and further expanded by the Obama Administration not only in that area of the world but also into Africa, has always been fraught with ethical questions. The ability of an unmanned object flying into an area and delivering death while its pilot sits comfortably hundreds (or even thousands) of miles away in a control room is something that is unfathomable to many in the world. Thus, trying to decide whether or not it is an ethical action or not is tough in the military world.

If the ethical decision is tough in the military world, then it is even more difficult in the civilian and law enforcement communities. People like to believe that they are safe and have entrusted the police to ensuring that safety. Over the years, however, we’ve seen that militaristic attitude creep over into the law enforcement community. Normally outgunned, the police departments of many cities and towns have been outfitted with the latest in riot gear, armored vehicles and tactical weapons to be able to “combat terrorism” (a 1997 law called the “1033 Program” ramped up in 2011, providing some of the tools we see used today). Military robots are also a part of that program and quite possibly provided the robot used to end the Dallas standoff Friday morning came from that 1033 Program.

But is it ethical to use a military device to kill a civilian? What are the processes that should be considered? Should a judge be involved in the decision? Or is it on one person or a small group of people to make that “judge, jury and executioner” decision rather than the legal process?

In the movie Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan, this ethical dilemma is considered and an answer provided. (SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen a film that was released more than 35 years ago!) With the damaged starship Enterprise needing to get away from the detonation of the Genesis Project or be destroyed itself, Mr. Spock enters the engine room to restore the warp drive to the ship. Spock is successful in fixing the warp drive and the Enterprise escapes, but Spock is mortally wounded by radiation poisoning. With his dying breath, Spock states to Admiral James Kirk, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” as he offers his final Vulcan salute and passes away.

WrathofKhan

In the Dallas situation, Chief Brown was faced with this dilemma. Did he allow a situation to carry on for perhaps several more hours, with the potential for more people to be killed or injured by a maniac who gave every impression he was ready to die in the battle, or did he end the situation with a device that, while depriving the shooter of his due rights to the legal process should he be killed, could save innocent lives? The Chief did what he had to do and, in my opinion, did the right thing in this instance.

The problem is how do we move forward with similar actions. Would people have been as happy about the usage of a military robot or drone if it has been used on the Bundy occupation in Oregon earlier this year? What if it had killed several of the protesters on the grounds of that wildlife reserve? There are rules that need to be set for the usage of such robotics by law enforcement, just as there are rules for engagement for pretty much everything else that they do in the execution of their jobs.

First, it should be a “last resort” situation that a robot or drone is considered for usage by law enforcement. This may take several hours or even days to determine, but every other option should be exhausted before going to this length. Second, a judge should sign off on the decision by the appropriate personnel (the Chief of Police is a good one to make that call), giving it the blessing of the judicial system. Finally (and if possible), there should be some sort of warning given to the perpetrator that such actions are being readied and there is a final chance to surrender. After taking these steps, I don’t have a problem with law enforcement using a military drone or robot on a suspect.

What we can’t have is law enforcement going to these lengths on a regular basis to solve standoffs. Part of the reason we are having the debates about police actions that are heavily militarized and civilian reactions that view it as “oppressive” are due to that very militarization that are mentioned. The actions of Dallas’ Chief Brown, while ethically a challenge, were spot on in this case. In another one, they may very well be an overreach, unless the protections sought above are utilized. It is something to consider before the next situation arises and we’ve not figured out a protocol.