The totally insane way the GOP can elect Paul Ryan as president

As of right now, Donald Trump is the Republican nominee and will likely face Hillary Clinton in the general election. This has royally pissed off establishment Republicans, some of whom are even considering backing Hillary to avoid a Trump presidency. However, all hope is not lost for the one percent. The dislike for both Trump and Hillary may give them a back door to the presidency and a chance to elect their dream candidate. All they need to do is follow a simple plan, one that they’ve already tried this election cycle.

What’s this magic recipe for GOP success in the fall? It’s one part electoral college, one part Gary Johnson, and one part pure madness.

The Johnson

Johnson looks to be the Libertarian Party candidate this year, and already seems poised to outdo his 2012 performance, which got him 1% of the vote. While he’s not an ideal candidate (he openly admits to getting high on the campaign trail), he has the potential to pull in disaffected Republicans and some anti-war and pro-marijuana Bernie supporters. This might take him up to 5%, although some rare polls that include Johnson have showed him as high as 11% against Trump and Clinton.

The Electoral College

So how does a decent, but non-winning performance by Johnson help the GOP? The GOP doesn’t even want Johnson as their candidate, even if he may be preferable to Trump or Hillary. And even if they did want Johnson, a candidate polling between 5 and 15% means it’s unlikely he’ll be able to win any states, much less a majority of the electoral college against Trump and Clinton. Speaking of which, what happens if nobody gets a majority in the electoral college? Oh, that’s right, the Republican-controlled House chooses the president (you see where this is going?). The voting is a little different, with each state delegation voting en bloc instead of individual members, but with the GOP controlling 32 states, it has a firm grasp.

The House is bound by the Twelfth Amendment to select from the three candidates that received the most electoral votes. A candidate must receive a majority of the House votes, or the vote must take place again. Also, at least two thirds of the states must be present for each vote. In this scenario, they would either choose Trump, Clinton, or Johnson. The Democratic states would vote for Clinton and she’d fall short of a majority. Now, the remaining 32 GOP controlled states have to decide between Trump and Johnson. What if they’re split?

The Madness

If the House cannot decide on the president in time for the inauguration, then things get weird, or um weirder. While the House has been fighting it out, the Senate was also assigned the work of choosing the Vice President. They’re only allowed to choose from the top two candidates, which I assume will be Trump’s choice or Clinton’s choice. If the House can’t decide, then the Senate’s pick for VP becomes president. Since the Senate can only choose from the top two candidates, it’s pretty easy to get a majority. But what if they don’t? What if the Senate declares that they will not vote on a VP until the House chooses the president? What if the GOP decides to simply not vote, as they’ve done with Merrick Garland? Well, why the hell would they do that?

Because if they do that, then the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, becomes president. He then holds that position until either the House or the Senate select a new president or VP-turned-president.

How might this happen?

First, Johnson doesn’t need to win, he just needs to split the electoral votes. Few things seem certain in this election, but I think it’s a safe bet to say that Trump will win the South with some exceptions and Clinton will win the Northeast and West Coast with some exceptions. Johnson might be poised to do well in states that rejected both Trump and Clinton in their party’s process. So far, this includes states like Wisconsin, Utah, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, and Alaska. That’s a simple way of determining competitive states of course. The social conservatism of Utah and Kansas would make for some infertile soil for Johnson’s social liberalism. However, in this masterplan, the pro-Ryan crowd doesn’t need to convince the voters that Johnson is better, only that by voting for him, they can get their dream choice. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the exact same strategy they tried to deny Trump the nomination. Rubio, Cruz, and Kasich all tried to coordinate their voters to deny Trump as many delegates as possible.

Clinton-Trump-Johnson Electoral Map

The above map presents a possible scenario. Johnson could do well in the Bernie bastion of northern New England, his home state of New Mexico, wild Colorado and Nevada, and perhaps the Northwest which may be quicker to embrace Johnson’s quirks. GOP megadonors who dislike Trump, like the Kochs, could also help Johnson by pouring money into competitive states.

A scenario in which everyone falls short of a majority shifts the decision to the House. The Democrats would not have enough votes to get Clinton elected, but if she receives the most electoral votes then they have no reason to capitulate. Similarly, representatives in states that went heavily Trump would be pressured (threatened) into not backing down if Trump receives more votes than Johnson. In this already highly partisan and polarized atmosphere, it’s easy to see no side backing down. So then, all the Senate has to do is wait, and wait, and wait.

Is this plan insane?

Yes.

In an election cycle with daily complaints about the system being rigged, using the rules this way would inflame society. There would be protests, there would be riots, the US Capitol would be on constant lockdown. Democracy would survive – the Constitution was designed to handle these situations, but the cynical use of the law would drain the faith of the people in the system.

More (less?) importantly, it’s difficult to pull off. Voters don’t like being coordinated, they like using their vote to express an opinion, not as a calculated political maneuver. The efforts against Trump had some success, but ultimately not enough to keep him from the nomination. The GOP would also need to exhibit extreme party discipline within a party that has lately been splitting at the seams. All in all, it requires a lot of planning, luck, and balls to pull off – and thus far, the GOP hasn’t been too good at planning.

Wait! There’s more madness

Remember that Paul Ryan only gets to be president until the House or Senate choose a new one. And when Ryan becomes president there will be a new House and Senate. The House looks like it will stay GOP controlled, and the state makeup looks like it will change even less. The Senate, on the other hand, looks like it might flip to the Democrats. If that happens, all hell breaks loose.

First, the Dems will move to elect Clinton’s VP, who, under the Twentieth Amendment, would serve until the House elects a president, which they would probably do to avoid the Senate’s Democratic pick. But what if the GOP feels risky and threatens to elect Trump if the Senate elects Clinton’s VP, who, let’s say is Julian Castro for the sake of comedy. Maybe threatened with a Trumpocalypse, the Senate Dems would back down. If that happens, then Congress basically just gets to write up its own rules on how to choose a president. From there, they can just pick Ryan or pretty much whoever they want. That person would, again act as president until the House or Senate chose someone else, thus creating a scenario in which the threat of Trump takes on the role of the nuclear arsenal in MAD.

It’s also worth noting that the Supreme Court would probably get involved at some point. I mean, compare the mess I describe here with what happened in 2000. How could the Court possibly stay out of it? Which brings up more madness.

What happens if the Court splits? Thanks to GOP obstruction, there will be a vacancy on the court, making such a split much more likely. It will all depend on the lower courts and issues involved, but it promises to be nothing short of an ergot-fueled Boschian nightmare. And through all that time, guess who gets to act as president? Paul “I don’t want to be president” Ryan. Well played sir. Well played.

There Was No Libertarian Movement

In the 2008 and 2012 elections, GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul emerged as the grassroots hero for libertarian ideas. He was wildly popular online, winning nearly every poll that had his name thanks to rabid youth support, and set daily fundraising records in the form of “money bombs.” Liberals embraced him as the one sane Republican for his non-interventionist foreign policy and staunch defense of civil liberties and while Republicans liked his views on limited government, he was routinely asked why he was running in their party.

Despite the enthusiasm of his supporters, Paul only received 5% of the primary votes in 2008. His criticism of the Iraq War and the growth of surveillance that made him popular in some circles, ultimately proved too much for many Republicans to swallow while Bush was still in office. But then something happened – the global financial system imploded. The bank bailouts, auto bailouts, and stimulus packages that followed resulted in backlash from the right and the left in the forms of The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. With the Democrats controlling the White House and at least one chamber of Congress, the right also became much more distrustful and resentful of government in general. While conservatives praised strong government under Bush, they took a particularly virulent anti-government stance under Obama. The number of state militias drastically increased, the Tea Party was branded as a libertarian movement, and Republican talking heads called the movement the future of the party.

That showed in the 2012 election. While Paul again did not win, he picked up 11% of the vote, doubling his previous performance and setting the stage for his son, Rand, in 2016. Rand took the libertarian standard from his father and made some strong early showings, railing against the country’s targeted assassination program, surveillance authority, and reliance on drones. These gestures put him at the top of polls for the GOP nomination in 2013 and 2014.

It didn’t last. When Rand dropped out of the race in February 2016, he was polling near 3%. How was it that the son of the libertarian stalwart of the past two elections not only didn’t build on his father’s momentum, but polled far below him?

There are a few explanations that might work here. First is that there were simply more GOP candidates (17 at one point) so Paul’s vote share was naturally diluted. Second, Rand Paul ran away from earlier libertarian stances in hopes that his campaign might appeal to a broader base, costing him his core supporters. Third, Ron Paul supporters also liked Tea Party darling Ted Cruz splitting his support between the two and even debating which of them should inherit Ron Paul’s support.

Each of these explanations can account for some lost support that ultimately ended his 2016 bid, but they can also all be explained by one other theory – there were no libertarians. Ron Paul’s supporters were not libertarians, there was no libertarian movement within the GOP, the Tea Party was not libertarian, and there are no libertarians voting in the GOP primaries this election. Continue reading “There Was No Libertarian Movement”

Were the Founding Fathers Christians? A Dumb Question that Needs an Answer

An easy way to measure the relevance of questions is to quickly check in with Google’s autocomplete for a reading of the public consciousness. A search for “Were the founding fathers…” quickly leads to “Christian” as the top choice, followed by “democratic reformers,” “deists,” and “liberals.” It turns out the second choice of “democratic reformers” ranks so high because it’s the title of a chapter in a history textbook, which also might point to how kids do their homework these days. Nonetheless, two of the top three questions were about the Founding Fathers’ religion, apparently a lot of people want an answer to what seems like a fairly simple question.

It’s not. Continue reading “Were the Founding Fathers Christians? A Dumb Question that Needs an Answer”

Anatomy of a Revolution: Did the USA Do Any Better than the Arab Spring?

This week marks both the annual celebration of American Independence, the overthrow of Egypt’s first elected president, Morsi, and the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, a pivotal point in the US Civil War. While unrelated on the surface, all three are landmarks in building a nation and while we’ve yet to see the outcome of Egypt’s struggle with democracy, the other two certainly have appeared fruitful. Today the US is a thriving democracy with a strong economy. Meanwhile, many commentators have placed Egypt in another group – the failed Arab Spring.

Altogether, five nations have seen protests resulting in massive political upheaval with demonstrations in Tunisa, Yemen, and Egypt bringing in new leaders, and armed revolts in Lybia and Syria leading to both democracy and an uncertain ongoing civil war respectively. The outcomes of these revolutions has been highly criticized by many on both the left and the right who claim that the costs of such revolutions will outweigh any benefits as the economies of Egypt and Lybia are in turmoil and most of Syria is still a warzone with no end in sight. Often onlookers will remark, either cynically or racially, that Arab countries are not ready for democracy and that they lack the institutions or culture to support it. This critique was formerly lobbed at the US when it tried to impose democracy on Iraq after overthrowing Saddam’s regime with a lead story from The Economist labeling it “Democracy at Gunpoint.” However, liberals will be quick to remark that the Arab Spring is different in that democracy imposed lacks the ummm…democracy that a spontaneous self-propelled revolution inspires. Still there are those who point to every short-coming of these revolutions as evidence that they have already failed after only 2 years. These people have either forgotten their own history of the American Revolution or have gotten so used to instant gratification that they accept nothing less. Did the American Revolution look any better after 2 years? after 10? From where we are now the revolution looks like a beacon of success but what was it really like in those years following independence? Here are some things to keep in mind.

Continue reading “Anatomy of a Revolution: Did the USA Do Any Better than the Arab Spring?”

Red Dawn 1984 vs. 2012: Conservative Politics Remade?

This Memorial Day Weekend I sat down to watch the old and new versions of Red Dawn by accident. The original movie happened to be on TV and after watching my patriotism simply crescendoed into looking up the new one on YouTube where I found several full length versions. This was my first red flag. Disregarding the possibility that the movie was so bad and such a flop that the studio didn’t even bother policing its copyrights, I pressed on to see how this new film handled contemporary politics, much like the first one had. What I found was that things appear to have gotten worse.

Continue reading “Red Dawn 1984 vs. 2012: Conservative Politics Remade?”

LINO or DINO? Structural Differences Between the Parties

This is something I’ve been pondering for some time. I started writing this piece a couple months ago but stopped because it didn’t seem that relevant and I didn’t really care too much. Now I think it’s different. First and foremost is the emergence of the so-called drone memos and the Rand Paul filibuster follow-up which has served to expose some serious hypocrisy in both political parties. The other is the increased (and perhaps overuse) of the term “false equivalency” by the left. There’s no question that the media tends to “report the debate” and often gives an impression of equivalency, but understanding the structures of both parties might better help to explain why such a false equivalency might exist.

Since emerging as a term in 1992, “RINO” or “Republican in name only” has become increasingly common in right-wing political discourse. With the emergence of the Tea Party and the recent rejection of their candidates in the last election, the term has become even more meaningful as a troubled party tries to redefine itself. Politicians or pundits often get called RINO’s if their positions don’t live up to the hardline stance of the party. Any Republican compromising with Democrats is now viewed as a RINO by many on the right.

RINO vs. Blue Dog

On the other side, you have the term “Blue Dog Democrat” to denote Democrats that lean conservative. Continue reading “LINO or DINO? Structural Differences Between the Parties”

“The US is a Republic, not a Democracy!”

File this under the category of what’s mildly annoying me this week, or annoying me enough to write about it here.

Whenever someone mentions that the US is a democracy, even in passing, someone will undoubtedly chime in with, “the US is a republic, not a democracy,” as if that somehow negates everything previously said.

How people got this notion remains a mystery. I first recall one of my high school history teachers telling me it, and I’m undoubtedly guilty of repeating the statement as a teenager. Anyway, (before I start discussing my teenage years) it appears that people see a republic and a democracy as two distinct forms of government. Democracies supposedly elect everyone directly while republics elect representatives to vote in their place. By these definitions America is a republic – too bad these definitions are wrong. Continue reading ““The US is a Republic, not a Democracy!””