Election 2016: Presidential Candidates Who Aren’t Going to Win

Aside from Donald and Hillary, here’s who’s appearing on the ballot in Minnesota:

Darrell Castle and Scott Bradley (Constitution Party)
Dan R. Vacek and Mark Elworth, Jr. (Legal Marijuana Now)
Alyson Kennedy and Osborne Hart (Socialist Workers Party)
Jill Stein and Howie Hawkins (Green Party)
“Rocky” Roque De La Fuente and Michael Steinberg (American Delta Party)
Evan McMullin and Nathan Johnson (Independence)
Gary Johnson and William Weld (Libertarian Party)

I’m just going to go down this list in order and tell you who these people are and what they stand for, with particular attention to whether they’d be a plausible candidate for you if you’re a Republican who won’t vote for Trump and can’t bring yourself to vote for Clinton.

Darrell Castle and the Constitution Party

Darrell is great uncle you don’t want to get stuck sitting next to at family events: extremely conservative plus he won’t shut up about it (he has a long-running podcast and a bunch of his positions are on his website in audio form and a two-minute sample persuaded me that if I was going to have to sit next to him at a long meal I would fake an illness and go home.

Among his beliefs: we should completely eliminate the Federal Reserve and go back to private money (and presumably a system where if your bank goes under, you lose your life savings. Pick carefully, folks.) Oh, also, he wants the money backed by gold — not sure how that fits with the fact that he’s down with Bitcoin. We should leave the U.N. We should completely end all immigration (“until we can vet immigrants properly and our borders are under control”). He wants to convince congress to “take away the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction” over abortion.

He has never held elected office. He served in the military, he worked as a lawyer, and he has held positions within his party.

What a vote for Darrell Castle says: I like Trump’s isolationism and complete lack of political experience, but he needs way more crazy positions to win my vote. (Alternately: “I am a single-issue voter and that issue is abortion.” Trump’s pro-life position is clearly 100% expedience and not based in any sort of conviction. Do you think if he knocked up a woman who wasn’t Melania tomorrow, he’d say, “keep the baby, sweetheart, the child support will never be late”? No way in hell.)

Dan R. Vacek and the Legal Marijuana Now Party

Dan Vacek is one of my Facebook friends, although I don’t ever remember meeting him. His party’s platform consists of the following: legalize homegrown cannabis; erase past marijuana convictions; ban employment drug testing. They’re on the ballot in Minnesota and Iowa. Dan Vacek has never held elected office.

What a vote for Dan Vacek says: YAY WEED.

Alyson Kennedy and the Socialist Workers Party

The SWP website is the most hilariously old-school use of technology I’ve ever seen. “Below are campaign materials that you can download and give to your co-workers and friends,” they say, and provide you with pages that link to PDFs that, yes, you can download and print. They’re genuinely a pain in the ass to read online, though, especially if you’re on a phone. Also, they make it basically impossible to copy and paste any of the text.

It’s old-school text, too. SOLIDARITY WITH THE WORKING PEOPLE OF SYRIA! I bought and read a paper copy of the Militant once in 1980s and the only thing that’s changed are the country names.

Alyson also says in one of the pamphlets that there is no growing ultrarightist or fascist movement today because the bosses don’t need one. This made me wonder if the Socialist Worker Party has any Twitter presence at all. The British SWP does have one, with a whole 160 followers (I am not kidding) and also a blog, which is a vastly better online presence than the SWP of the U.S. has. So no wonder they’ve missed the growing ultrarightist fascist movement, I guess.

In addition to not being on Twitter, they’re not on Facebook. I didn’t even bother to check Tumblr. The funniest: if you want to donate or volunteer, you have to PRINT OUT A PAPER CARD which you then fill out and send in. Comrades: join us in the current century. You have nothing to lose but your stamps.

What a vote for Alyson Kennedy says: I am so old-school that when I hear “red states,” I assume they are talking about the USSR.

Jill Stein and the Green Party

I really loathe Jill, honestly. I loathe her for her bullshit statements about how Hillary would be worse for the country than Donald, a guy who’s said that global warming is a conspiracy made up by the Chinese. I loathe her for her bullshit pandering to vaccine conspiracy theorists. I loathe her for giving interviews to fucking Infowars. (Infowars has been front-and-center in pushing the idea that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax. If you haven’t read this utterly gutwrenching article about the harm done by this conspiracy theory, it’s a compelling read.)

Unlike the other obscure candidates mentioned so far, she’s held some sort of elected office: she was a “Town Meeting Representative,” I’m guessing that’s basically a City Council rep, in Lexington, Massachusetts, some years back.

What a vote for Jill Stein says: There is a Green Party that exists in my head that is far, far more awesome than the Democrats or the Republicans, and also far more awesome than the actual real-world Jill Stein.

Rocky de la Fuente and the nonexistent American Delta Party

So Rocky has a party printed on the ballot but the American Delta Party has no website and no platform. Since the two most common brands of toilets are the Delta and the American Standard, I kind of suspect he named his “party” after toilets.

Rocky is the sort of candidate who whines incessantly about how no one’s paying attention to him, but who when he tried to run in the primaries, did not get in contact with anyone from his local Democratic party. Nonetheless, he has enough money and is sufficiently litigious to get onto a lot of ballots nationwide, and in fact the front page of his website starts with a map of where he’s on the ballot, with little notes like “pending litigation.”

His website is full of stock art and his platform is all in the form of “what if…” questions. None of the stock art is of Morpheus, which seems like a missed opportunity.

What a vote for Rocky de la Fuente says: I wanted to write in Mickey Mouse, but it was easier to color in a single dot than to actually write “Mickey Mouse” on the line where you write people in.

Evan McMullin and the Independence Party

Evan McMullin is the third-party candidate who is most likely to win any electoral votes; he may win Utah’s. Also, he’s on the Minnesota ballot under the Independence Party (i.e., the Jessecrats) but in other states he’s running without party affiliation. He’s actually a Republican, from the relatively-normal wing of the Republican Party, i.e., I disagree with most of his stances but view him as roughly equivalent to someone like McCain or Romney. (And some of his stances are fine; his stance on Law Enforcement is anti-stop-and-frisk, pro-body-camera, and he favors sentencing reform to reduce or eliminate prison sentences for nonviolent offenders.)

He is not on the ballot in every state but he is on the ballot in Minnesota. He has not held elected office, but he has significant relevant experience: he worked for the CIA in counterterrorism, was a senior advisor to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and was the chief policy director of the House Republican Conference.

What a vote for Evan McMullin says: All I wanted was a normal Republican. Any of those other guys would have been fine. (Of all the potential message votes, this one is definitely going to be the clearest.)

Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party

Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson is the second-most-qualified person in the race, after Hillary Clinton. The Libertarian Party platform stakes out some genuinely extreme positions: they oppose all restrictions on firearm ownership and sales (so, no restrictions on ownership for convicted felons); their environmental position appears to boil down to, “you should absolutely be allowed to strip-mine your own backyard, if you want”; on financial markets they say, “Those who enjoy the possibility of profits must not impose risks of losses upon others, such as through government guarantees or bailouts” — so that’s opposition to the FDIC, which guarantees that if your bank goes belly-up your savings are safe; they oppose all minimum wage laws and I’d say also regulations on things like overtime, breaks, and possibly workplace safety; they want to eliminate the entire Social Security system; and they honestly do want open borders, restricting only people who would pose a threat.

All that said, it’s not clear how much of these positions Gary holds. He was a Republican until 2011.  Apparently he got booed a lot at the Libertarian nominating convention. His website provides a more moderate and appealing spin on a bunch of these, although his Environmental policies page does have the reassuring framing, “Is the climate changing? Probably so. Is man contributing to that change? Probably so. But the critical question is whether the politicians’ efforts to regulate, tax and manipulate the private sector are cost-effective.”

Gary’s the only third-party candidate who’s on the ballot in every state, so he’s definitely attracting some of the #NeverTrump Republicans. With Evan McMullin, the “I just wanted a normal Republican!” message is very clear; it’s less so with Gary, because the Libertarian platform and his solid social liberalism put him way out of step with a lot of Republicans.

What a vote for Gary says: there are several possibilities, and if Gary gets a sizeable portion of the vote, especially if he costs Trump the race in some states, you can expect a lot of analysis of exactly what the voters were saying:

  1. I just wanted a normal Republican! (And I didn’t know about Evan McMullin / I’m in a state in which Evan McMullin wasn’t on the ballot.)
  2. I want Republican candidates who will embrace economic conservatism, low taxes, and minimalist government, but who will stop pandering to the Religious Right with social conservatism.
  3. This is a protest, none-of-the-above vote; I hate Donald, I hate Hillary, Gary Johnson was on my ballot, and I’d heard of him.
  4. I am a sincere Libertarian. (To sort this one out, I expect they’ll look at how Gary did four years ago and assume that the number of sincere Libertarians probably stayed constant.)

I’m just going to remind everyone again that the only two candidates on the ballot with any real chance of becoming President are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Even if you trust that you are in a safe state, I think the most important message to send in this political season is a complete and utter repudiation of Trump. An absolutely crushing defeat of the sort that will make his approach absolutely toxic will give the Republican party an opportunity to rebuild.


I disagree with the GOP on nearly everything, but I also think that a healthy democracy has conservatives as well as liberals. Actual conservatives, not tantrum-throwing manbabies. If the Republicans are going to be a party of conservatism rather than a party representing fascism, racism, and one man’s vastly overinflated ego, Trump needs to go down in the flames he’s spent the last year and a half pouring lighter fluid on.




3 thoughts on “Election 2016: Presidential Candidates Who Aren’t Going to Win

  1. Town Meeting here in Massachusetts is like City Council but larger. It is consequently easier to join: my housemate Allen got in as a write-in by carrying 75% of his house. (Becca was sick that day and didn’t vote.)

  2. Pretty fair summary, Naomi. Of course, anyone in a swing state should vote for Hillary Clinton, in order to fend off the incarnation of American terrorism, the modern Know-Nothing Trump. In Minnesota, which the Republicans haven’t carried since 1972, it is safe to cast a protest vote, which is appropriate if one realizes the historic function of third parties. That is, they serve to test-drive unorthodox or controversial ideas, and their success is measured not so much by getting elected as by getting the major parties to swipe their more popular planks. Professional politicians prefer to avoid controversy, but they have a proprietary feeling about “their” voters and will do what is necessary.
    Legal Marijuana Now isn’t a superficial “party party.” It directly challenges the premises, the price, and the practices of the war on drugs–that re-tread of Prohibition which has led to mass incarceration, gang violence and gang acculturation, militarized police forces, invasion of privacy by both law enforcement and private employers, statutes and court rulings shredding the Bill of Rights, hundreds of thousands of persons needlessly arrested annually–with the attendant expense to them and the taxpayers not to mention the stress on families and communities, and a long further list of counter-productive, unintended consequences.
    A socio-economic disaster . . . and one which the major parties have been exceedingly unwilling to correct. The racial disparities in the enforcement of drug laws, notably the marijuana laws, as established in well-publicized statistics compiled by the ACLU, ought to raise concerns among liberals, if not among the lynch mob rabble which elects Republican lawmakers. Professor Michelle Alexander’s book, aptly entitled “The New Jim Crow,” describes how the drug war has been the means of reinstating a racial caste system in the USA, subverting the initial gains of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s.
    Advocates of drug policy reform could vote Libertarian–but they’d have to swallow a lot of ideological absurdity and extremism, and their votes still wouldn’t necessarily register as anti-drug-war votes. Or they could vote Green, because somewhere in that platform is, at last, a cautious endorsement of legalizing cannabis. Again, one of a plethora of idealistic proposals.
    Or, as long as elected officials continue to genuflect to the lobbying power of the police, the drug companies, the liquor lobby, the morals squads of the Religious Right, and other vested prohibitionist interests, the persons who want to end the New Jim Crow can vote, where possible, for clearly-labelled pro-cannabis-reform candidates.
    The objective, of course, is to inject the issue for wider public debate; and ultimately to persuade professional politicians to take it up. This process is very slowly getting underway, as the Democratic platforms are beginning to inch in the direction of legalization. Of course, the DFL platform endorsed medicinal marijuana use for 20 years without its getting through the legislature; yet that reform had very widespread public support. The bill finally passed in 2014, but in such a watered-down form that most patients find it unaffordable and many doctors won’t participate.
    Marijuana prohibition is the main prop of the policy of drug prohibition; it is the logical point at which to challenge the policy. If we want seriously to reduce gun violence, let’s recall that after repeal of alcohol prohibition, murders and assaults committed with guns declined for ten years, consecutively, so that by 1943 the rate was just about 1/2 of what it had been in 1933. If we’d like to combat the spreading problem of opiate addiction, both with heroin and prescription drugs, we’d do well to take note that in state with workable medicinal cannabis programs, or with legalized cannabis, the rate of opioid prescriptions is significantly lower than in prohibitionist states, and the rate of fatal opiate overdoses is correspondingly lower, too. Patients prefer cannabis in many cases.
    I trust that this comment, written in coherent English, explains to you the rationale for placing candidates “who aren’t going to win” on the ballot. To qualify, the candidates need to collect specified numbers of signatures within a short period of time, thus demonstrating that there’s some interest by citizens in letting them participate. Unlike many of the minor parties or vanity candidates, Legal Marijuana Now and the Grassroots Party depend on volunteers, not on paid petitioners, to collect our signatures.
    One might well ask, since plebiscites in favor of marijuana legalization has passed in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and DC, and are on the ballot this year in California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Arizona, why not take that approach in Minnesota?
    Well, we certainly would if we could. But Minnesota doesn’t allow citizen-sponsored ballot initiatives at the statewide level (and city charter amendments, in Minneapolis, for example, often are disqualified from the ballot after immense petition efforts.) The only way to put the issue directly to voters would be with a Constitutional amendment, and it’s up to the Legislature to authorize that. We have one lawmaker willing to sponsor an amendment, but she would like to have a few more of the other 200 legislators help out. I’ve written to over a dozen of the most likely prospects, but have not had the honor of even an acknowledgement in reply.
    In the circumstances, rather than stand aloof as our communities continue to suffer both from prohibition-driven crime activity and prohibition-inspired racially-biased policing abuses, we have chosen to present what may be a token (no pun intended) ticket, but is indeed a serious one.

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