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Still Waiting For That Declaration Of Independents

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
July 2, 2012

The nation celebrates its 236th year of independence this week, a holiday that reminds us of the freedoms America’s early patriots fought for and which we continue to enjoy to this day.

But there is no indication at all, certainly not in this year’s presidential race, of any signs of voter independence from the two major parties. Of course, it’s rare for any independent or third-party candidate to make a difference in the battle for the White House. You have to have a recognizable name, a ton of money, and a cause worth campaigning on. And even then it may not be enough. Ross Perot had all three when he ran as an independent in 1992. He also attracted some 19.7 million votes, more than any non-major party candidate in history. And how close did he get to attaining the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency? He was 270 votes shy.

(For a brief history of recent third-party presidential candidates, see “Mad at the Democrats and Republicans? Don’t Count On a Third Party,” Political Junkie, Sept. 19, 2011.)

This year a different approach was made. This time, an organization provided not a candidate but a mechanism for one to get on the ballot. Americans Elect raised millions of dollars and already attained ballot access in 28 states (on its way to all 50 states plus D.C.), asking supporters to draft a candidate online. The problem? No “big name” came forward to run, and the leading online candidate, GOP dropout Buddy Roemer, failed to get the 10,000 signatures that Americans Elect demanded. The organization and its effort folded in May.

While many third parties appear on the November ballots, some states have tougher ballot access laws than others. (Check out Richard Winger’s Ballot Access News for the most reliable updates.) One party that gets a lot of headlines and ink in the months leading up to the election has historically been the Libertarians, as they regularly appear on every state ballot. This year, their nominee is Gary Johnson, the former Republican governor of New Mexico who tried but failed to make a difference in this year’s GOP contest. Perhaps it’s more of a Democratic fantasy than anything else, but some insist that Johnson could pull enough votes in some states to harm Mitt Romney’s chances.

The truth is, Libertarian presidential candidates — going back to their first bid, in 1972 — have yet to make a difference. Here’s how they’ve done:

1972 — John Hospers (director of USC school of philosophy)

total votes nationwide: 3,673 (less than 0.1 percent)

received one electoral vote when a “faithless” Nixon elector from Va., Roger MacBride, voted instead for Hospers

1976 — Roger MacBride (see 1972)

total votes nationwide: 173,011 (0.2 percent)

1980 — Ed Clark (California attorney)

total votes nationwide: 921,299 (1.1 percent)

first time party was on all 50 state ballots

best showing, percentage: 11.7 in Alaska

1984 — David Bergland (California attorney)

total votes nationwide: 228,314 (0.2 percent)

1988 — Ron Paul (former GOP congressman, Texas)

total votes nationwide: 432,179 (0.5 percent)

1992 — Andre Marrou (former Alaska state rep.)

total votes nationwide: 291,627 (0.3 percent)

1996 — Harry Browne (Tennessee author)

total votes nationwide: 485,798 (0.5 percent)

2000 — Harry Browne

total votes nationwide: 384,429 (0.4 percent)

2004 — Michael Badnarik (Texas constitution teacher)

total votes nationwide: 397,265 (0.3 percent)

2008 — Bob Barr (former GOP congressman, Georgia)

total votes nationwide: 523,686 (0.4 percent)

Primary colors. Last week’s Political Junkie column focused on the June 26 primary battles facing veteran House member Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and veteran Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Hatch survived to fight another day. The verdict is still out on Rangel, who as of this writing leads his main challenger, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, by just 802 votes, with some 2,000 absentees yet to be counted. This one may not be over yet.

But one result I never saw coming was the defeat of Rep. John Sullivan in Oklahoma’s 1st CD GOP primary.

Sullivan’s troubles in public life pre-date his tenure in Congress, which began in January 2002 when he won a special election to succeed Steve Largent, who resigned to focus on his gubernatorial bid. Voters knew of Sullivan’s history of drinking-related arrests even before he upset then-Oklahoma First Lady Cathy Keating in the primary. But his drinking continued while in office, and in June of 2009 he took a month-long leave of absence to check himself into the Betty Ford Clinic.

His victorious primary opponent this year, Navy Reserve pilot and political newcomer Jim Bridenstine, focused not on his addictions but his attendance record, saying Sullivan missed too many votes. With the backing of Tea Party supporters, he also charged Sullivan as insufficiently conservative. By most accounts, Sullivan failed to take Bridenstine seriously until late in the campaign, and then he responded with nonstop negative attacks.

Sullivan is the eighth House member defeated in this year’s primaries but only the fourth who lost to a non-incumbent opponent. The other seven (names in italics indicate defeated in Member vs. Member primary): Jason Altmire (D-PA), Tim Holden (D-PA), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Steve Rothman (D-NJ) and Jean Schmidt (R-OH). Another House member, Bob Turner (R-NY), whose district was obliterated, ran and lost in his party’s Senate primary.

The contempt vote on Holder. Last Thursday (June 28), the House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for failing to share requested information relating to the botched “Fast and Furious” operation. The action came just hours after President Obama invoked executive privilege to block the House’s request for internal Justice Department documents.

The vote was 255-67. Many Democrats, accusing the GOP of a “partisan witch hunt,” walked out of the House chamber without casting a vote.

But 17 Democrats did vote with the Republicans to hold the AG in contempt: Jason Altmire (PA), John Barrow (GA), Dan Boren (OK), Leonard Boswell (IA), Ben Chandler (KY), Mark Critz (PA), Joe Donnelly (IN), Kathy Hochul (NY), Ron Kind (WI), Larry Kissell (NC), Jim Matheson (UT), Mike McIntyre (NC), Bill Owens (NY), Collin Peterson (MN), Nick Rahall (WV), Dennis Ross (AR) and Tim Walz (MN).

Some of the names on this list were not a surprise. A few are retiring. Altmire lost his bid for another term in the primary (losing to Critz, in fact). But I was surprised by a few of these votes, notably those of Boswell, Critz, Donnelly, Hochul and Owens. One reason may be that the National Rifle Association had announced that this vote would be a key one on the NRA scorecard.

Two Republicans, Steve LaTourette of Ohio and Scott Rigell of Virginia, voted against the measure.

Political Updates. I post periodic political updates during the week on Twitter. You can follow me at @kenrudin. Here are some questions from the mailbox.

Q: Throughout the primary process I’ve seen the option for “uncommitted” or “no preference” on ballots. If these options were to get the most votes in state, what would happen? Has uncommitted/no preference ever won anywhere? — Joshua Holman, Havelock, N.C.

A: When people talk about the sudden rise of Jimmy Carter in 1976, they often refer to his victory in the Iowa caucuses. The thing is, he didn’t quite win. While Carter finished better than any other Democratic candidate that year, the precinct caucuses were in fact won by an “Uncommitted” slate, which got 37 percent of the vote. Carter received 28 percent, followed by Birch Bayh with 13 percent and Fred Harris with 10 percent. But all that meant was that an uncommitted slate went into the next round, the county conventions, and those uncommitted folks had the option of staying uncommitted or aligning with a particular candidate. By the time the process reaches the state convention, most of the candidates who were active during the first go-round are long gone.

Similarly, “Uncommitted” also won the 1972 Iowa precinct caucuses, finishing slightly better than frontrunner Ed Muskie; both slates ended up with about 36 percent. George McGovern was well behind, with 23 percent, but his showing was seen as a big boost in his unlikely path to the nomination.

President Bill Clinton essentially ran unopposed in the 1996 Democratic primaries, but for reasons I can’t recall, neither he, nor anyone else, was on the Michigan primary ballot that year, which was won by “Uncommitted.” But Clinton won all 92 delegates at the convention.

Nevada has a “none of the names shown” option on its ballots, and sometimes that choice has finished strong. In 1980, its Democratic primary was won by President Jimmy Carter with 37.6 percent. It was followed by “none of the names shown” with 33.6 percent, and then Edward Kennedy with 28.8 percent. At the Democratic convention that year, Nevada’s 12 delegates were roughly divided as eight for Carter and four for Kennedy.

But it’s one thing for “Uncommitted” or “None of the above” to do well in primaries and caucuses. It would be far more interesting if that option performed well (or even won) in November. But that hasn’t happened yet.

Q: Do you know where I can find the roll call vote on the censure of Joe McCarthy? Different sources have given different results. One had it 67-20, another at 67-22. One had Milliken of Colo. voting yes, while another rightwing list of the 22 “heroes” who voted no included him as one, along with Cordon of Ore. But another source said Cordon didn’t vote. — Jeff Rundell, Seattle, Wash.

A: On Dec. 2, 1954, the Senate, in a lame duck session, voted to “condemn” McCarthy, the aggressive, often reckless, anti-Communist warrior from Wisconsin, by a vote of 67-22. The day before, the Senate voted 67-20 to approve the language of the Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections that McCarthy abused the committee’s staff. There was also another vote, by a 64-24 margin, focused on a second count. But the final vote on McCarthy by the Senate — which decided to replace the word censure with “condemn” — was 67-22. Both Milliken and Cordon stuck with McCarthy.

The GOP vote was split, 22-22. Here were the 22 Republicans who supported McCarthy and voted no: Goldwater (Ariz.), Knowland (Calif.), Kuchel (Calif.), Milliken (Colo.), Purtell (Conn.), Dworshak (Idaho), Welker (Idaho), Dirksen (Ill.), Jenner (Ind.), Hickenlooper (Iowa), Schoeppel (Kansas), Butler (Md.), Hruska (Neb.), Malone (Nev.), Brown (Nev.), Bridges (N.H.), Langer (N.D.), Young (N.D.), Cordon (Ore.), Martin (Pa.), Mundt (S.D.) and Barrett (Wyo.).

Capehart (Ind.) and Bricker (Ohio) didn’t vote but they announced in advance they were against the resolution.

And here are the 22 Republicans who voted yes: Bush (Conn.), Williams (Del.), Carlson (Kansas), Cooper (Ky.), Payne (Me.), Smith (Me.), Beall (Md.), Saltonstall (Mass.), Ferguson (Mich.), Potter (Mich.), Thye (Minn.), Abel (Neb.), Cotton (N.H.), Hendrickson (N.J.), Smith (N.J.), Ives (N.Y.), Duff (Pa.), Case (S.D.), Bennett (Utah), Watkins (Utah), Aiken (Vt.) and Flanders (Vt.).

McCarthy voted present. Alexander Wiley, his Wisconsin colleague, didn’t announce a vote.

Every Democrat voted yes, or announced in favor of the resolution, except for John Kennedy of Mass. Kennedy, whose father was a strong McCarthy supporter, underwent spinal surgery on Oct. 21 and did not announce a position on the resolution.

Q: I recently listened to your May 18th episode of the podcast and was amused that you celebrated your 300th with a cake in the shape of Arizona, and specifically referenced Yuma. Certainly Arizona is in the news often enough for the wrong reasons – but I was wondering if there was something specific that inspired your Arizona shaped cake! — Marilee Malmberg, Grassroots Director, Arizona Democratic Party, Phoenix, Ariz.

A: For (far too) many of our podcast episodes, whenever my partner in crime Ron Elving would mention Arizona, or we would be talking about Arizona, I would invariably reply with, “That’s great, because I have a sense of Yuma.” Yes, I know, I know, the joke is not funny, but that never kept me from saying it … over and over and over. That explains the cake. And now you know everything.

Q: I have a button that says “I like Judge Sutton and rice pudding too!” Can you tell me the history/story? — Allen Johnston, Franklin, Tenn.

A: This question actually came up once before, believe it or not, back in the Nov. 1, 2005 Political Junkie column. (I’m not kidding: click here to read it.) As it so happens, the question arrived back when Harriet Miers was a potential choice of President Bush for the Supreme Court. My answer back then was so clever that it’s worth repeating:

A: To the best of my understanding, Miers left no paper trail about her views on rice pudding. Maybe that’s why conservatives “deserted” her.

Well, maybe not as funny as I thought. In any event, I’m thinking of illustrating some unknown campaign buttons as a kind-of-regular feature in Political Junkie. I’ll put ‘em up, you tell me who they are. And if you can identify any of them, you get your name in this column. (It sure beats winning a non-existent t-shirt.)

Disappearing act. Well, there were these, um, medical issues last week that kept me away from both the Political Junkie segment on TOTN (from Aspen, no less) and the It’s All Politics podcast. It was not the greatest of weeks. But there was a Political Junkie column (focusing on Charlie Rangel’s primary in N.Y.) and a ScuttleButton puzzle as well. ScuttleButton, America’s favorite waste-of-time button puzzle, can usually be found in this spot every Monday or Tuesday. A randomly selected winner will be announced every Wednesday during the Political Junkie segment on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. You still have time to submit your answer to last week’s contest, which you can see here. Not only is there incredible joy in deciphering the answer, but the winner gets a TOTN T-shirt!

Last week’s winner: Keith Dyer of Orlando, Fla.

Also: With the 4th of July holiday falling on Wednesday, the Political Junkie segment on TOTN this week will appear on Tuesday, July 3rd. Set your watch!

ON THE CALENDAR:

July 31 — Georgia primary. Texas runoff primary.

Aug. 2 — Tennessee primary.

Aug. 7 — Primaries in Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Washington.

Aug. 11 — Hawaii primary.

Aug. 14 — Primaries in Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Aug. 21 — Wyoming primary.

Aug. 27-30 — Republican National Convention, Tampa, Fla.

Aug. 28 — Primaries in Alaska, Arizona and Vermont.

Mailing list. To receive a weekly email alert about the new column and ScuttleButton puzzle, contact me at politicaljunkie@npr.org.

******* Don’t Forget: If you are sending in a question to be used in this column, please include your city and state. *********

This day in political history: Hours after the House votes 289-126 to amend the Senate version, President Lyndon Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law. Johnson, in a nationally televised address, called on all Americans “to join in this effort to bring justice and hope to all our people — and to bring peace to our land.” In the House, 153 Democrats and 136 Republicans vote to approve the bill; 35 Republicans and 91 Democrats are opposed. Meanwhile, the ceremony in the East Room of the White House is tempered by the fact that three civil rights workers who had gone missing near Philadelphia, Miss., since June 21, have still not been found (July 2, 1964). On Aug, 4, the bodies of the three workers — Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney — are found in a shall grave six miles southwest of Philadelphia.

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: politicaljunkie@npr.org [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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