Washington Libertarian Review

Political commentary from the State of Washington with a libertarian perspective.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Re: Once Again, Incumbents Are the Big Winners

This past Tuesday the CATO Institute offered this commentary on the House of Representatives' election. Essentially it argues that campaign finance laws and other privileges of incumbency virtually guarantee reelection.


Here is the question: Did the BCRA (which led to an inordinate proliferation of so-called "527" organizations--e.g., Swift Boat Veterans) help or hurt incumbents?

In one sense the proof is in the results. 98% of all incumbents won reelection.

But on the other hand, the ability of either a candidate or a party to control the conduct of a particular campaign has largely been undermined by these issue based 527s. The whole reason they escape regulation is because they have no connection to the campaigns. As such they have no limits and no accountability to the campaigns.

So, I must wonder whether campaign financing reform is but the tail wagging the dog.

Second Recount anyone?

After 2400 more ballots magically appeared during the machine recount Rossi's lead is now a mere 42 votes.

The Ds may ask for a hand recount to the tune of 25 cents a ballot, or $702,085.50 for the whole state. On the other hand they may ask for the recount only in King County, in which Gregoire picked up 593 votes to Rossi's 348 extra. But the cost to recount King County alone will still be $224,643.50. This, by the way, is $82,357.50 more than the governor's annual salary.

Frankly, I think the strategy may backfire. If, as I believe, the Democratic voter is generally more civically minded than the Repubican voter s/he is more likely to know how to properly complete his/her ballot. Thus, to the extent there are mismarked ballots that escaped the machine recount, I think they more likely will be ballots cast for Rossi.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Re: President Bush succeeded in selling ‘theology of war’

The Tacoma News Tribune offers an interesting piece on the political strategy that arguably won Bush the White House. Professors David Domke and Kevin Coe argue "Under the mantle of a 'war on terrorism,' the president and his administration have converged a religious fundamentalist worldview with a political agenda."

These two have analyzed Presidential speeches for several decades and found that Bush claims divine intervention in a way only touched upon by Reagan. Although they do not present their findings in a scientific way, the approach is an interesting one.

All Presidents have, at one time or other, called upon God to lead the nation through a crisis. Bush, the writers argue, has essentially claimed that God has called Bush to lead the nation through a crisis of terrorism. No recent President has ever done this before, they say.

Theologists generally call it divine mission. Secularists generally call it megalomania.

Disclosure: I am a practicing and faithful Christian. I understand the Muslim faith is fundamentally at odds with Christianity. I also understand that certain radical Muslims have declared war on America. And that calls for appropriate defensive strategies. What it doesn't call for is an invasion of a Muslim country that hasn't been shown to have been harboring the terrorists responsible for 9/11, on a pretext that proved to be unfounded, impose a police state that really isn't much different from Saddam's and then to play basketball in its mosque sanctuaries.

The fundamental teaching of Jesus is love, not war. I agree with the secularists.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Two recounts?

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports this AP story: Recount begins _ and there may be two. Apparently both the Ds and Rs are saying, if they don't like the outcome of the machine recount they will ask for a hand recount.

For those of you who are wondering, a hand recount will cost $700,000. The governor's job pays $142,286 per year. Thus, it may cost more to figure out who is Governor and it would be to have a Governor. I say let's just call it a draw and leave the office vacant for 4 years.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Ninth Circuit grants attorney fees in blanket primary case

Today, in a 16 page opinion the Ninth Circuit awarded attorney fees to all three political parties in connection with appeal of the blanket primary lawsuit. The district court has reserved ruling on the attorney fees for the original case until the Ninth Circuit had ruled. Now, there will likely be a short delay and we should have a second award shortly.

The Governor's race gets murky.

With a mere 19 votes among nearly 2.5 million separating Rossi and Gregoire (today anyway) The Seattle Times reports an impending hand recount and the very real possibility of a second lawsuit against Yakima County for doing to the Republicans what King County was alleged to be doing to the Democrats, i.e., rejecting invalid provisional ballots without attempting to contact the voter to correct the invalidity.

More and more people are wondering aloud what effect Ruth Bennett's candidacy had on the race. I hve been saying uniformly that the Libertarian strategy this year was to appeal to the liberal voters by emphasizing parts of the Libertarian platform that would appeal to civil rights and freedom of lifestyle advocates. Thus, it has been, and is, my contention that Ruth took more votes from the Gregoire than from Rossi.

Now, I am wondering whether there may be a backlash from the Secretary of State's office if this does go to a hand recount. That is to say, if Ruth's presence in the race caused a dead heat among the frontrunners, some may argue that Ruth should not have been in the race. That would be a pity, of course. My fingers are crossed that my fears are unfounded.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Problems alleged in IRV vote

The Sacramento Bee reports that pre-election surveys of absentee voters and Election Day exit polls in San Francisco found that white voters liked Instant Runoff Voting but a majority of minority voters, particularly Chinese voters, either disliked or had no opinion of it.

The article also suggests there may be some reliability problems in the polling. Nonetheless, it may be that IRV (which has been endorsed by the LPWS) will have trouble gaining acceptance in the very places it is designed to help most.

Disclosure: I believe IRV favors expensive, consensus based campaigns and will not be the panacea that most minor party activists think it will be.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Another report on the King Co. provisional ballot dispute

The News Tribune reports: King County Republican Party Chairwoman Pat Herbold saying, "if Gregoire retakes the lead and wins, Republicans should consider suing to invalidate the election on the grounds that similar steps should have been taken in counties sending most of their votes to Rossi."

Friday, November 12, 2004

Governor's race: Judge rules for Dems on rejected ballots

According to The Seattle Times Paul Berendt had tears running down his face.

Governor race may end up in court

The Seattle Times reports rising tempers and tensions in King County as the provisional ballot counting comes down to the wire.

The Democratic Party has filed suit and a court hearing is reportedly being held as this blog is written regarding whether the Democrats are going to get a look at 929 rejected provisional ballots to see if they can contact the voter to correct them. Apparently some counties in Eastern Washington allowed the Republican Party to do just that.

Reminds me of the fable of the cat and mouse who were friends until the food was all gone.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Interesting article regarding the (soon to visit Washington) Louisiana primary

Jeff Sadow, writing in the Bayou Buzz, notes that in all races involving a white Democrat and a black Democrat no party officials endorsed a black candidate. Sadow continues:

"This action reveals once again the dirty secret of the state Democrat Party – it has not ever really cared about furthering black political interests in Louisiana. Sure, it will use blacks through the blanket primary system to support white Democrats, but when it comes to a question of fairness or equality in treatment of black candidates in Louisiana, most white state Democrat leaders are AWOL."

The reason the Louisiana Democrats can get away with this is that the primary system used in Louisiana (and which may soon visit Washington) favors money and popularity over principles and ideals. Secondarily, the system weakens internal party accountability, because the party has only a peripheral role in the nomination process.

The story of the Washington State primary isn't over. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Re: No room for error in death penalty cases

There is no doubt the primary obligation of the state supreme court is to apply the law. Yet the Tacoma NewsTribune chastises Justice Richard Sanders for defending the law, and would have the court ignore this constitutional and moral imperative when the facts are right. Agreeing that Cecil Davis should be re-sentenced because a juror saw him in shackles, it argues ironically that he is not entitled to a new trial because, well, a juror saw him in shackles.

It may be, in fact, that the evidence of Davis' guilt was "overwhelming." But to suggest that the facts should overcome the law is to beg the question why the law exists in the first place. In the classic movie "A Man for All Seasons" Sir Thomas More explains in a dialogue with the man who would later accuse More, falsely, of treason.

More: "What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: "Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!"
More: "Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"

Roper ultimately subscribed to the law of expedience and More ultimately lost his head in casualty to Roper's ambition.

The News Tribune is arguing for expedience. Today Davis' head is on the block. But tomorrow whose head will be there? Can we afford to cut down the law for expedience's sake? I hope and pray we have not yet come to that.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Phoenix rising

Despite the loss of MP status, talk about 2006 is already occurring.

Probably the most positive result of the 2004 election is that the LP has shown it can "run to the left" as well as to the right. LP Governor candidate Ruth Bennett made issues dearer to liberals the centerpiece of her campaign and she has gained the balance of power in that race.

This should disabuse the media of the myth that the LP takes votes only from the Republican Party. The public may take more time. It also demonstrates, regardless of MP status, the LP is a force that needs to be acknowledged and its interests accounted for.

Talk is now making the rounds that the LP should approach either the Ds or the Rs to discuss ways that LP interests can be accommodated within the context of either the D or R agenda. No, I am not talking about a coalition or joint venture. Rather, I am talking about embracing the so-called "spoiler" role and targeting specific candidates and races, or not, depending on what Ds or the Rs are willing to do to accommodate LP interests.

There is some logic to this strategy. Call it what you will, "spoiling" or "participating," the fact is the most the LP is able to do consistently is sway the majority to candidates of another party. Some argue for this reason that the LP should drop out of the close races. But that negates the LP's very purpose of being, which is to bring about political change.

Time will tell whether the Ds or Rs are interested.

A second idea is also making the rounds, the "campaign in a box." Here the idea is to develop a set of campaign materials (brochures, speech scripts, voter pamphlet statements, etc.) around a specific platform, say, cutting taxes or de-criminalizing drugs. Anyone willing to run on the LP banner as a "paper" candidate will have little to do but distribute the materials already prepared. If even that is too much trouble someone at LP HQ can do it for him/her.

This is also a good idea. However, it will be only as effective as the underlying support system.

Finally, even though I think these are ideas worth a try, I don't think they should be tried at the expense of the more basic activities -- i.e., membership, fundraising, getting out the vote. The question is whether we can assemble the resources to make it all happen.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The morning after

Here are some random observations:

It appears the Libertarian Party's best showing was in the Lt. Governor's position, in which, once again, our candidate advocated abolishing the office.

Over 200,000 more votes were cast in Washington in 2004 than were cast in 2000, roughly a 10% increase. It appears there was no corresponding increase in LP support. About 700,000 votes remain to be counted. But it appears doubtful any LP candidate will turn in 5%.

The governor's race is still too close to call. I think we can safely bet, however, that the Republicans will not be able to blame a loss on Bennett, as Gorton did on Jared. Fact is, Bennett ran a distinctly left leaning campaign, and probably took more votes from Gregoire than from Rossi.

This years' legal battleground state over election procedures will be Ohio.
We may take some consolation in the fact that the Hanford cleanup initiative did better than the Louisiana primary initiative.

My prior post regarding 2006 LPWS strategy will have to be substantially reworked. Whatever media attention we have been receiving will drop off significantly.

The first order of business for the LPWS will be to determine what the ballot access rules will be under the new regime, be it "Louisiana" or some other model. The legislature has heretofore been stymied by conflict over the issue, although that could change in the wake of the I-872 vote. More likely, legal challenges brought by the Ds and Rs will be the determining factor.

The second order of business will be to develop a serious and disciplined "get-out-the-vote" strategy for 2006. To be sure, membership and fundraising are still important. But, in my opinion, the LPWS is a minor party again because it had no significant GOTV program in 2004.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

First Impressions on Election Night

Preliminary results are in and they are dismal.

The LPWS has probably lost major party status and may have to revert to nominating conventions in 2006.

I-872 has passed. There will almost certainly be a legal challenge. However, one basis for challenge is that the LPWS will have the power, as a minor party, to nominate its candidates and the Ds & Rs arguably will not have that power. So, this time we may wind up on opposite sides of a suit. Alternatively, we may still be on the same side, all three parties arguing the right to nominate against the AG and the Grange. Deja vu.