Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
Posts tagged "Politics"

Through the long telescope of history, then, the ground between Reagan and Johnson appears vast, the distance between two opposite visions from two opposite moments in time. And it is the distance, as well, between two opposite types of men. It is hard to think of two Presidents in modern history, after all, who approached the office more differently than Reagan and Johnson. Johnson was among the most hyperactive executives the White House had ever seen, always seeking to put his fingerprints on every last scrap of administration business no matter how large or small…

…That would never be Reagan — an actor learns early the benefits of a good night’s sleep. From his earliest days in politics, Reagan was supremely confident in his own abilities as an executive. He had come to prominence in a career in which he constantly had to give up control — to producers and directors and studio bosses, to makeup designers and camera operators and press agents, to critics and millions of anonymous strangers who would form consequential opinions of him as they watched on distant screens. When he began his political career in the mid-1960s, he took to the disaggregated life of a political candidate quickly. Most first-time candidates struggle to adapt to the existence in which they must surrender control of their lives to other people. Reagan had been doing it for years. He understood an important distinction that Johnson never grasped: being in control and being successful aren’t always the same thing…

Each was a gifted performer and raconteur who could captivate an audience. But they excelled in different settings. Johnson was best in person. He was overwhelming, always, and his conversations hummed with transactional momentum. He told involved and engaging Texas tall tales, but he usually told them in order to drive home a pertinent point. He made use of his large girth and six-foot-three-inch frame. All the clichéd metaphors of politics — glad-handing, buttonholing, back stroking, arm twisting — were things Johnson actually, physically did in order to get his way. His greatest asset was his intuitive sensitivity to human emotion, his unmatched ability to spot people’s highest ambitions and their darkest fears. Even Alabama Governor George Wallace, one of the twentieth century’s most notorious racial demagogues, found himself mesmerized by an impassioned Oval Office conference with Johnson in the midst of a tense 1965 standoff over racial protests in Wallace’s home state. “Hell,” said Wallace afterward, “if I’d stayed in there much longer, he’d have had me coming out for civil rights.”

A conversation with Reagan, on the other hand, was usually pleasant and entirely superficial. In his early days as a politician, supporters would often walk away from first encounters with candidate Reagan disappointed. He’d told funny jokes, they’d laughed heartily, they’d had a ball. But they couldn’t remember much if any substance to what he’d said. The problem wasn’t that Reagan was an empty suit; rather, he struggled to connect with people when they came too close. Even his own children encountered a fog in their father’s eyes when they greeted him in a room. He was friendly, but he gave the impression that he was meeting them for the first time.

He was better with an audience watching him. Better still if they were watching him on a television screen from the comfort of their own homes. In these moments, he was great. He launched his 1966 campaign for governor with a thirty-minute television advertisement in which he pensively strolled around a comfortable living room. It was all so wonderfully familiar and authentic. There were pictures on the wall and a fire in the fireplace; Reagan’s sharp, pithy summation of California’s and the nation’s problems seemed to come to him spontaneously, a kindly father figure opining on issues of the day. None of it was real — the sentences were scripted and the living room was a studio set. But Californians didn’t mind; they were starting to expect their politicians to be great performers on TV.

Television was taking over politics in the midsixties. Anyone who’d lived through the Kennedy years could see that. Johnson could see that, and he worked tirelessly to adapt, but never with much success. As President, he obsessed over his televised press conferences, bringing in a shifting cast of experts for coaching on his diction, his posture, his eyewear. But his problem was fundamental: performing for a TV camera, he could never do what he did in person, he couldn’t see his audience and adapt his personality accordingly. And that introduced a terrifying possibility: that the people watching would see him as himself.

Johnson and Reagan, then, were both stars, but stars of different eras. It is difficult to fit them inside a single picture — when the mind focuses on one of them, the other becomes a blur. Even in the lore of practical politics, where both names have assumed vaunted status in recent years, they inhabit separate realms. Reagan is the President that politicians from both parties publicly say they admire — principled, noble, and strong. But Johnson is the President they secretly long to be — ruthless, effective, a man who got big things done.

Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America by Jonathan Darman (BOOK | KINDLE), Available Tuesday, September 23rd from Random House

No American has ever had more success as a Presidential candidate than Franklin D. Roosevelt and, barring a change in the Constitution, no one ever will.  After unseating incumbent President Herbert Hoover in 1932, FDR won one of the largest landslides in American history in 1936 against Kansas Governor Alf Landon.  In 1940, Roosevelt broke the unwritten two-term tradition set forth by George Washington and followed by all of Roosevelt’s predecessors to win an unprecedented third term.  In 1944, with the nation in the middle of World War II, FDR shot down questions about his clearly deteriorating health to win his fourth Presidential election.  Roosevelt died 82 days into his fourth and final term.  In each of Roosevelt’s Presidential election victories, FDR won a significant majority of the popular vote and four clear-cut landslides in the Electoral College.

Ironically, FDR — the most successful Presidential candidate in American history — also happens to be the only President to have lost a campaign for the VICE Presidency.  Throughout President Woodrow Wilson’s Administration, which included World War I, Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a position that Roosevelt’s famous distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, had used as one of the springboards for his career.

Loyalty to President Wilson and Roosevelt’s own unique charisma and appeal made FDR a rising star in the Democratic Party.  At the 1920 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, Ohio Governor James M. Cox emerged as a compromise Presidential nominee to the deadlocked Convention and the Democrats nominated the 38-year-old Roosevelt as Vice President.

FDR was a workhorse and campaigned tirelessly throughout the nation as an advocate for Cox as well as for the previous eight years of Democratic rule under the Wilson Administration.  The country, however, was ready for a change and drifted towards Cox’s opponent and fellow Ohioan, Senator Warren G. Harding.  Harding and his Vice President, Calvin Coolidge, defeated Cox and Roosevelt in November, but FDR had made an impact on the Americans who heard him speak during the hours and hours of speeches that he had given during his tens of thousands of miles of travel throughout the 1920 campaign.  The next time FDR was on a national ticket, the results were different.  With his name on top of the ballot, Franklin Delano Roosevelt would never lose another campaign again.

To this day, not only has a losing Vice Presidential candidate never been elected President, but only one losing Vice Presidential candidate besides FDR — 1976 Republican Vice Presidential nominee Bob Dole — has come back to even won his or her party’s nomination as President.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
That Duck Dynasty guy was on Bill O'Riley's show and said the only way to beat ISIS is to convert them or kill them. Obama doesn't have a strategy. Who is right?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

First of all, nobody on Duck Dynasty should ever be taken seriously, especially when it comes to foreign policy. “Convert them or kill them” is literally the exact same mission statement that ISIS has. So, fuck Duck Dynasty and everybody involved in it. This issue probably shouldn’t be decided by someone on a reality show who is just as religiously fanatic as the ISIS terrorists, but instead of having ridiculous beards and beheading people, they have ridiculous beards and have something to do with ducks (I assume that’s what they are about. I’ve never watched the show because I’m not…you know…an idiot.)

As for President Obama not having a strategy, that’s not accurate; the Obama White House just has the worst Communications team in Presidential history. It’s actually remarkable how terrible Obama’s Communications strategy has been — for BOTH terms — considering the main strategy of the 2008 election was telling personal stories and delivering a solid message. I sat in Camp Obama in San Francisco for three days in August 2007 learning the importance of message, message, message, and seven years later (Holy shit, seven years!?), the Obama White House fumbles everything that it doesn’t punt. In 2012, I did a semi-live blog of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, and this is what I wrote when Bill Clinton spoke:

"Clinton is just straight breaking down everything that’s happened from 2009 until today, why it has happened, and what it means for you. If he can’t be President anymore, can we just have him explain everything that our government does? Would anyone have an issue with that?"

As I said back then, can’t we just make Bill Clinton the National “Where’s What Happened?” Czar?

One last point about ISIS or ISIL or IS (for a barbaric terrorist group with such high-quality production value, you’d think they’d do a better job of branding) — it’s not that the Obama Administration doesn’t have a strategy; they just don’t know how to explain the fact that this can’t ever be a traditional war or military intervention. ISIS isn’t going to throw away their arms, shed their uniforms, and run into the desert. ISIS isn’t going to renounce their ways and there isn’t going to be some de-ISISfication. ISIS isn’t going to be pounded into submission, sign a peace treaty on a warship, and then train to be a legitimate police force. ISIS is the Mujahideen in Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion. ISIS is those Japanese soldiers in World War II who wouldn’t surrender and wouldn’t believe anybody who told them that the Emperor DID surrender, so they kept hiding in some jungle on a remote Pacific island for 40 years. ISIS isn’t a group of Iraqis or Syrians fomenting terror against their own government. ISIS is a band of terrorists from all over the globe — including Americans and the British — who genuinely believe that they are creating an Islamic Caliphate that will take over the world. Syria and Iraq isn’t the goal; it’s their launching pad.

I don’t know how to solve the problem. I know that the United States can’t do it alone, and I know that a coalition should include a significant, leading role for the Arab states because they should be scared to death by ISIS. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Jordan, Egypt — they should all realize that they are next on the ISIS list. But that coalition needs to be built soon and it needs to be built carefully because what happens if ISIS attacks Israel? Israel won’t hesitate to fight back or to protect itself, and then we’d see Israel’s traditional enemies in a position where they can’t fight ISIS overtly because allying themselves with Israel would be unpopular with the Muslim majorities within their countries. And that would open up even more opportunities for ISIS to gain footholds in other countries in the region and destabilize it even further. This is a frightening situation.   

"But from the front of the room, these squabbles in the crowd, even the crowd itself, were probably all a blur. Reagan never looked too closely at his audiences. Since childhood, he’d been frightfully nearsighted. His parents paid for thick eyeglasses, which he wore dutifully, but without them, his visible world was mostly blotches of color and drifting shapes. He had adapted without much questioning, the way that children can, forgoing baseball for football, a sport in which you didn’t have to see well enough to hit a tiny ball, only well enough to hit another player.

He’d started his show business career on radio, where his audience was invisible. At the audition for his first job at the Davenport, Iowa, station WOC, the Scottish-born program director had explained how things worked. ‘That’s the mike in front of ye,’ he said. ‘Ye won’t be able to see me but I’ll be listenin’. Good luck.’

In Hollywood, too, seeing had never been that important. Arriving in Southern California in the late 1930s, he’d looked up Joy Hodges, an acquaintance from back home who was working as an actress in the film colony. ‘I have visions of becoming an actor,’ he confessed to her. ‘What I really want it a screen test.’ Hodges looked at the man in front of her — dressed like the Midwest, unsophisticated in the ways of the world, but tall, broad-shouldered, and undeniably handsome. ‘I think I might be able to fix something,’ she said. ‘Just don’t ever put those glasses on again.’

So he’d learned to get by without seeing things too closely. In time, it became the habit of his life. Eventually, he’d gotten contact lenses. Though they could correct his vision, their effect was strangely limited. His children, rushing into a room at day’s end to greet their father, would find him looking puzzled, as if they were strangers. Have we met? It was as if, after all the years of seeing ill-defined blotches, the part of his brain that processed the particulars of a person’s face had corroded irreparably due to lack of use. Or maybe it had never been there at all. Once, at his son Michael’s high school graduation, where he was the commencement speaker, he’d greeted a line of graduates. ‘My name is Ronald Reagan,’ he said to a grinning boy in cap and gown. ‘What’s yours?’ The graduate removed his cap. ‘Remember me? I’m your son, Mike.’”

—From Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America by Jonathan Darman (BOOK | KINDLE), available from Random House on September 23rd

I’m very excited about receiving my copy of this new book, Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America by Jonathan Darman (BOOK | KINDLE). I’m pretty confident that it is going to be a great read, so check it out when it it released on September 23rd via Random House.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What if we had McRaven/Petraeus for a third party?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Third-party candidacies for the Presidency are very difficult, so a major party nomination would be the way to go. Third-party candidates not only have to establish their party and platform, but have to work extra hard to ensure that they have a place on the ballot in all 50 states once Election Day rolls around. It’s not impossible, but it isn’t easy. Plus, third-party candidates — especially if it were a candidate like Admiral McRaven or General Petraeus — would siphon votes off from the Republican nominee and Democratic nominee, and it would likely result in one of the major party candidates winning the election with a minority of votes which makes the new President pretty weak from the outset. In a three-way race (in Presidential politics), one of the major parties will almost always win because they have a stronger and more expansive base than a brand-new third-party trying to build on a foundation that isn’t very solid yet. For a third-party Presidential candidate to have a serious chance of being elected, that third-party needs to have been extant for at least one or two previous election cycles. That gives the third-party a chance to establish name recognition, demonstrate the party’s ideology, raise money, build organizations throughout the country, and, hopefully, elect officials to offices further down the ballot (House, Senate, Governor) prior to running a candidate with a real shot at the Presidency.

Also, a McRaven/Petraeus ticket would be far too top-heavy when it comes to the military. If Admiral McRaven (or General Petraeus) were the Presidential nominee, it would make better sense politically to balance the ticket with a civilian. If the goal was to run a ticket that wasn’t “politics as usual” (which would be the best strategy), I’d suggest picking a business leader as the running mate. If not a business leader, I’d steer clear of Congress and recommend a politician not tarnished by Washington’s toxic political climate — a statewide elected official such as a Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Attorney General, or even someone from the Judiciary. But if I’m a political strategist or party leader, I wouldn’t run two military commanders — even two commanders as capable and respected as Admiral McRaven and General Petraeus — together on the same ticket.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
If the Republican Party shot itself in the foot in October and through some miracle, Democtats took both chambers of congress, do you think Obama would be able to get anything important done, or is he already too far gone now?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Well, let’s be clear, for the Democrats to miraculously win both chambers of Congress in November, it would require a more serious wound than the GOP shooting itself in the foot. Both parties shoot each of their members in both feet almost as a requirement for taking your seat in the House and Senate; so, it’s definitely not happening.

But, yes, if Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, President Obama would still have time to get some things done — roughly from the day the new Congressional session began (January 3, 2015) until the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in the summer of 2016. After the nominating conventions, all eyes turn to the general election, of course, but more crucially, members of Congress (particularly the House since all members face re-election) focus on their own campaigns and get very cautious. But for those 18 months or so, the President could definitely get some things done, and would be smart to push through immigration reform and try to shore up the liberal side of the Supreme Court since it’s up-in-the-air who the next President will be and it’s impossible to say whether there would be favorable conditions for confirmation in the 115th Congress that starts in 2017.

It’s not happening, though. And, conversely, if the Republicans win both chambers of Congress on November 4th, President Obama becomes a lame-duck President before he eats breakfast on the morning of November 5th. 

That was a lengthy response, but it didn't really answer my question of: *why* is Jeb Bush the best candidate? You mention the electoral college, but would he really fare much better there than Christie? Bush would win Florida, but he wouldn't stand a chance in states like NJ or PA (which Christie would put in play) The Bushes are a tarnished brand with moderates and independents, and he won't go over well with the base (especially on immigration, which they just mutinied Cantor over). So--why?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Don’t mistake the noisy Tea Party movement and the extremists in the Republican Party as the GOP’s base. They make the most noise, but they don’t cast the most votes, especially in a general election — particularly a Presidential one. Cantor got knocked off, but that’s one guy in one district. Lamar Alexander — a far more moderate Republican easily beat back a challenge tonight in Tennessee from his right, and Pat Roberts did the same thing in Kansas on Tuesday. If those two Senators hadn’t been successful in states where the Tea Party/Libertarian element has been progressing quite strongly over the past couple of years then I might re-think a moderate Republican’s ability to win the GOP nomination in 2016.

Listen, it’s not that some of the other Presidential contenders who are mentioned — Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, etc, etc, etc — can’t win the GOP nomination. It’s definitely possible that they could, but none of them can win the actual election, and as out-of-touch as the two major political parties might seem, neither of them are going to nominate somebody who they know don’t have a shot at winning the election. And I don’t think Christie could even win the nomination. He’s damaged. Sure, he might do fine in the tri-state area, but it’s going to take more than those three states to clinch the GOP nomination, and it’s certainly not going to win him the general election. That bridge deal really hurt Christie in areas where he definitely would have been the top choice immediately after the 2012 election — he’s not a member of Congress and he’s not a Bush, so I’m sure many Republicans were dying to support him. But he screwed up at the wrong time and he’s way more damaged from that scandal than Jeb Bush is by his family. Plus, George H.W. Bush is the most popular ex-President alive today and George W. Bush’s reputation and approval rating has been rising because he’s been scarce, he’s largely been out of the political game, and all former Presidents gain in popularity the further away from their term they get.

The “why” isn’t much deeper than this: the Republicans want to win, and they cannot win with Christie because I simply don’t think there’s enough time for him to rehabilitate himself by the time the Republican primary season hits full swing. If he had another year, yes, he’d probably be able to get back to where he was in November 2012. But he doesn’t, and he can’t. The GOP wants to win and, right now, if we’re looking at the list of contenders most often mentioned for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, Jeb Bush is simply the best bet. 

We are still a long way away from the Presidential election cycle truly kicking off. We’re not even to the midterms yet, and that will have major implications on the next two years and the Presidential race. So, all of this can and will probably change. But, today, in August 2014, it’s Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney if the GOP wants to actually win the White House and not just nominate somebody that those noisy people like. The extremists are not the base in either party, and the power lies with the base because the votes lie with the base. If the moderates and independents were the minority in the Republican Party, Mitt Romney and John McCain wouldn’t have been the last two Presidential nominees, John Boehner wouldn’t be Speaker, and Cantor’s primary defeat would have been the barometer for this midterm election cycle and not the exception.

With Presidential politics, it’s usually not much deeper than the fact that the party will nominate the person who gives them the best chance to win and Jeb Bush is that person over everyone else because of the Electoral College math; Jeb Bush is that person over Chris Christie specifically because Christie is damaged nationally from the bridge scandal and doesn’t have enough time to repair that damage; and Jeb Bush is that person because the Bush name won’t damage him as much as some people think, especially if the candidate that the other side is nominating is named “Clinton”. I guess the second part of that last sentence is more of the “why” that you’re asking for, but honestly, the first part of the sentence is a “why”, too. It’s frustrating and seems silly that something so important can be answered with such a broad statement, but sometimes in politics the reason that a candidate can’t win is simply that a candidate can’t win. It can sound dismissive or like someone is trying to dodge the question, but that is often the explanation; Chris Christie can’t win because Chris Christie can’t win.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I've honestly been wondering this for so long. Why do people give Biden so much crap, and make him the butt of a lot of jokes?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Vice Presidents always tend to be easy targets and since Biden is so affable and open, people seem to underestimate him. Quite frankly, I don’t know where the Obama Administration would be without Vice President Biden. It’s no secret that Obama has been terrible with building relationships with Congress (and that’s certainly not solely his fault), and can be aloof at times because that’s just one of his personality characteristics — he’s not cold, he’s just a very serious, focused, cautious person. On the other hand, Biden is open and candid — sometimes to a fault — and it makes it easy to poke fun at him. Biden lacks a filter and often says things that he probably shouldn’t say — not necessarily because he’s saying something inappropriate, but more so because he’s so authentic. Like I said, some people find that to be a fault, but I find that to be incredibly refreshing, especially in a political leader who has basically spent his entire adult life in elective office.

But Biden has built bridges between the White House and Congress that have helped accomplish the big things that the Obama Administration has actually been able to get done. That’s because of Biden’s masterful political skills and the relationships and connections that Biden forged through nearly 40 years in the Senate. Biden likes to be underestimated because Biden knows exactly how gifted he is. He has never lacked that confidence — not even when he first ran for the Senate. I mean, Joe Biden is a guy who was so confident in himself that he ran for the Senate (and won) even though he wasn’t yet Constitutionally eligible to actually take his seat until a few weeks after the election.

Plus, a lot of people don’t truly know Joe Biden’s story. They know that he’s been around forever and that he spent decades in the Senate, but he’s never been the stereotypical fat cat incumbent clinging to his spot on Capitol Hill. Biden has always been active, always been a fighter, and always been straightforward. Biden earned everything that he has ever obtained and he worked for the people of his constituency in Delaware every day since his 1972 election, and he’s continued that work on behalf of the people of the United States every single day since he was elected Vice President. I wish that everyone would read more about Joe Biden, learn his story, and see how much he has overcome and how hard he has worked to get to where he is today — Jules Witcover’s Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption (BOOK | KINDLE) is a great place to start.

On a personal basis, I don’t hesitate to stay that Vice President Biden is probably my favorite politician alive today; it’s a close race between Biden and Bill Clinton. But from a professional standpoint — removing any of my personal biases or political beliefs from the equation — I think Joe Biden is probably the best Vice President in American history. Dick Cheney was a more powerful Vice President, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into excellence. Al Gore was the most influential VP up to that point, but his relationship with President Clinton wasn’t as symbiotic as Biden and Obama’s. Barack Obama is the mind and the conscience of the Obama Administration, but Joe Biden is the heart and soul.  

Asker Anonymous Asks:
The challenger who tried to unseat Thad Cochran in MS blamed his defeat in the primary runoff to democrats who voted in the primary and helped Cochran win. What do you think of that possibility and should elections like that be overturned?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Mississippi’s two U.S. Senate seats have been in the hands of Republicans for over a quarter-century — and in the case of Cochran, it’s been held by a Republican (him) for over 35 years.  Mississippi voters recognize that a Democrat isn’t winning that seat anytime soon and if they want to actually make a difference in the election of someone who represents all of them, crossing over and voting for the lesser of two evils (to Democrats and most African-Americans) between the two Republican candidates is their only opportunity to make that difference.  The GOP Senate primary in Mississippi basically decides the general election since the winner is virtually guaranteed to beat the Democratic nominee in November.  When there is a threat of someone like Chris McDaniel — someone who Democrats and African-Americans in Mississippi disagreed with so strongly that they actively supported Thad F’ing Cochran (!) — winning a primary election that would basically clinch him a seat in the U.S. Senate for the next six years, I think it’s a wonderful display of our political system when voters organize themselves in a way that allows them some measure of self-determination.  I don’t know why an election in which that happens would be overturned.  Nobody broke any voting laws and Mississippians were exercising their franchise in the best way possible — to make sure that they played a part in voting for the person they wanted to represent them.

Incidentally, this type of crossover should open the eyes of any groups or people who wonder about the feasibility of creating a new third political party.  It’s one thing if voters are just flat-out fed up and stay home because they don’t care about the candidates, they don’t see any reason to actually go to the polls, and they just don’t care.  But these voters in Mississippi clearly care very much about who is going to represent them. The voters who crossed over are so concerned about who is elected to serve their interests that they went to the polls and voted against someone that they’ve probably voted against throughout their lives in order to have some influence in the political process.  People want alternatives, but the extremists on both sides of the aisle that both Democrats and Republicans actually put forward as alternatives are so unappealing that voters settle for the incumbents that they don’t really like — and, in the case of yesterday’s Mississippi Senate primary, many voters supported an incumbent just because they disagreed with him less than they disagreed with the other guy.  

Every region of this country is ready for a backlash against incumbents as long as the alternative isn’t an extremist.  This nation is ripe for a moderate third political party that draws in independents and the frustrated Democrats and Republicans who don’t really identify with those parties as they stand today.  Building a third party takes time and money, but it can be done and it should be done.  If a third party is organized efficiently in each state and then coordinated on national level, a third party can grow and be successful.  It’s not going to result in a third party candidate being elected President right away, but building the party and coordinating it effectively so that the party earns name-recognition and ballot access will allow the new party to elect candidates on a state level and start making progress.  Two to six years in and that new party would hold seats in Congress and State Legislatures, grab a few Governorships, and be able to position itself for a serious run for the Presidency.  It needs to happen.  The country is ready for it now. 

Asker kray814 Asks:
Has there ever been a true Libertarian president? And if a libertarian won presidency today, how different would this country be?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

No, there hasn’t been a “true Libertarian” President, and if all the Democrats and Republicans were somehow disqualified from running for President in the next election and a Libertarian somehow won, the country wouldn’t change at all.  About 20 minutes after the Libertarian President was inaugurated or received their first major briefings, he or she would realize, “Oh shit, government is really important and totally necessary and even if I wanted to make this a truly Libertarian country I couldn’t do it because there are three branches of government and both of the major parties would actually probably team up to defeat what we’re trying do. Plus, actually instituting drastic changes in order to realize the Libertarian ideal would require a repudiation of Libertarian beliefs because it takes government action to change government policies.”

I’ve had a lot of people try to argue to me that the United States is way more of a Libertarian country than a Republican or Democratic country and that the partisan bickering and constant government gridlock due to the two major parties is turning more-and-more people into Libertarians. That’s an easy one to shoot down:  no Libertarian has ever even come close to being elected President or Vice President and today, in 2014, Libertarians currently hold a grand total of ZERO Governorships, ZERO seats in the U.S. Senate, ZERO seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, ZERO seats in State Senates or upper chambers of State Legislatures, and ZERO seats in State Assemblies or lower chambers of State Legislatures.  In a country where ignorant people use the labels of “socialist” and “Muslim” as if they are bad words, there is an avowed socialist (Bernie Sanders of Vermont) serving in the United States Senate and two Muslims (Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana) serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, but ZERO Libertarians in significant elected positions.  I don’t care how passionate many Libertarians are — and they are very passionate because no one sends me angrier and more annoying hate mail than Libertarians — the Libertarian Party has no effect on American electoral politics.  None whatsoever.  

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Ok I think your Kermit+miss piggy super pac analogy is your greatest contribution yet!!!!
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Thank you.  I wasn’t sure if Tumblr was the place for a hard-hitting, technically-detailed editorial using Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy to explain the Super PACs that are now dominating American politics, so I’m glad it resonated.  

Now, I’m the last person to toot my own horn (inappropriate) and I’m not saying that I deserve any sort of recognition or anything, but when the respective organizations are ready to send me my Pulitzer Prize and Peabody Award, I’ll be happy to pass along my mailing address.  No C.O.D.’s, though. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What do you think of the Super PAC system?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Our entire campaign finance system is a joke.  With Super PACs, I think we should just drop the stupid games and acknowledge what they really are and what really happens with them.  I don’t think anybody truly believes that there is no direct coordination between Super PACs and candidates, especially when Super PACs are directed by people with extremely close connections with specific candidates.  It’s ridiculous.  Just stop insulting our intelligence and acknowledge it for what it actually is. If you’re already doing what you want to do, why do you need to try to trick us into thinking that it’s not what we know it is?

Listen, imagine if Kermit the Frog was running for President and there was a Super PAC called “Building a Green Future" that Miss Piggy was in charge of.  Everyone would probably say, "Hey, I bet they are totally coordinating their campaigns", right?  And no matter how many times Kermit denied any collusion between his campaign and Miss Piggy’s Super PAC, we probably wouldn’t believe him if he kept showing up on MSNBC with Miss Piggy’s lipstick marks all over his stupid face, right?

Well, that’s basically the charade we get with campaigns and Super PACs nowadays, except the candidates aren’t nearly as appealing as Kermit the Frog and there is cash in the place of Miss Piggy’s lipstick.