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Have a good Memorial Day. We express our appreciation to the roughly 1.5 million Americans who paid the ultimate price.

The Libertarians Convene

The Libertarian Party held its convention this past weekend in D.C. Party officials invited both Robert Kennedy Jr. and Donald Trump to speak to the attendees. It didn't go well for the former president.

Kennedy went first, on Friday afternoon. He handed out rubber chickens that make noise for attendees to use in order to drown out Trump, who spoke on Saturday. Here is what they looked like:

Rubber chickens RFK Jr. passed out at the Libertarian Party convention

Kennedy attacked Trump for caving to the bureaucrats during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kennedy is against vaccination and is certainly against vaccine mandates. In principle, this was a good topic to address, since many libertarians agree with him that government mandates are bad. Libertarians are not necessarily against vaccinations themselves (as Kennedy is), they just think it should be an individual choice, not a government requirement. Most of his speech did not address the issues. Instead, he just attacked Trump over and over. He was mostly cheered for that. Kennedy's biggest applause came when he attacked Trump for not pardoning Julian Assange. Kennedy said that Assange is a hero for leaking government secrets. Kennedy barely mentioned Joe Biden at all, even though he is also running for president, as we understand it.

Now on to Saturday. It is probably no secret to most of our readers that Donald Trump is not tethered to reality. He proved it again on Saturday, when he spoke to the convention. Trump is not a Libertarian or even a libertarian or even a libertarian-lite. Libertarians believe in the smallest possible government. For example, health care (especially reproductive health care)? None of the government's damn business. Trade? Leave that to the private sector. Civil liberties (also for LGBTQ+ people)? All people have basic rights, no exceptions allowed, even if your Bible doesn't approve. Drugs? If you want to use drugs in your own home, that's your decision. Prostitution? That's a private transaction between the customer and the service provider and should be completely legal. Immigration? Immigrants improve the country. Trump ought to have known he was not going to be a big hit. He didn't and found out the hard way.

There was sustained booing and jeering almost from the time Trump stepped up to the mic. The attendees didn't even have to listen to Trump to know that he favors using the power of big government to force people to do what he wants them to do. So what did Trump do? He began mocking the LP for its poor electoral record. He also began goading them, telling them they would ultimately end up voting for him, anyhow. We had supposed that he was there to convince individual libertarians that he was with them on at least some issues (like low taxes), but mocking the party and the attendees is an odd way to do it. And telling people "I know you're going to do [X]" is a pretty good way to get them not to do [X], just out of spite. As Trump continued to speak, the audience continued to heckle him. They called him a "panderer," a "liar," and more. The DNC would probably have treated him better.

The fellow who ultimately got the LP nomination, Chase Oliver, said: "If he thinks he is going to win our nomination, he's more delusional than I thought." Trump tried to appease the crowd by dangling a cabinet position for a Libertarian. It didn't work. The crowd kept booing him. This photo gives an idea of where the crowd stood:

Libertarian convention

One thing Trump said that pleased the crowd is his promise to commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht, who was convicted and imprisoned for running a website, Silk Road, that allowed people to buy and sell drugs and other illegal products anonymously, paying for them with bitcoins. Other than that, it was a total disaster for Trump. After 34 minutes, he left the stage, one of his shortest speeches ever.

So why did Trump even show up? We suspect that he is worried that third-party candidates may drain a few thousand votes from him in some of the swing states, and that could be the difference between winning the state and losing the state. But he completely botched it. He could have checked out the LP platform, found a few things he agrees with (e.g., parental rights, charter schools, America First in foreign affairs) and talked entirely about how he supports these things. Kennedy may have done himself a bit of good but Trump only alienated most of the attendees.

Eventually, the convention got down to business. The real purpose of a national convention, after all, is to select a presidential nominee. Even though getting the LP nomination is not a path to being elected president, it was a contentious fight. The LP is divided internally between a somewhat left-leaning caucus (the Classic Liberal Caucus) and a somewhat right-leaning caucus (the Mises Caucus). Each had a candidate, but there were multiple other candidates. There were seven rounds of voting. In the first round, RFK Jr. got 2% of the vote and Donald Trump got six votes (0.65%), eliminating them both. Eventually it came down to the Classic Liberal candidate, Chase Oliver, vs. the Mises candidate, Michael Rectenwald. Oliver is an openly gay man most famous for running for the Senate in Georgia in 2022 against Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock. He got 2% and forced a runoff. His slogan is "Gay and Armed." Rectenwald used to be a professor at NYU who invited right-wing bigot Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on campus. He is no longer a professor there.

In the head-to-head race, as we note above, Oliver triumphed. In his victory speech he talked about the two major parties, saying the lesser of two evils is still evil. "Chase Oliver" sounds more like a white-shoe law firm than a person, but in any case, he's not a retooled former governor or a celebrity, so he has no base beyond his party, and figures to get the same 1% of the vote that nondescript Libertarian Party presidential nominees usually get. In case you are wondering, LP nominee Jo Jorgensen got 1.18% in 2020. (V)

House and Senate Republicans are Urging Trump to Pick a Moderate as Veep

A number of Congressional Republicans, including Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), are urging Donald Trump to pick a veep who will actually increase the chances of his winning and who will help Republicans downballot, rather than a fire-breathing Trumpist like Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH). Some of them are suggesting candidates like Sens. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND). Others are pitching Nikki Haley. They are thinking of those 20% of Republicans who don't like Trump but who might rethink their position if there were a not-so-Trumpy candidate on the ballot along with him.

All of these have problems. Scott is Black and, sadly, there are Republicans who don't like Black people. Scott could cost the ticket more votes than he gains it. Burgum is white and very bland. Nobody dislikes him. However, a ticket with two billionaires on it would give the Democrats an unexpected windfall: "Vote for the billionaires or vote for Scranton Joe."

Rubio is a one-man problematic doubleheader. First, if the presidential and vice presidential candidates are from the same state, the Florida electors would not be allowed to vote for Rubio for VP. Second, Rubio could move to Georgia and still stay in the Senate, but that would not be popular. Worse yet, if Rubio were elected, then Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) would get to appoint his replacement until Jan. 3, 2027. For example, he could appoint Ron DeSantis to the Senate. Trump probably would not be keen on that.

This talk sounds like members of Congress are afraid Trump will pick some fire-breathing dragon who will hurt the ticket and also down-ballot races. Will Trump pay any attention to what congressional Republicans want? The past suggests he won't. (V)

Can Ruben Gallego Save Joe Biden's Bacon?

Joe Biden is under water in many of the key swing states. That has been widely reported and is causing Democrats to cry in their white wine. But something else is going on that is barely being reported at all: Democratic Senate candidates are leading and outperforming Biden in many states. Could they have coattails that could pull up Biden? Look at these states with Senate races:

Comparison of Senate and presidential races in key states

In seven of these 10 states, the Democratic Senate candidate is doing better than Biden, in many cases by double digits. For example, while Biden is 4 points under water in Arizona, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) is 6 points ahead of Kari Lake in the race. Split tickets are rare in modern elections, but these (very early) numbers suggest that many Arizona voters will pull the lever for both Donald Trump and Gallego. That seems very unusual. We suspect as we get closer to November, there will be fewer ticket splitters and either Gallego will rescue Biden or Biden will drown Gallego. There is at least a chance that toxic candidates like Lake will draw marginal Democrats to the polls and that will end up saving Biden's bacon.

But why does there appear to be so much ticket splitting now? One theory is that there are many young Democrats who are angry with Biden on account of Gaza, student loans, etc., but bear no ill-will against the Democrats running for the Senate. These voters might well come home to the Democratic Party in the end, however grudgingly. Another theory, however, is that the Republican Senate candidates, few of whom are incumbents, aren't well known and are not polling well yet but have room to grow as they throw millions of dollars into their campaigns. Still another is that ticket splitting is making a comeback, although in 2016 every Senate race went the same way as the presidential race and in 2020, all but one (Maine) went the same way. Our guess is that ticket splitting really isn't back in style, so it is #1 or #2.

Another factor is the undecideds. There are more undecideds in the presidential race than in the Senate races. This may well indicate that theory #1 is true: young voters are annoyed with Biden and haven't decided what to do, but are not annoyed with Gallego, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), etc. This is something to keep an eye on. (V)

Abortion Initiatives Are Leading in Arizona and Florida

An initiative that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state Constitution is likely to be on the Arizona ballot in November and certain to be on the ballot in Florida. Polling from YouGov suggests that they will both pass. In Arizona, the "Yes" vote is 65% to the "No" vote of 21%. In Florida, it is 60% to 20%. The 60% favorability in Florida is important because only measures that get at least 60% pass. In Arizona, a simple majority is enough.

Will the initiatives bring young voters to the polls? That is something the Democrats are fervently hoping for. Democratic politicians understand this and most of them in states with abortion initiatives are going to be prominently supporting the measure. What is also important is how much abortion is restricted in those states. In Florida, abortions after 6 weeks are illegal. In Arizona, it is 15 weeks. Count on Democrats to point this out a few times. Will this be enough to turn Florida blue? That is a steep hill to climb, but the combination of the initiative and a toxic candidate running for the Senate in Arizona could certainly put Arizona in the blue column. (V)

Haley Wants to Be in Trump's Cabinet

Last week, Nikki Haley caved and said she would vote for Donald Trump, even though she has called him unfit and many other things. Now she has gone a step further and said she is open to working with Trump in some form. This is code for "I want to be in the Cabinet." Trump replied that she is very capable and there could be a place for her on his team.

Trump undoubtedly hates her guts, but knows that about 20% of Republicans voted for her in the primaries. He needs those voters. Her merely voting for him might not convince her supporters to vote for Trump. He needs more, namely, that she formally endorse him and actively campaign for him. She could possibly make a deal that if she campaigns for him, he will put her in the Cabinet. Of course, he could double-cross her and then after she worked her heart out for him, not make an offer. But she is not in a strong negotiating position here.

From Haley's point of view, disappearing from public view until mid-2027 could be fatal, but if she is in the Cabinet, that would give her visibility for a 2028 run. Hence, if Trump promises to put her in the Cabinet in return for campaigning, she would probably risk it. When reporters ask her about all the terrible things she said about Trump, her reply would simply be: "Trump is not perfect, but Joe Biden is an unmitigated disaster for the country, so he must be stopped at all costs." That might work with Trump. Whether it would work with her supporters is less clear.

In some ways, Haley is not unique. Among all Republicans, 15% view Trump unfavorably and half of those view him very unfavorably. But most of them see Joe Biden as truly evil. This puts them in a bind. If Haley were to actively campaign for Trump and yell at the top of her lungs that Biden is old and senile and dangerous, that might be enough to get some anti-Trump Republicans over the hump and have them come home. This might be her only way to stay relevant until the show starts again in 2027 (assuming that 2024 is not the last presidential election ever). Although keep in mind that she was a Cabinet-level official in the first Trump administration, and where did that get her? (V)

Trump Has a Three-Part Plan for Dismantling America

Donald Trump has already told everyone what he wants to do if he is elected. Many people are not taking him seriously, but Donald Moynihan, a professor of public policy at Georgetown and an expert on the administrative state, is. He's scared. He thinks Trump's plans can be divided into three parts, as follows:

  • Appoint only loyalists to the Cabinet: In Trump v1.0, many of Trump's cabinet choices were conservative, but also reasonably competent. Think: Rex Tillerson at State, Jim Mattis at Defense, John Kelly at Homeland Security, Nikki Haley at the U.N., Dan Coats as DNI, and Mike Pompeo at the CIA. Trump is not going to make that mistake again. All the Trump v2.0 cabinet appointees (well, except maybe Haley if Trump strikes a deal with her) will be chosen for one quality, and one quality only: blind loyalty to Donald J. Trump. Competence and ideology will not be relevant as long as the appointee kowtows to Trump and carries out his every wish, legal or otherwise, with no hesitation. If Republicans control the Senate, probably all of them will be rubber-stamped. If, somehow, Trump wins the White House but Democrats miraculously control the Senate (which would require holding all their own seats except West Virginia and picking up Texas or Florida), Trump may try to populate the cabinet with temporary appointees and hope that the Supreme Court goes along.

  • Gut the civil service: Trump is planning to introduce his version of Schedule F, which would replace about 50,000 top civil servants with his own toadies. This would basically gut the merit-based civil service system created by the Pendleton Act of 1883 and go back to the spoils system that flourished under Andrew Jackson. In his term, Trump discovered that even when cabinet officials gave marching orders to the top civil servants, many of them decided not to march, especially if the orders were illegal. This frustrated him enormously. His solution is to reach deep into the civil service and replace everyone with loyalists. The Heritage Foundation is busy vetting candidates for all positions and will present him with a list of 50,000 replacements on Inauguration Day, so all he has to do is approve the list. This would be a catastrophe for the government and country. The FDA would approve or reject drugs based on Trump's whim of the day, rather than whether they were safe and effective. The EPA would stop enforcing all environmental laws. The Fed would lower interest rates to zero, because that is good for the real estate business. Trump would then blame the explosion in house prices on Biden.

  • Legalize authoritarianism: The third part of the blueprint is about finding an AG, and DoJ lawyers, who will deem every illegal thing Trump does to be legal. His authoritarian impulses could run wild. Of course, he will pardon himself, all the Jan. 6 rioters, and all his friends and associates who are under indictment. He might also invoke the Insurrection Act and then order the Army to shoot protesters. His AG would no doubt rule that as legal under the Act.

Would he create a full-blown fascist dictatorship? Probably not, depending on which party controlled the House and Senate, but he would probably try to go as far as his friends on the Supreme Court will allow. If Trump really pushes the envelope, the demonstrations are likely to make Bleeding Kansas look like a Sunday School picnic. There could be a huge backlash and Republicans would probably get trounced in the 2026 midterms, but a lot of damage could be inflicted on the country before then. (V)

What Exactly Is a Rigged Election?

Donald Trump keeps claiming that the 2020 election was rigged against him and the media keep quoting him on this. What does this mean, really? According to Ned Foley at Election Law Blog, the media are missing a key point by muddling two different claims.

True "rigging" would involve stuffing ballot boxes, having noncitizens vote, preventing certain citizens from voting, throwing away ballots in specific precincts, allowing the wrong electoral votes to be counted, and things like that. All of these are illegal. If government officials did anything like this, that would indeed constitute "rigging." There were 62 court cases in 2020 in nine states about this. Trump lost 61 of them. His only win was a minor one about how much time Pennsylvania voters had to cure invalid ballots and even that win was later overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

On the other hand, things like Russian trolls in St. Petersburg disseminating fake information, tricksters convincing some voters that the election had been postponed until Wednesday due to bad weather, and state laws banning bystanders from giving people standing in line to vote free bottles of water do not constitute "rigging." Nor is the existence of the Electoral College "rigging." The founders fully intended to give the small states extra power to get them to sign up and join the union. These are merely dirty pool, they aren't illegal government actions designed to prevent eligible voters from voting or allowing ineligible people to vote.

Donald Trump constantly conflates the two categories. The media do the country a disservice by not calling him on it. (V)

Many Secretaries of State Are Prepared for Election Threats

All secretaries of state are keenly aware of the many threats that were made to election workers in 2020 and are preparing to deal with a repeat performance. Yesterday, the top election officials of Arizona (Adrian Fontes, D), Georgia (Brad Raffensperger, R), Michigan (Jocelyn Benson, D), and Pennsylvania (Al Schmidt, R) appeared on NBC's Meet the Press with Kristen Welker to discuss their preparedness for trouble on Election Day. Raffensperger told Welker: "We're actually in pretty good shape. The counties have done a great job of recruitment." Benson told her: "We have to also protect the people who protect democracy. And that's a lot of what we're working to do to prepare for this year." Fontes called threats against election workers "domestic terrorism." Schmidt agreed with Fontes.

In some cases, laws have been changed to provide more transparency. For example, in Georgia, officials are now allowed to prescan and preprocess mail-in ballots, so the results of mail-in ballots will be available during Election Night, instead of days later. This will largely eliminate the "red mirage," in which in-person votes on Election Day, which tend to be Republican, are later canceled by mail-in votes (typically Democratic) counted later. In any event, the election officials in these four states and many others are well aware of the challenges ahead and are dealing with them already. (V)

Louisiana Makes Abortion Pill a Controlled Substance

On Friday, Gov. Jeff Landry (R-LA) signed a bill that classifies mifepristone and misoprostol as controlled substances, a category typically reserved for things like products made from opium and some mood-altering drugs. This makes it illegal for anyone to possess the drugs without a prescription and would also require doctors to have a special license to prescribe them.

When signing the bill, the governor said: "This bill protects women across Louisiana." The remark refers to an alleged incident in which the father of a fetus slipped abortion pills into the mother's drinks, causing her to have an abortion she didn't plan on having. Of course, the legislature could have passed a law making it a crime to administer any medication to anyone without their knowledge or consent (assuming that is currently legal, which is unlikely).

The goal, of course, is to scare women who might order the pills over the Internet into not doing so and thus to forego an abortion they need.

Politically, this one law won't make any difference. No Democrat is going to win any statewide election in Louisiana this year, no matter what. However, the danger is that the other 22 states where the Republicans hold the trifecta will pass copycat laws, making abortions even more difficult for women in those states to obtain. Also, Louisiana now becomes the test case that Donald Trump will be asked about: "Mr. Trump, you say abortion policy should be left up to the states. So are you OK with Louisiana's having outlawed all medical abortions, and also having criminalized mifepristone?" (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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