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Schemes for Third-Party Right Wing Alternatives to Trump Are Not Realistic; If No Candidate Reaches 270 Votes in the Electoral College and the Election Is Thrown into the House of Representatives, Twelfth Amendment Specifies That House Must Choose Among Three Leading Candidates with Each State Having One Vote

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Morning Briefing | Friday, May 13, 2016

In the weeks since he proclaimed himself the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump has provided more and more evidence of his own mental instability, erratic judgment, and demagogic contempt for policy. Trump has said that US ships being buzzed by Russian aircraft in international waters have every right to open fire on the Russians and shoot down their planes. A Trump spokesman has floated the idea of dropping all resistance to killer cuts in Medicare, and joining Speaker Ryan’s austerity ghoul agenda. On one of his signature demands, Trump has stated that his alleged ban on Moslems was “just a suggestion,” with plenty of exceptions for his business associates and many other plutocrats. Trump has also stated that he would be open to default on US treasury bonds, something that might come in the form of a negotiated debt write-down if the US economy failed to respond to a spending binge financed by borrowing. Trump first suggested that he would raise taxes on the wealthiest taxpayers, but then turned away from this idea as well.

Whom the gods would destroy they first drive mad, and this seems to be the treatment that Trump is giving himself. Small wonder that traditional reactionaries in the Republican Party are searching desperately for any strategy that might be used to prevent the erratic fascist billionaire from seizing power.

One such method which has received some attention in recent weeks is the strategy of fielding an independent right-wing third-party candidate, who might then win some electoral votes and thus prevent Trump or Hillary Clinton from getting the necessary Electoral College majority of 270 electoral votes. In this case, the election could be thrown into the House of Representatives, where the top three vote getters in the Electoral College would be put before the 50 state delegations, with each state getting one vote. Since the GOP controls more states, the obvious implication is that this third-party candidate might get a winning hand of 26 votes. Names mentioned in this contest include generals like David Petraeus or Monster Mattis. The problem with all of these schemes is that, in order to be considered, the third party candidate cannot be a dark horse who comes out of nowhere, but must rather rank among the top three vote getters in the Electoral College.

There is also the problem of ballot access. Some deadlines, like that of Texas, are now out of reach. Some parties have established ballot access in a few states, and they might be bought or at least rented. The Libertarians and the Greens appear headed for the nomination of their traditional wheel-horses, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. The Presidential Debate Commission, an outrageous mind control operation, says that only candidates polling above 15% can take part.

This process is governed by the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, with the relevant provisions, reading as follows:

‘AMENDMENT XII

Passed by Congress December 9, 1803. Ratified June 15, 1804.

‘ … and if no person have such majority [of the Electoral College], then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.’ 1

The state in question might plausibly be a Western state with strong reactionary traditions and great suspicion of the city-slicker con artist Trump – based on this year’s primaries, Utah comes to mind as a state where the fascist billionaire is extremely unpopular. But still, winning any state in the midst of a bitterly contested nationwide clash between Trump and Hillary will be a tall order.

The third-party effort which has attracted the most attention, including overseas, revolves around the retired Marine general James “Monster” Mattis, who has evidently attracted a coterie of wealthy reactionaries who would like to meddle in the election to the detriment of Trump. It must be pointed out once again that Trump poses absolutely no threat to Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, or any other part of the “WASP Establishment.” Trump is a decades-long Wall Street Insider who was considered deserving of a sweetheart bailout scheme back in 1991 and 1992. Recent events also show that Trump is so labile and erratic that he has been known to change political positions three times during a 30 minute interview, so it is folly to talk about his views on issues. The only certainty is that Trump wants to be the centerpiece of a personality cult and does everything to promote that cult. Here is an overview from the Daily Beast of efforts to promote a Mattis candidacy:

‘But this situation involves far bigger players: Close to a dozen influential donors—involving politically-involved billionaires with deep pockets and conservative leanings—are ready to put their resources behind Mattis. At their request, a small group of political operatives have taken the first steps in the strategic legwork needed for a bid: a package of six strategic memos outlining how Mattis could win the race, in hopes of coaxing him in. The strategy would not be for Mattis to win, at least at first—the operatives behind this potential bid would only be seeking to deny Trump and Clinton the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the general election outright. And there is also the incredible logistical challenge of getting Mattis on the ballot in a large number of states. “The process is actually quite simple, but it’s difficult,” one of the strategists concedes in a memo, and the chances of Mattis winning the White House outright as a third-party candidate are “very low.” But if the retired military officer could win several states won by President Obama in 2012, they might be able to block Clinton, thus forcing the incoming House of Representatives to make a decision on the next president of the United States.’2

Pro-regime insider journalist David Ignatius of the Washington Post includes Mattis on a short list of possible third party candidates, mainly ambitious and disgruntled generals and admirals like Petraeus, Mullen, and McChrystal, with FBI veteran and former GOP congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan thrown in:

‘Who should be on the roster of potential national-security draftees? Gen. James Mattis, a retired Marine who served as U.S. Central Command commander, has already been floated. The Daily Beast posted an item Saturday reporting that wealthy Republicans were urging Mattis to consider a late candidacy. Mattis is a blunt, plainspoken man who could rival Trump for impolitic comments. Four-star officers sometimes describe him as the “warrior monk” because of his intense, ascetic manner. But he’s a true military leader, beloved by his troops and an intellectual who kept a volume of mediations by the Roman philosopher Marcus Aurelius, in Latin, by his bedside….[Others include:] Gen. Stanley McChrystal commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan and, before that, ran the deadly strike force known as the Joint Special Operations Command…Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led the military into a new era of tolerance toward gay men and lesbians….Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Centcom, is probably the most decorated officer of his generation….A final name would be former representative Mike Rogers (Mich.), who retired in 2014 after heading the House Intelligence Committee. Rogers served three years in the Army, but he makes the list because of his service as an FBI agent from 1988 to 1994 fighting organized crime in Chicago. I tried to contact Mattis, McChrystal, Mullen, Petraeus and Rogers on Monday. But all of them either couldn’t be reached or declined comment. One virtue or liability of these names, depending on your perspective, is that except for Rogers, I’m not sure of their party affiliation.’3

Mattis has stated in public that he is not interested in this project. If there is a real candidate on this list, it is far more likely to be the neocon darling Petraeus, the top figure among the Bonapartists. Among elected officials, Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse has called for a third party challenge to Trump, but so far has no concrete plan.

Even if a suitably famous reactionary general could be recruited for this plan, and even if a group of billionaire Angels could be found to finance him, there remains the fact that the US two-party system has indeed been rigged by both parties over many decades to make the difficulties of a third-party virtually insuperable. The last serious effort of this type was that of Ross Perot in 1992. Gaining ballot access in 50 states is a task worthy of Hercules himself.

Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine has compiled some of the difficulties in any of these unlikely scenarios:

‘In slightly more detail, the plan [for Mattis et al.] would run like this: A right-wing third-party candidate would split the Electoral College, so no candidate reaches the 270-vote threshold. In that case, the House of Representatives would decide the winner, with each state’s delegation (regardless of population) casting two votes. Since Republicans control most state delegations, they would pick the winner, who would presumably be their right-winger, rather than Trump or (obviously) Hillary Clinton. What gives the scenario the veneer of plausibility is that the last part of the plan is completely true. If the Electoral College deadlocked, then the House would really decide, and it really would give the presidency to the right-winger. The actual problem with the scenario is that the first part, where the independent somehow prevents anybody from gaining 270 electoral votes, is completely nuts. Instead, that candidate would make it possible for Clinton to win a bunch of states without a majority. States where Clinton might otherwise fall a bit short of Trump would become blue states. Suppose in a two-candidate race that, say, Texas would give Trump 53 percent and Clinton 47 percent, giving Trump all 38 electoral votes from Texas. Then Ben Sasse jumps in the race and takes 10 percent of the vote, all of it coming from Trump. Now Texas is 47 percent Clinton, 43 percent Trump, and 10 percent Sasse.’4

Unfortunately for the wealthy reactionaries who want to get involved in stopping Trump, there are no easy answers. If these persons do not want to be subjected to the dictatorial reign of the fascist billionaire, their only path is to attack Trump directly. If they are serious, we urge them to get busy. Evil can always fight evil to produce good when it comes to opposing Trump.

  1. US Constitution, AMENDMENT XII, Passed by Congress December 9, 1803. Ratified June 15, 1804, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_amendments_11-27….
  2. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/04/08/the-secret-movement-to-…
  3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/04/11/five-mi…
  4. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/05/a-third-party-cant-steal-el…
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