May 13, 2007
Bruce Guthrie Wasted Our Time

Remember how Bruce Guthrie indicated he was investing his life's savings into playing a significant role in last year's U.S. Senate race? Remember how that earned him a prominent place in the televised debate on KING 5? It was a sham.

Digging through the FEC reports from the campaign, one can see Guthrie loaned his campaign $1,180,700 in a report filed 10/26/06 (see page 3, #13). That money "qualified" him for the debate according to the formula established by KING 5.

Yet a report filed 12/4/06 (see page 5, #19), shows Guthrie's campaign repaid him $1,174,700 of that money; nearly all of it. Not exactly a serious effort to "change the dynamic of the race."

KING 5 set qualifications for the debate so that only serious candidates would participate in what was a regrettably paltry debate schedule. Voters of the state tuning into a televised debate deserve to see candidates who are mounting serious campaigns for statewide office, not people simply willing to play accounting games to give themselves some airtime.

We've got some time until similar such opportunities for debates between statewide office seekers occur again. Let's hope future debate organizers can establish more rigorous rules so that limited time for substantive debates is itself limited to hearing from candidates actually serious about running for office. Voters of all parties deserve that.

Posted by Eric Earling at May 13, 2007 07:07 PM | Email This
1. I wouldn't say he wasted our time. He did what any other candidate would do and took advantage of an opportunity to present himself and his message to the voters.

Posted by: Stefan Sharkansky on May 13, 2007 08:04 PM
2. Bruce Guthrie was a disinguenuous, self-promoting, Libertarian schmuck who bamboozled the easily bamboozled Libertarians into thinking he was serious about something other than shooting his mouth off on TV.

Posted by: murtz on May 13, 2007 08:48 PM
3. Was anyone surprised by this. Only a fool would blow his life savings on an impossible campaign, and few fools have a million dollars.

Posted by: Giffy on May 13, 2007 09:22 PM
4. If Bruce Guthrie was a real fool, he would run for Governor and lend his campaign one million dollars. Especially since state law severely limits what he could pay himself back -- to something less than $10,000 in any event. Of course, federal law doesn't seem to have such restrictions, and Guthrie pulled a brilliant accounting trick. The only thing it showed was that he can liquidate one million in cash assets, and has some brains and a big pair of cajones.

Posted by: Richard Pope on May 13, 2007 11:14 PM
5. I fail to see how presenting an alternative to slick packaged party candidates is a waste of my time. If it takes a little trick to get this done, good for Guthrie. But woe on us for creating and supporting a system that makes such a trick necessary.

Posted by: deadwood on May 13, 2007 11:54 PM
6. Guthrie opening his mouth at the debate opened my eyes on this "Libertarian" and the party. And it was a butt-ugly view.

No way is this small-government guy buying into any of that Libertarian crap. Thank you Bruce for enlightening me about your party.

Posted by: swatter on May 14, 2007 06:57 AM
7. Bruce Guthrie was a disinguenuous, self-promoting, Libertarian schmuck who bamboozled the easily bamboozled Libertarians -- murtz on May 13, 2007 08:48 PM


Uh-huh. That's kind fo what the folks over at Goldy's blog say about eveyone on this blog and the entire Republican Party.

Posted by: Libertarian on May 14, 2007 07:29 AM
8. Your goofy implication is mistaken: As the linked story says clearly, he loaned the money to his campaign. He thus hoped to get it back through donations, and he did, as does any candidate major or minor. That's an impressive feat, actually, for a minor candidate, and THAT'S the dynamic change.

Posted by: Bill Bigguy on May 14, 2007 07:36 AM
9. The guy got about 50 cents in donations, BB, except when he hocked his house to get on TV, which he then botched for himself and the Libertarian party.

Posted by: swatter on May 14, 2007 08:28 AM
10. I actually appreciated that Bruce was:
a) So clever
b) So committed to getting his Libertarian message out to the Public.

The 2 major Parties desperately need competition. They have developed so many laws to make it difficult for any opposition....even in the Primary System.
Are all of you SP'ers really comfortable with "business as usual"???
Are you really comfortable with Neo-Cons like Bush who pretends to be a Conservative will signing a massive spending Budget filled with Pork and keeping the printing presses churning at full blast.
I ain't.
Bravo to Bruce Guthrie.

I feel our Country needs a multitude of opinions...mainly to force the Republican Party back to it's Conservative roots. It is filled with wimps & RINO's in Washington State. Clean up our house folks!
Look at France.
Conservative eventually triumphs....even in Washington State....someday soon.

Posted by: Mr. Cynical on May 14, 2007 09:25 AM
11. Obviously I am not good at getting my thoughts out there. Mr. Cynical's first two comments were two of the things I noticed.

While I don't like the local R internecine warfare, Guthrie's message really turned me off. BIG TIME!!

If only 'Libertarian' were the true voice of that party and not Guthrie, swatter muses.

And so, Mr. Cynical, while I would like another option, Libertarian, I found out, isn't my cup of tea. Too bad there isn't a 3rd party out there, but after Perot, I don't think I will ever vote 3rd party again. And add Jesse to that poor message, too.

And why do you want a 3rd party when the Rs do a good job eating and fighting among themselves?

Posted by: swatter on May 14, 2007 09:44 AM
12. David Postman at The Times makes mention of this conversation. Here's what I posted on his blog:

As much as I hate to admit it while at the same time disagreeing with Stefan, I have to say, yeah...he wasted our time.

It was a vanity exercise along the same lines as self-publishing your memoirs or that book of poetry Random House wouldn't touch on a bet, except here Guthrie got the best of both worlds: he got published, and then he got his money back.

In newspapers it's routine to see opinion pieces with unconscionably long and unreadable paragraphs printed in a tiny font advocating some position or the other. These screeds are always clearly outlined in a box and at the top and bottom appears in parenthesis the words "paid advertisement."

Guthrie ran a journalistic and political shell game: a paid advertisement for which his money was cheerfully refunded...less $6K shipping and handling.

While the size of a war chest is a legitimate indicia of the viability of a campaign, it isn't the only one. Maybe a look-see at what a candidate has actually done with the money in the war chest is something to consider. Otherwise, every rich gadfly and ne'r-do-well can buy himself or herself a place at on the debate stage to promote his or her personal POV, sensible or not.

I you really want Paris Hilton, a recent convert to the cause of sentencing and prison reform, to buy a place at the table?

The Piper

Posted by: Piper Scott on May 14, 2007 09:47 AM
13. He didn't get 50 cents in donations, he got more than a million; like mainstream candidates regularly do, he financed himself with only a hope of getting his money back if he could show others his stuff, and he did. Why or why do I think the hypocrites posting here today would approve of this if had been done by a Republican - and of course it has.

Posted by: Bill Bigguy on May 14, 2007 10:04 AM
14. Eric, I disagree. Maybe what Guthrie did was a sham -- although it's not like he was pretending he had a "right" to be there, as he basically admitted to gaming the system by using his own money in the first place -- but I think he should have been included in the debate. I think that generally speaking, if a candidate has a literal chance to win the election, they should be included in the debates.

The question of "chance" is one that should be defined as liberally as possible, that the voters have as much chance as possible to evaluate the choices before them.

Of course, I am also in favor of having far more debates, with greater length and substance. This would make having more candidates simpler.

I voted for Harry Browne in 1996 specifically because of Bob Dole's disingenuous attempts to exclude Ross Perot (he said Perot should be excluded because he had no chance, as shown by the polls; later when asked why he thought he would win despite Clinton have a huge lead in the polls, he said the only polls that matter are on election day). I decided that I couldn't vote for Perot or Clinton, so I picked Door #4.

[Of course, I lived in Massachusetts at the time, and there was no chance Dole could win Massachusetts. If Dole actually had a chance to win the state, I still would have voted for him.]

Now, granted, that was a Presidential debate, and the standards there are much easier: in order to be able to win, you have to be on enough ballots to win enough electoral college votes to win. That's Hard. Nader and Perot, I believe, are the only two third-party candidates to do it in recent years.

My basic point here is that we should have relatively lax standards, not strict standards. Let everyone be heard. If we had actually good debates, this would, of course, be easier. Every other week, for 2-3 months, with each debate being a couple of hours and on a single subject.

Another option would be to have the candidates debate each other one-on-one, in a round-robin format. So Guthrie and McGavick square off, then McGavick and Cantwell, then Cantwell and Guthrie. etc.

There's lots of ways to do it, but they should all be focused on giving the voters more useful information, not less.

Posted by: pudge on May 14, 2007 10:07 AM
15. PUDGE, go ahead and watch the presidential "debates" on TV now. Totally worthless for a "debate". A debate is between two people, not a hodge-podge. And this debate format diminishes my guys, especially when you got a yo-yo like Chris Matthews or Brian Williams asking questions.

Hey Bigguy, at least you got me to do some research before I called BS. Try .

So now, BS. For others, this is the results of total contributions for after the general election by one Bruce Guthrie. While it wasn't 50 cents, it was almost 50 cents.

Posted by: swatter on May 14, 2007 10:23 AM
16. Bill Bigguy, you wrote: He didn't get 50 cents in donations, he got more than a million; like mainstream candidates regularly do, he financed himself with only a hope of getting his money back if he could show others his stuff, and he did.

Well, no. The report clearly shows he did not get nearly that much in donations: his campaign received in donations tens of thousands, not over a million, not even hundreds of thousands. They spent about the same amount. The loan money was never spent, except to pay back the loan.

Indeed, it's even worse than you may think. His campaign's income apart from the loan was merely $69,151.77, and $12,634.70 of that was from Guthrie himself: nearly one-fifth of all contributions to his campaign came from himself.

And that is not even including the $6,000 that the campaign (to the point of this report) never repaid from the original loan of $1,180,700.00.

The loan was 94.5% of all campaign income, and its repayment 94.5% of all disbursements.

Again, I don't have a problem with any of this. I think Guthrie should have been in the debate, and I actually liked that he not only exploited the (to my mind) silly rules to get in, but that he fully copped to it at the time.

Posted by: pudge on May 14, 2007 10:35 AM
17. swatter: did you read my whole comment? I already noted I dislike the format, and pretty clearly implied that the current format does not work with a lot of candidates. I offered two alternative formats that would work better, and there are many more ideas.

I think looking for a debate format that helps "your guys" is precisely the wrong way to go about it. Not sure if that was your implication. But I want a debate format that helps the voters learn more about the candidates and positions. Again, clearly, the current format doesn't do that.

I have watched almost every Presidential debate, including party nominating debates, for many years. And I've gone back and watched and read many debates prior to that. I read the Lincoln-Douglas debates just for fun. I love a good debate, and the current debate format popularized by the bipartisan CPD is the worst format I've ever seen.

I do concede that the current debate format gets less useful with a lot more candidates, but it's terrible already. Also, the difference between three or four candidates and 10 is a lot greater than the difference between two and three or four; comparing last year's Senate debate to the party nomination debates is a bit off.

With three candidates, you can still have a great two-hour Lincoln-Douglas style debate, with minor modifications. That won't work well with 10 candidates.

You should look into They don't agree with me on having those very lax standards, but they do fight for reform in debate format, and in having more obejctive standards (since the CPD has a history of devising standards with the obvious intention of excluding third-party candidates, regardless of popularity level).

Posted by: pudge on May 14, 2007 10:48 AM
18. Even two candidates make for a rotten presidential debate; however, they may be okay for a couple of them to face off for the primary.

My guys are any candidate that has a snowball in hell chance of making it.

One debate that I thought was telling was the Rossi-Gregoire. I only saw snippets and was quite impressed.

Posted by: swatter on May 14, 2007 12:56 PM
19. Oh, Eric, one more thing. I noted that we knew he was gaming the system to begin with. From the article in October you linked to:

He admitted he might not spend much of it, saying: "This is a loan, and I do intend to get most of it back. If the fundraising doesn't go well, I might not spend most of it. If the fundraising does go well, I might spend most of it."

It didn't go well. He didn't spend most of it. So again, it's not like we didn't know he was going to repay himself.

Posted by: pudge on May 14, 2007 02:08 PM
20. Right on Pudge. Just as swatter exaggerated the 50 cents in contribution, I exaggerated the other way - and in fact his loan was a contribution, so it's accurate to count that in. Bottom line, the candidate made no attempt to mislead from the get-go. That's why I said, and say again, the premise for this post was wrong to begin with, and the hypocrites took the bait.

Posted by: Bill Bigguy on May 14, 2007 02:27 PM
That's still $6000 to be on some crappy local debate.

Posted by: John Bailo on May 14, 2007 02:37 PM
22. 50 cents is a lot closer to what the guy got in contributions than what he would have needed to run a credible campaign. 60 grand is chump change for a congressional office.

Posted by: swatter on May 14, 2007 03:08 PM
23. hi all,

I agree with several critical posters here.

The original post was mean-spirited and was an awful late hit, way after the buzzer.

Hooray for the very inspirational Bruce Guthrie, who is truly into small government and was opposed to a tax-and-spend project to make over another country in our image that would have been wrong even if it hadn't run into such difficulty.

Thanks all, newleftconservative#1

Posted by: newleftconservative#1 on May 14, 2007 10:48 PM
24. Piper Scott wrote that my getting in to the KING 5 debates was an act of personal vanity. I assure you it was not and here is why: in a world full of envy and "soak the rich" liberals, it does NOT pay to come out of the closet as a millionaire, even as the poorest millionaire in the debates... My goal has always been to be rich and obscure, not rich and famous. By "coming out of the closet" about my assets, I was actually taking another "hit" for the cause of liberty and limited government, even beyond the $8 grand and five months the campaign wound up costing me. If I could have avoided telling the world I had some money, and still done as well to promote my campaign and the cause of freedom, I would have.

Do you have any idea how much terror and stress there is being on statewide TV with no script? It was no fun, I'll tell you that, and certainly not worth the fame that I didn't even want!

Those of you who think I got in to the debates for personal vanity don't know me very well. I volunteer in High School citizenship and AP US History classes about 20 times per year to get the message out. I go to County Fairs and give people The World's Smallest Political Quiz in order to educate people about the philosophy of the American founders and the LP. I talk politics everywhere I go. Getting in to the debates was all about getting the message out, not my personal fame, which I had hoped was already long-faded until I read Mr. Earling's post.

Oh, and the net cost to my campaign of doing the debates was less than $2 grand. Pretty good deal for that much air-time, don't you think?

I ran to get my message out. I ran to remind Cantwell supporters that she supported the Iraq war, the PATRIOT Act, and was weak on marriage equality. I wanted to put more pressure on her to change these views, and D primary challengers like Hong Tran and Mark Wilson could not do this in the general election. I ran to give almost 30,000 Washington voters a choice they could feel good about. If you think that's wasting your time, I'm sorry you feel that way.

My campaign manager, Travis Wright is a genius and deserves a lot of credit, as does Libertarian Gov. Candidate Ruth Bennett, who sued KING 5 after being excluded from the Gregoire/Rossi debates... That's how the rules were changed to allow such a gambit in the first place...

I find it hilarious that conservatives and Republicans are unhappy I got in to the debates, given that I "took" more votes from Cantwell than from McGavick. Remember, my top three issues were getting out of Iraq, gay marriage equality, and repealing the unconstitutional parts of the USA PATRIOT Act. If you check my county vote totals, you will see that I tended to do better in the same counties that Cantwell did better in, and worse where McGavick did better. This indicates I was disproportionately competing for the same voters as Cantwell, not McGavick. Even the McGavick campaign saw this, and mentioned Dixon (Green) and me in a televised ad, in order to tell potential Cantwell voters that they had anti-war choices!

You see, Libertarians can choose whether they run as fiscal conservatives, or as tolerant, social liberals, depending on the issues they choose to emphasize in their campaigns. The Greens are stuck taking votes only from D's. But in very close races, we L's can tip the balance towards the lesser of two evils D or R. At the beginning of the race, it looked like it was close. Then McGavick crashed and burned, mostly due to the Iraq war and the national wave of backlash against all R's.

Not my fault.

Many other Libertarians choose to emphasize the fiscal conservative issues. And we can do this while remaining totally honest and true to our values. You McGavick supporters are lucky I got into the debates.

By the way, without Ruth Bennett in the Gov. race, Rossi would not even have been close to Gregoire... We Libertarians ALMOST changed the outcome of that race. Intentionally.

If you are concerned about the spoiler effect, you need to support Instant Runoff Voting or Ranked Choice Voting. Pierce County now has this (as a result of Libertarian Kelly Haughton getting on the Pierce County Charter Review Commission) and the cool thing about it is that it has the potential to eliminate the despised pick-a-party primary! With IRV, you pick your first, second and third (or more) choices. If I had been your first choice, your vote would have wound up going to your second choice. No spoiler effect, and you get to vote your conscience! It eliminates the primary, and you can vote for one party in one race, and another in another! Support IRV in a Charter County (King, Whatcom...) near you!

I really wish more R's were fiscal conservatives, for limited government, less government spending, and returned to their traditional roles as foreign non-interventionists. I wish more of them cared about the Constitution, and defending our equal, individual rights to life, liberty and property instead of selling out to the highest special interest bidder the way many of the D's do. (Remember: power corrupts.) That would save me a heck of a lot of trouble supporting America's third largest party... Then I could just join the R's! That would be much easier.

Dixon (G) and even Adair (I) should have been in the debates as well. I think that the electorate is smart enough to tell who the serious candidates are. Why allow some elite to decide for you? The REAL shame is that the electorate allowed Cantwell to get away with so little debate time. Calling it a debate is really a misnomer. It was really just serial sound bites. That's all the format really affords, and unfortunately, it is probably what the customers of the mainstream media really want. Sound Politics readers are more discerning. But that's the format I was stuck with. I had to take advantage of it as best I could. Again, not my fault.

Those who want to continue excluding candidates other than D's and R's are limiting freedom of choice and free speech. Not very American in my book. There is a chicken and egg problem: we can't win elections because we can't get as much media attention. We can't get much media attention because of the perception that we can't win elections. Debate access is an attempt to break that vicious cycle and give Americans another choice, and Americans are screaming for another choice, don't you think?

I think I showed people they had an alternative. I'll bet I was the second choice of a majority of voters. Both D's and R's would have placed me second on their lists. Do you really think that was wasting people's time?

As posters above have noted, I never lied to anyone. So why is Eric Earling picking on the little guy now?

And thanks for sticking up for me, Stefan! :)

Posted by: Bruce Guthrie on May 15, 2007 11:24 PM
25. Bruce: I am unconcerned with where you "take" votes. Votes don't belong to any candidates.

I also am unconvinced Bennett almost helped give Rossi the victory, and that you "took" more votes from Cantwell (and she from Gregoire). Your analysis is uncompelling. You wrote:

I tended to do better in the same counties that Cantwell did better in, and worse where McGavick did better. This indicates I was disproportionately competing for the same voters as Cantwell, not McGavick.

Or, it could suggest that potential McGavick voters who voted for you were more likely to come from the same counties where Cantwell did better (and vice versa). That is, maybe you got mostly socially liberal, fiscally conservative voters who were most likely to vote for McGavick otherwise, and who are more likely to live in the left-leaning districts where Cantwell did well, and less likely to live in the districts where McGavick did well.

There's really no way to know without IRV, Condorcet, and the like, which I think are terrible ideas, and I will fight against them if they come to the state or Snohomish County. I won't get into it the details now, but I have studied all these alternative forms of voting over the years, and I despise them all as, in my view, they are essentially undemocratic.

Obviously you disagree. That's a discussion for another time, perhaps.

I do agree with you about letting Dixon and Adair in. If someone can come up with some rational, objective measurement that shows someone is not a serious candidate, fine: but so far, I've not seen such a thing. Money and poll numbers are not such measurements: just because someone's chance of winning is not strong, does not mean the person is not a serious candidate that the people deserve a chance to learn about.

The argument that really angers me the most is the idea that letting them (incl. you) in the debate is somehow "giving" you "free air time." It is not about YOU. If this were about YOU, I would say, of course, don't let him in. OK, maybe not, but I don't really know, because it is NOT about YOU. It's about the voters. The goal is to inform the voters, not to decide which candidates are worthy of being "given" something. It's all backward.

One more thing, Bruce: I don't know your heart or mind, so I won't judge them. But it troubles me when you say you are a Libertarian because there are not "more R's [who are] fiscal conservatives, for limited government, less government spending, and returned to their traditional roles as foreign non-interventionists," who "cared about the Constitution, and defending our equal, individual rights to life, liberty and property."

Setting aside Iraq etc. for a moment, the Republican Party in WA has a huge number of people who are for all of that (though we may disagree about what are those rights to "liberty" on various social issues), and we Republicans would have a much better chance at actually accomplishing those goals if more people like you helped us out. I was, for a short time, a member of the LP myself. I disagree with the LP on a few things (e.g., abortion), as I do with the GOP (e.g., civil unions). I switched back to the GOP, though, for one reason: because I actually wanted to get things accomplished. I joined the Republican Town Committee in MA, and when I moved to WA became a PCO, and then LD chair. Because I want to accomplish as many of my goals as possible, not just pontificate on The Way Things Should Be. I do that too, of course. :-)

Granted, the entire GOP is not as devoted to its bedrock platform principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility (along with civil liberties) as the entire LP is. But it's a big tent party: any party who can be a majority will be more ideologically diverse. It's logically necessary. So if you are implying you want ideological purity, then you're conceding failure. And if you're saying you don't want purity, but just want more Republicans to act that way, well, you certainly have some of the means to accomplish that, by working with the GOP yourself.

Again, I don't know what is in your mind, and you may feel you can accomplish the most positive change in the GOP by attacking it from the outside instead of working on it from the inside. I don't know.

But I do know that the only way to make the GOP more (little l) libertarian is for more (little l) libertarians to become active in the party.

Posted by: pudge on May 16, 2007 06:58 AM
26. You are right, of course. Votes belong to voters, not to candidates. I will change my word usage in this regard.

Sorry you don't see that Ruth Bennett and I tipped our races just slightly in favor of the R. It was pretty obvious to me and my strategists. Oh, and Rossi, Cantwell and McGavick were pretty convinced of it as well...

Love to hear why IRV is so bad... It seems to me to have no downside at all. It even saves money on election administration!

I also agree that hearing from all the candidates is a benefit for the voters. You are right; this is the most important consideration. Voters should be allowed to decide for themselves, and NOT have some elite in a smoke-filled room decide which candidates are fit for them to see. To decide otherwise is to patronize and devalue the voters. On the other hand, from my own perspective, getting into the debates was definitely a step in the direction of my goals at the time... That's all I meant to be saying.

Sorry you are a "fallen away libertarian." We will welcome you back in to our party any time! We need smart activists like you.

But we small "l" libertarians face a tough choice: do we fight it out as members of a disenfranchised minority party, or do we join the R's and remain disenfranchised as a minority within a party that loses pretty consistently in our state?

Every fan of Hayek has to answer this question for him or herself, and the fact is that we need BOTH! Libertarians outside of the R's keep the R's honest. Small "l" libertarians within the party work to influence the party. Both enhance public debate.

(I guess one really cool strategy would be for a small "l" libertarian to run as a fiscally conservative Democrat!!! This would really throw people for a loop. It would be incredibly electable in WA, west of the cascades...)

For me, it came down to the issue of fun. I decided that it would be more fun to lead a party of principle, than to follow as a principled member of a party with few, if any coherant principles. Perhaps "fun" is not the right word. I guess I decided that I would act with more genuine passion under the partisan Libertarian banner than I would be able to muster under the socially conservative, foreign interventionist Republican banner. I have absolutely no regrets! :)

I'm also just repelled by the social conservatives and the saber-rattlers. I feel as alienated from them as I do from the socialists within the D's. Perhaps you are a more tolerant person than I.

But I respect your principles and your decision. I long for the day when you can reform the R's enough that I would consider joining. But I'm not holding my breath, and until you do, I support your efforts towards a freeer America! :)

But my main point was that my getting into the debates was NOT an act of personal vanity, and that allowing people more choices on ballotts and in televised debates is not wasting their time. Earling's attacks are without merit, and even a little mean-spirited. They are even against his own interests as an R.

Posted by: Bruce Guthrie on May 16, 2007 05:30 PM
27. Bruce - I think you've got the wrong take on my view. The little guy is welcome in our electoral process. I just don't think general election debates for any serious race should include candidates mired deep in the single digits. It turns such events into spectacles rather than providing the voter with a substantive level of information about the choices from which they will most likely choose.

Posted by: Eric Earling on May 16, 2007 06:01 PM
28. Bruce, I'd love to discuss IRV sometime, but not now. It's too big a discussion, and I am spread too thin. :-)

And yes, I agree, it's your decision. I think you could accomplish more of your political goals as a Republican, but it's your decision. And yes, I am a very tolerant person, apparently. That's what my wife and other people tell me. Although in the heat of debate, I am often told precisely the opposite. :-D

But I have good friends all over the political spectrum. A coworker of mine, that I've become good friends with over the seven years we've worked together, is a gay vegan liberal atheist. I'm a hetero meat-eating conservative Christian. We get along, and (usually) agree to disagree. Sometimes tempers rise, but that happens.

I also have many friends who are quite to my "right" on various issues social issues. Sometimes I engage them in debate, sometimes I don't. And sometimes I cringe when they say things I disagree with. But I always remember two things: first, and foremost, that this country was designed to work pluralistically, and it can work no other way; and second, any majority must operate as a big tent. And I believe in majorities.

I realize, of course, that's a little bit of question-begging: maybe a Canadian-style system would be better, with a handful of parties, and coalitions. I am open to that as a possibility, but I don't think it can really work for us. And of course, right now, it's not how it does work.

Anyway, I do not consider myself a "fallen away Libertarian." I still am a "libertarian," and I was never very comfortable as a "Libertarian" for the short time I was one. For example, on abortion, I find the Libertarian viewpoint to be entirely inconsistent, because they offer no compelling reason for me to think that the life in the womb should not have the same right to life as other homo sapiens.

And (although this was not an issue at the time I was a Libertarian), while I respect their view on foreign policy, I don't believe that whether or not a particular conflict is in our national interests is as clear as they want us to think. It's a complicated issue, and I am not saying that they should agree Iraq was the right thing to do, only that they try to make it seem like the choice not to invade should have been an easy one based on principle, and I don't accept that.

And so on.

Thanks for your response. Cheers!

Posted by: pudge on May 16, 2007 07:10 PM
29. Pudge, the LP is still divided on abortion and Iraq. You would find many of our activists disagree on these divisive issues. I suspect you agree more with us than you do the R's! But keep fighting on the inside; it's a beautiful thing!

You mention that you believe in majorities. Well, I do NOT believe in majorities, at least not where there is no better alternative. I believe in our equal, individual rights to life, liberty and property. Democracy, as Ben Franklin pointed out, is two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is one well-armed sheep contesting the results. The tyranny of the majority violates liberty just as much as a dictatorship. We fall back on majority rule only because we have no better way to elect representatives, but the OATH of those representatives is to preserve our rights via the Constitution.

Sorry, pet issue of mine...

Eric, I suspect your REAL issue with my debate appearance was not my wasting time for the voters, but the perception that I took air time from your favorite candidate, McGavick. You knew the party faithful were going to vote for him, so you were unhappy I reduced McGavick's exposure to swing voters. But McGavick got all his sound bites out. He weighed in on all the issues. I took nothing from him. And I think there is a good chance that the net result of my running was to narrow the gap about 1/2 of a percent between Cantwell and McGavick. That might have been 10,000 votes, and though that's not a lot, it's a lot greater influence on the outcome than most individuals had. And had the election been as close as Gregoire and Rossi's, it might have changed the outcome in YOUR favor, just like Ruth Bennett almost did.

I suspect that you have miscalculated where your own interests lie on this issue.

And why do you equivocate in your post #27 above? First you say you are not against the little guy, and then you say that little guys shouldn't be in the debates? Sounds contradictory to me.

Posted by: Bruce Guthrie on May 16, 2007 09:05 PM
30. Bruce: no, when I mean majorities, I don't mean democracies. cf. Madison in Federalist 10: Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.

By "majorities" I meant majority parties. That is, I think that the American system works best with a majority party, rather than multiple minority parties that form a majority coalition. It could be altered -- there's nothing inherent in the American system requiring it to work that way -- but for now, that is how it works.

Posted by: pudge on May 16, 2007 09:25 PM
31. Bruce -

There's a difference between "the little guy" having access to the ballot and having access to a major TV debate.

Moreover, McGavick was well on his way to getting destroyed long before you found a way to enter the debate. I hold this view of streamlining debates for all major races, Senator, Governor, you name it. For example, I now currently favor reducing the Republican field in the Presidential debates to at least six or seven.

Sorry, your assessment of my motives is incorrect.

Posted by: Eric Earling on May 16, 2007 10:29 PM
32. Eric, I do not question your motives at all. I still believe that the public is better served if other people don't make the decision for them of who they get to see on that stage.

The most egregious example I remember -- doesn't really have to do with the situation at hand, but it's a fun story -- was the GOP primary debates in '96. Alan Keyes had not done well in the NH primary, and a TV station in Atlanta, GA based who it would invite to its debate on the NH primary results.

In this case, voters from New Hampshire were deciding who Georgia voters would get to see on the stage. Utterly nutty.

You may recall that Keyes tried to get into the debate anyway (if I remember the story, he had been invited originally, then disinvited when he fared poorly in NH), and he got arrested for it.

Posted by: pudge on May 16, 2007 11:17 PM
33. Wow, that makes Keyes sound more like a Green than a Republican! (Aaron Dixon (G) got arrested trying to push his way into the 2006 King 5 Senate debates...)

Eric, you assert that my guess about your motivations is incorrect, but you do not explain why it is incorrect. Why do you really care so much about wasting the voters' time? I still think you just resented the time I "took" from McGavick.

Why shouldn't the little guy, who has jumped through all the hurdles the D's and R's put in his way and qualified for the ballott, be allowed to debate the leaders of the race? I had to get about 2,000 signatures and fill out all that obnoxious privacy-destroying paperwork. I'm still dealing with the danged FEC today. Then there is all the work and money I put into the campaign, and the stress of actually debating on short notice. (I had one week, the others had months...) I think the hurdles are too high, not too low!

Here is one more great reason to include the little guy: if he is reasonably sure he can't win, then he has less disincentive to bring up unpopular truths and force the leaders, who are all trying to preserve their leads by playing it safe, to deal with them. You will see that this is a lot of what I did in the senate race. Little guys can change the topics of debate, and point out the flaws in the incumbent, without worrying that "going negative" will cost him the race.

Without my being in the race, the drug war, the PATRIOT Act and marriage equality probably would never have even come up. I'll bet that even the Iraq war would have come up less, because Cantwell supported it, and McGavick was worried that his position on the war would cost him. Yet the war was by far the most important issue to voters. I'm not saying the media could have let them get away with not talking about it, but that it would have come up less had little guys like Dixon, Hong Tran, Mark Wilson and I not been in the race.

Little guys perform a big public service. Leave them out of the debates and you entrench the oligopoly of the two big parties. The result is worse public leadership.

And what do we little guys get in return? Criticism from non-candidates or from big party partisans who say we're wasting their time. You should be thanking us.

It's called open debate, or the free exchange of ideas. Learn to deal with it. But don't call it a clean and open debate when only those approved by the elite may participate.

Posted by: Bruce Guthrie on May 17, 2007 01:04 AM
34. Some random thoughts on this thread:

One writer said that Guthrie's entry into the TV debates was "a journalistic and political shell game: a paid advertisement for which his money was cheerfully refunded"

--- Uh, lessee, neither Cantwell nor McGavick "paid" for the TV air time either. Their war chests went to everything else. Does anybody really think that primary elections are anything but the expenditure of public funds for the private purposes of the Ds and Rs? --- and free advertising too boot?

Another asserted, "RV, Condorcet, and the like, ... are essentially undemocratic."

--- And, of course, first-past-the-post single member districts are SOOOO democratic! --- as if forced choice is more democratic. So, I've just hidden your car keys and you get to stay the night. Do you want the red toothbrush or the blue one?

Another said, "I guess one really cool strategy would be for a small "l" libertarian to run as a fiscally conservative Democrat!!!"

--- Why do you think the Ds took the lead to kill the blanket primary? They HATE Tim Shelton. It is nearly certain that when the dust settles in that fracas that strategy will not be available.

And another, "I think that the American system works best with a majority party, rather than multiple minority parties that form a majority coalition."

--- The problem is there is no way to tell whether that hypothesis is true or not, except to the extent we can draw on the experiences of the 19th century. The "progressive movement" brought radical changes to the American system of elections, which had the largely unintended result of making the Ds and Rs virtual gatekeepers to partisan office. Even as early as 1911 Helen Keller saw the consequence. "We are asked to vote for Tweedledom and Tweedledee," she wrote to a friend.

Most current ballot access law is relatively recent, and came mostly from litigation, not the benevolence of legislatures dominated by Ds and Rs. The current regime for 3rd parties and independents is nothing but table scraps to provide the patina of constitutionality to a system that protects the dominant parties. Do some research on Duverger's Law sometime, and then notice how conveniently nearly all election systems are designed to take full benefit of the principles involved.

Posted by: Richard Shepard on May 17, 2007 06:48 AM
35. Bruce: do you know Eric? I know him a little, and it seems to me that you have no reason to think he is being dishonest. Just because he does not fully explain it to your satisfaction doesn't mean he's not telling you what he really thinks. I disagree with him on this issue, but I wouldn't dare even think he was being dishonest about his motivations (either with you, or with himself) unless I had exceptionally good reason. And I see none.

Criticize his views if you must, but I think your criticisms of his motives are out of line.

(There I go, being tolerant again ...)

Posted by: pudge on May 17, 2007 06:56 AM
36. Bruce -

We simply place differing values on the existence of 3rd parties in our political process. If ours was a parliamentary from of government I might share your view. I simply don't believe they're as meaningful in our system as you believe, and rarely do 3rd parties candidates have a truly substantive impact on a race, let alone win.

Meanwhile, I would similarly object if Aaron Dixon had made the same choice you did. And I would object to a 3rd party candidate of similar low-profile and of any idealogical persuasion interjecting themselves into a debate between, say, Gregoire and Rossi.

You say you took something away from McGavick. I think you took time from away from both he and Cantwell. They were actually running serious campaigns with a chance of winning. With all due respect, you weren't doing that and didn't deserve to be on the stage.

Posted by: Eric Earling on May 17, 2007 07:13 AM
37. "I think [Bruce] took time from away from both [McGavick] and Cantwell. They were actually running serious campaigns with a chance of winning. With all due respect, you weren't doing that and didn't deserve to be on the stage."

What an odd thing to say today.

Now, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, we know for certain that McGavick had no chance of winning. I mean, he lost. So, we now know he was going to lose. The only person with a chance of winning was Cantwell.

Frankly, McGavick's appearance in the debate was a complete waste of everyone's time because his candidacy isn't going to significantly affect politics. Guthrie at least may have helped grow the L party.

The fallicy in the perspective that only candidates with a so-called "chance of winning" deserve to get air time is in believing that this year's election matters. It does not.

Here's my prediction for 2009 (after the '08 elections): Home prices in Puget Sound will be somewhat higher than they are today. If you have a job, you'll be earning slightly more. Overall taxes will be a little higher, and the size, intrusiveness, and cost of both federal and state government will be 5-8% higher than now. Gasoline will be around $3 a gallon. The war will be winding down because of political pressure, but still thousands of American service personnel will be deployed to the Middle East.

I predict that all this will be true whether you cast your ballot for a D, R, L, Green or Constitution Party candidate in '08. Why? Because politics is a long-term project. To affect politics, you need millions of votes; to get millions of votes, you have to get hundreds of thousands, and to get hundreds of thousands, you need to find a way to get started on thousands.

Like trying to turn a supertanker in Puget Sound with a small tugboat, it doesn't happen instantaneously; it takes a long time working diligently. If you never start, you never, ever get the tanker turned.

So, Bruce's appearance was a start. It exposed millions of voters to the L party. Whether he was likely to win in '06 is irrelevant. If voters are never exposed to alternatives, then we're stuck with Ds and Rs as our only choice forever. Bruce's appearance was one of many small efforts to change the political landscape over the long-haul. And, it's that long-haul that really counts.

Posted by: J. Mills on May 17, 2007 08:48 AM
38. You (D's & R's) gripe and moan and complain about how corrupt the poltical system is, but the first moment a new candidate comes to the table with fresh ideas, you attack him for wasting your precious time. Where's the logic in allowing fellow competitors to decide who gets to play on the field with you? Of course they will vote to exclude all new-comers. Heck, if they thought they could get away with it, they'd vote to exclude everyone but themselves. Who wouldn't? ...given the chance.

I agree with J. Mills that it takes baby steps for any type of political change to occur. To allow the entrenched parties the power to snuff out new voices flies in the face of what a democratic republic is supposed to be. To claim that having more than two candidates on a stage is a waste of time and/or is confusing is a reflection on your inability to follow a story for more than thirty seconds. Don't push your attention deficit disorder onto me. I, unlike you, can assess multiple viewpoints at the same time.

R's and D's have become two sides of the same coin. As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. How do you imagine we'll every fix our political problems if we keep electing the same people back to office time and time again? We need fresh voices and different viewpoints to shake things up. The only way we'll ever be exposed to either of those will be to allow multiple parties to come and debate the issues.

Posted by: Don Bangert on May 19, 2007 08:43 AM
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