WE DO HAVE CHOICES

Florida’s Black Republicans, Bernie Sanders fans and non-party-affiliated voters have choices other than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Here’s brief info on two credible third-party candidates.

BY THE FLORIDA COURIER STAFF

While speaking at a recent televised town hall meeting, House Speaker Paul Ryan said his decision to endorse Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump was a “binary choice … It’s either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.”

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Democrats, including President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, advocated for Hillary Clinton during last month’s Democratic National Convention in much of the same “either or” language.

That “binary choice” of one of the only things establishment Democrats and Republicans agree on.

But like many of the statements made during this 2016 election season, the statement isn’t true.

Hard at work
On July 25 – the day Sen. Bernie Sanders urged his supporters to vote for Hillary Clinton in a prime-time speech from the Democratic National Convention stage in Philadelphia – socialist Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who had backed Sanders, told a crowd at a rally across town to continue Sanders’ “political revolution,” not by following his lead, but by voting for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Stein had been courting Sanders supporters in Philadelphia, while Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson crashed both the Republican and Democratic conventions. In this season of two-party discontent, both Stein and Johnson believe they have a chance to peel off voters and leave their marks on the presidential race.

Johnson believes he will be on all 50 states’ ballots. Stein expects to make most.

Garnering support from 15 percent of voters in national polls qualifies a candidate for the presidential debates. That seems to be the benchmark of legitimacy, at least with regard to so-called mainstream media, for which Stein and Johnson are aiming.

Libertarian, progressive
Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, is known for his support (and use) of marijuana, favors small government, a single consumption tax and more protection for civil liberties.

Stein, a physician who became a liberal activist, offers a platform that prioritizes action on climate change and eradicates student debt.

She wants the nation’s energy to be 100 percent clean and renewable by 2030, would like GMOs banned until they’re proven safe (many scientists already believe GMOs are safe) and would set a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage.

Here’s what Stein and Johnson believe:

Education
Stein wants to abolish student debt and guarantee tuition-free education from preschool through university education. She wants to “protect our public school systems from privatization and increase federal funding for school.”

Johnson “believes there is no role for the federal government in education.” He would cut the Department of Education.

Climate change
Stein’s platform prioritizes climate change. It calls for a ban on pesticides that she says threaten bees, and would transition the country entirely to renewable energy and end the use of nuclear energy.

Johnson believes the climate is probably changing and humans are probably contributing. He supports the federal government’s interest in protecting the environment, but believes that should happen by punishing polluters, not intervening in energy markets or subsidizing certain energy sources.

The economy
Stein supports a federal $15 minimum wage, more union rights and tighter regulation of Wall Street.

Her platform calls for tax cuts for the poor and middle class, and higher taxes on the wealthy. She hopes to impose a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.

Johnson advocates for a free market with small government and limited regulation. He favors tax reform that would create a single consumption tax that is the same rate for all goods and all purchasers. Basic necessities would be covered by a “prebate” – a monthly payment given to every taxpaying household by the government.

Health care
Stein favors a single-payer health care system that would essentially give everyone a form of Medicare.

Johnson favors fully privatized health care.

LGBTQ issues
Stein believes in Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer protections from discrimination and supports gay marriage.

Johnson says people ought to be free to marry whomever they want.

Immigration
Stein’s platform calls for demilitarized borders and an end to deportations of law-abiding undocumented immigrants.

Johnson would like work visas to be more easily obtained and to give immigrants a path to citizenship. He notes that immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born people.

Foreign policy
Stein would like to cut military spending in half and close more than 700 foreign military bases. She would ban drone warfare and would remove U.S. nuclear weapons abroad.

Johnson considers himself skeptical of foreign intervention. He believes Congress needs to be involved in military decisions.

Criminal justice
Stein supports the Black Lives Matter movement, and an end to police brutality and mass incarceration.

Johnson believes police shootings are rooted in the drug war, which he would like to end.

Guns
Stein supports gun control measures, and believes the issue ought to be treated as a national public-health emergency.

Johnson’s support for gun ownership rights aligns with the Libertarian Party platform, which opposes gun restrictions of all kinds.

Marijuana
Both candidates support the legalization of marijuana and deplore the 40-year so-called “War on Drugs.”

‘None of the above’
One thing is certain: polls consistently show that voters don’t like the choice of Trump vs. Hillary.

For instance, a Washington Post/ABC News poll taken just before the Republican National Convention found 58 percent of voters were dissatisfied with the choice between Trump and Clinton. Among those surveyed, 64 percent had an unfavorable view of Trump, while 54 percent felt unfavorably toward Clinton.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey offered a similar verdict: Trump was viewed favorably by 27 percent of those surveyed and unfavorably by 60 percent. That net negative rating of minus 33 points is the worst in the history of the poll.

But Clinton’s image is only somewhat better: 34 percent positive, 56 percent negative.

Single digits
Despite the history-making unpopularity of the two major-party nominees, the two largest third parties didn’t garner a lot of support. Johnson and Stein drew 8 percent and 5 percent nationally, in the ABC/Washington Post survey. They got 11 percent and 6 percent, respectively, in the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey.

The two drew roughly equally from both Clinton and Trump at this point, the polls found.

Rather than flocking to a third choice, many voters are being driven by negative feelings about the candidate they don’t like, more than positive feelings about their own candidate. That’s particularly true for Trump, who leads a party still badly divided between his supporters and detractors.

Still close
As for who is winning in Florida, surveys all show a very close race. The latest Quinnipiac University Poll showed Clinton leading Trump 46 percent to 45 percent among likely Florida voters in a head-to-head matchup. Clinton and Trump are tied at 43 percent, with 7 percent for Johnson and 3 percent for Stein.

Among Clinton supporters in Florida, 42 percent said their main reason is being pro-Clinton, while 41 percent said their main motive is being anti-Trump and 13 percent said they back the Democratic nominee.

Just 29 percent of Florida Trump supporters said they are pro-Trump, while 54 percent were anti-Clinton and 10 percent said they back the Republican nominee.

There are also large gaps between the candidates along racial, ethnic and gender lines. Clinton leads among Florida women, 53-40, while Trump outpolls her by roughly the same margin among men, 51-39. Trump draws the support of 57 percent of White voters, to 36 percent for Clinton, while non-White voters back her by almost 50 points, 68-21.

Both ran strong within their own party, with Trump netting 91 percent of Republicans and Clinton winning 89 percent of Democrats.

Independent voters were evenly split, with 42 percent for Clinton and 41 percent for Trump.
For more information on Jill Stein, go to http://www.jill2016.com; for Gary Johnson, go to https://www.johnsonweld.com.

Evan Bush of the Seattle Times, Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel, David Lauter of Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS), and Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida all contributed to this report.

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