There are a lot of unhappy Americans, facing what seems like a choice between Ms Sleaze and Mr Crazy.

 
The latest revelations might be Clinton sleaze rather than Hillary sleaze. They concern a donor to the Clinton Foundation who got access to the US Ambassador to a country he was interested in, during Hillary's tenure at the State Department.
 
Anyone looking for less than ideal among American politicians has a lot to choose from in the Clinton duo, starting with the ladies of Arkansas, or earlier in various assessments of Bill's avoiding the draft.
 
Donald's latest gaffe are muddled comments about the Second Amendment, which some are seeing as promoting the assassination of his opponent.
 
He's also lost what could be said to be Republican ground among Mormons and military personnel and veterans. Utah hasn't voted Democratic in a presidential election since 1964, but Mormons are upset about Trump's views on religious and ethnic minorities, as well as noting Mitt Romney's distancing from him.
 
Military personnel and veterans are upset at Trump's casual treatment of a Muslim couple who lost a son, as well as other comments about the military, and his own lack of service.


The Israeli option in such a situation is placing a blank sheet in the ballot envelop.


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The voter here shows an official ID to poll workers, is provided an envelop, enters a booth with a tray of slips showing party names and symbols, along with a blank option. The voter puts one in the envelop, and deposits that in the ballot box.


On one recent election, the word went out that protesters should support the Pensioners' Party. It worked. The old folks won several seats in the Knesset, and their leader got a seat at the Government's table. 


He was a distinguished retired civil servant, who had made a name for himself in matters hush hush, ranging from seizing Adelph Eichmann to running Jonathan Pollard. The latter got him barred from the US, but didn't cost him much domestically.


However, the party folded due to the excessive hormones still operating in one of its aged Knesset Members. He was charged with sexually harassing another of the party's aged Knesset Members.


The principal American alternatives are shaping up as abstention, Greens, and Libertarians. 


A recent poll showed the Libertarians with eight percent, the Greens with four percent, Hillary with 45, and Donald with 37 percent.


Abstentions may end up the winners, but we'll have to compare its success with previous presidential elections.


If measured as the percentage of voting age Americans who do not vote, abstentions win most elections below the presidency, and have ranged above 40 percent in  presidential elections. In 2016, they'll probably do better than they have in the past.


We can guess that the Greens will get votes from Democrats who can't stand Hillary, while the Libertarians will profit from unhappy Republicans.


We'll ponder how much of their votes came as protests against Hillary and Donald, and how much represent voters who really want to promote Greenness or a government that will be even smaller and less intrusive than what exists.


The Green candidate is an anti-Israeli Jewish female physician, so there'll be lots of contenders for assessing what that party's tally really means.


The Socialist Labor Party provided an alternative for angry Americans from the 1870s onward, with a number of twists and turns in its ideology. It approached 50,000 votes in several presidential elections, but in recent years closed its offices, stopped publishing a newspaper, and disappeared.


Third party candidates face several institutional hurdles, including state rules for getting on the ballot, and major party control of televised debates. 

Rules of the game elevate electoral votes to everything that matters. This introduces state demographics and politics to the candidates' calculations of where to campaign and what to promise, and commentators' assessments of what influenced the outcome.

My University of Wisconsin background, as alumnus and faculty member, including my affiliation with the Robert M. LaFollete School of Public Affairs,,keeps me from ridiculing the Senator's run for the presidency in 1924. He and his followers represented some of the best in US politics. However, the state also produced Joe McCarthy. The kind of people who supported LaFollette, and made a Socialist Mayor of Milwaukee, and those who voted for McCarthy, are still competing for control.

Two other Third Party candidates who won electoral votes have shown their own contributions to American complexities. George Wallace ended his gubernatorial career after the onset of Civil Rights, apologized for earlier racism, and made appointments from within the African American community. Strom Thurmond also rose to prominence as a racist, but late in his life acknowledged his half-Black daughter.


There hasn't been a Third Party getting electoral votes since George Wallace ran with General Curtis LeMay on the ticket of the American Independent Party in 1968.


Several Third Party candidates have gotten enough votes in various states to allow a conclusion that they tipped electoral votes, and perhaps even the election for or against a major party candidate. The list features Ross Perot making it possible for Bill Clinton to win in 1992, and.Ralph Nader or maybe Pat Buchanan, or both of them tipping Florida and the election to Bush in 2000.


However, these assessments depend on the Third Party candidate's votes going one way or another if he wasn't in the race. Another possibility is that the Third Party candidate attracted people who wouldn't have voted, or were motivated by things as peculiar as those candidates, and whose votes could not be predicted if the Third Party candidate was not running.

Some analysts claim that peculiar mechanics of Florida voting may have produced more votes for Third Party candidates than voters intended.

The list of vote winners who lost the Presidency due to the mechanics of the electoral college and/or Court decisions includes Andrew Jackson (1824), Samuel Tilden (1876), Grover Cleveland (1888), and Al Gore (2000). 

Also in the mix is American corruption, and its contribution to how votes are counted. On this dimension, Richard Nixon (1960) can join with Al Gore as prominent complainers. 

So much for the wonders of federalism and residual states rights. They are part of American history, and continue to complicate our understanding of the country.

Comments welcome


-- 
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Irashark@gmail.com 
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