On October 10, John Hertzler, a candidate running to unseat Congressman Tom Reed, announced that he was planning to drop out of the Democratic Party to run as an Independent.
PRESS RELEASE: From the Committee to Elect JG Hertzler to Congress in the 23rd District of NYS.
"After 50 years as a Democrat residing in Pennsylvania, Wash. DC, California and New York...I have now officially changed my party affiliation to "none of the above." I am now officially an "Independent" although the specific change does not take effect until after the election this November. I am running to repeal and replace Tom Reed in the 23rd District of NY and I am running independent of party talking points, independent of party machinery, independent of static ineffective messaging, independent of party restriction. My positions, my beliefs, regarding the state of the body politic in America is based on what I have been educated to believe America stands for…a government of the People, by the People and for the People. I am not running for lobbyist agendas, Wall Street money, super-pac influence…all that Tom Reed does represent.
Firstly, I am for introducing the idea of SINGLE PAYER health insurance like Medicare, which is the single most efficient and cost effective form of health insurance currently available in America. They say it’s a lost cause but I stand with Clarence Darrow who spent his life fighting for lost causes, such as civil rights, due process, union representation, freedom of speech and association. He spoke of his life this way..."Lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for."
Secondly, I believe in instituting an APOLLO-sized program to combat climate destruction before the climate destroys us. The APOLLO program, empowered by President Kennedy to take America to the Moon, created millions of new jobs within new technologies to get America to the Moon and back within one decade. A similar Climate protection program and resultant New Energy Movement will create the potential of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new, well paying and important jobs for Americans.
The third major pillar for my campaign regards our involvement in the Middle East, be it Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, etc. After 70-80 years of political and military meddling and at least 17 years of open combat leaving hundreds of thousands dead and perhaps millions wounded, have we brought freedom, democracy, social change, civil rights, educational opportunity, or even a reduction of the nearly unending internecine wars among the people of the Middle East? Have we eliminated terrorism? Have we caused former enemies to become our trusted allies? What have we accomplished? What are we doing there? We are spending trillions of dollars occupying the homelands of ancient peoples and forcing our culture and our institutions upon them, who do not accept any of it. As President and former General Dwight David Eisenhower concluded in his farewell address to the nation in 1961, America must beware of the "Military Industrial Complex" lest that complex lead our great land into endless war and unwinnable conflict for the sake of one thing…profit… not freedom. Trillions of dollars are being spent on waging war in the Middle East, while bankrupting our own economy so we cannot "afford" to combat Climate Change, we cannot afford universal Health Care, we cannot afford to pay our public school teachers, or our local police, or our nurses a decent wage.
These are some of the major issues representing my foundational beliefs in American policy. I realize that they are fitfully complex requiring complex solutions, not bumper-sticker-slogans. But if we cannot muster the political will of Congress to even consider new thought and new solutions, nothing will change, no one will prosper except the super-rich, nothing will grow; and in a timespan much shorter than we might imagine, we will have torn down our "shining city on the hill" and replaced it with a "shining gated-community on the hill surrounded by a Golden Wall" to keep out the impoverished-masses commonly known as…The American People.
I am a candidate for Congress because America is my cause. I cannot sit-by any longer and watch as Government of the People becomes just another lost cause. We have to win. "
This is JG Hertzler and I absolutely approve this message.
I responded to this announcement with dismay.
This is a TERRIBLE idea. You and the Democrats are going to end up splitting the anti-Reed vote, thus assuring Reed a victory. You will be the Ralph Nader or Jill Stein of this election. You have some good ideas. Your heart is in the right place. But this will be a disaster. Please reconsider.
I was pleased that Mr. Hertzler took the time to write a thoughtful and lengthy response to my plea.
To Robin and others that do not care for my choice. Here's the deal. Politics in America have shifted...severely. Like so many other aspects of society in America, the older binary approach to politics is disappearing. We, the electorate, are shifting to movement politics and away from old world party machine politics. I still believe Bernie could have won. Why? Because he was and is perceived as an honest man of the People. His gender had nothing to do with it. My opinion. Americans are desperate for honesty in government. Party doesn't equate with honesty. More specifically, as soon as i announced that I would be running for Congress as a Democrat...I met with members of the leadership of my local Democratic Party and I was told in precisely these following words..."John, I will never support a Democrat from Tompkins County." They said that and repeated it until I began to believe it. Because my district is mostly Republican after the gerrymandering that took place in 2010, following years of Democratic representation in our old District...new lines were drawn that brought in several new counties so that my district now consists of 11 counties, stretching from eastern upstate NY all the way to Lake Erie. A powerful Republican majority suddenly controlled the district. In the last three Congressional elections, the Democrats have lost with no third party candidates of size. When Hilary lost the National election I asked repeatedly to join the newly formed local Dem committee...Political Action Committee. I had already spoken my piece that Democratic Party messaging was horrendous, locally and nationally. I wanted to help improve that messaging. I never heard a word from the powers that be until after the new committee was meeting and publishing their decisions. That was the proverbial straw on my back. I decided to believe what the local Dems were telling me that they would not support a Dem from Tompkns co. I had a choice. Change my residence or change my party. Or simply drop out. I decided to change my party. As Trump continues to prove to even the most impenetrable supporter that he is the worst most dangerous President ever elected, and as Tom Reed, my current Congressman, continues to support Trump's utter insanity and disregard for America's Constitution and the Bill of Rights...I see the possibility of appealing to the moderate Americans of my District, no matter their Party affiliation. And so, although it will make my path more difficult and time consuming, I truly believe I have a better chance to unseat Tom Reed than any other candidate running in my district. I truly believe that voters no longer vote only along Party lines...I am banking on their voting for the candidate with the best chance at changing the political will in Washington...the one most capable of actually Draining the Swamp in DC. 40 years ago I worked in the Federal Government. I used to live in Washington. In those 40 plus years I have seen the world and lived all across this nation. The work that must be DONE to rebuild the American Democratic Republic is clear to me and it does not depend on Party Affiliation. It depends on clarity of vision, belief in oneself to make a change, and the power to actually make it happen...and that is why I am running. I believe in the America I was educated into and which I have compared to other nations throughout the world....a land of the free and home of the brave...a government of the People, By the People and For the People...I am sick and tired of the Billionaires, the Wall Street king makers, the authoritarians with utter disregard for the general welfare of this nation, the deal-makers who want only to profit at any cost....Nothing of such hateful arrogance can be found in the Declaration or the Constitution. Power, wealth, intolerance is not what we are about. FREEDOM! IS WHAT AMERICA IS ABOUT! ALL of us are CREATED EQUAL is what we are about. And that is what i am about. I can be that without being issued Talking Points from a central committee. I can be that without the machinations of the Party big wigs. I can be that because I am a citizen who qualifies to run for Congress and that is what I intend to do. thanks for your concern Robin, but relax....I got this! jgh
Though I am impressed that Hertzler took the time to write this response, it did not make me feel any better about the likely outcome of a three-way election. I responded with a suggestion that could avoid handing Tom Reed the 2018 election on a golden platter.
Thank you, John, for your very thoughtful response. It sounds like you got a raw deal from the local Democrats and I can understand why you decided to drop out of the Democratic party and run as an independent. However, I still have a number of concerns.
You said that the old binary approach is disappearing and the electorate is shifting and is willing to vote for third parties, so long as they could vote for an honest politician. Yet, it is VERY rare for a third party candidate to get into Congress. According to Wikipedia, there have only been 111 Third party Representatives since 1877, and only 6 since 1949.
Right now, there is only one third-party member in the House, and when I say he is a member of the House, the word "member" should have an asterisk next to it. That lone Independent Congressman, Gregorio Sablan, is from the Northern Mariana Islands' at-large. Since he is from one of the territories and not from one of the states he can participate in Congressional debates, but he does not get to actually vote in Congress.
All this is to say that though it is theoretically possible for a third party candidate to win, the odds are incredibly long. I am guessing that you are going by your gut feeling that Americans are willing to vote for third party candidates in significant numbers. If there is empirical evidence to back up your claim, I certainly haven't seen it.
I agree with everything you said about Tom Reed and Donald Trump. And it is true that Democrats have lost to Reed in the last three elections--and they can't blame their loss on a third party candidate splitting the vote. However, the same factors that lead you to believe that a significant number of voters would vote for a third party candidate also suggest that a good Democratic candidate--and there are several good candidates--has a far better chance of unseating Reed than any of the previous candidates had.
1) Reed is a privacy hypocrite. He has consistently voted to keep Donald Trump's tax returns secret while he has voted to let ISPs sell our browsing history.
2) Tom Reed campaigned against John Plumb and derided Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for being soft on Russia. You can see Reed's Facebook Posts where he says he'll be tougher with Russia here.
The hypocrisy of his continued support of Donald Trump--who has unquestioningly been compromised by Russia--screams louder than a jet engine in an echo chamber.
3) In general, his nearly unwavering support of President Moron will bite him.
4) His vote to trash Obamacare without a suitable replacement will bite him hard. He will portray himself as a moderate who tried to reach across the aisle to work with the Democrats for an Obamacare replacement. In fact, he did do this, but only AFTER the Republican plan that he voted for which would gut healthcare for millions went down in flames. And when Graham-Cassidy tried to revive an extremely partisan plan that would throw millions off of health care, Reed was silent. If he had been really sincere about working with the Democrats to find a workable, bipartisan plan, he should have spoken up. He should have said, "My fellow Republicans, this is bullshit! You obviously didn't learn your lesson the first time around. John McCain is right. We must follow the regular order of having extensive hearings and getting a Congressional Budget Office report on the impact of the plan before voting on it. We must not pass a plan that is likely to prevent millions from getting health care, and we must especially not do so without getting Democratic input!" Reed will not be able to get away with his slippery attempt to appear reasonable if you and the Democratic candidate make a big issue of his silence during the Republican attempt to raise an evil health-care bill from the dead.
All these factors make it more likely that a Democrat could beat Reed--at least if the anti-Reed vote is not split. Which raises the question--how can you run on a third party without splitting the anti-Reed vote? I believe I have an answer.
I propose that you and the Democrats enter an anti-Reed pact. There are three ways you could do this.
1) Agree with the Democrats that you will pool your votes after the general election. If you win more votes than the Democratic candidate in the election, then all the Democratic votes will be counted as votes for John Hertzler. If the Democratic wins more votes than you do, then every vote for you counts as a vote for the Democratic candidate. I am not a lawyer, much less a lawyer who specializes in election law. Therefore, I do not know if this proposal is legal. Since you have legal training you might have a better idea about the legality of this proposal than I do. If you don't know whether you can legally do this, then you and the Democratic candidate consult a lawyer who specializes in election law.
2) If the first way is not legal then you and the Democrats should agree to conduct a poll to see who has more support a week before the election. If you win the poll then the Democratic candidate must withdraw and throw his or her full support behind you. If the Democratic candidate wins then you must withdraw and throw your full support behind him or her. Of course, you will have to agree well in advance as to who will do the polling and the exact wording of the question. I suggest the following:
"In a race between Tom Reed, John Hertzler, and (Insert name of Democratic candidate here), who will you vote for?"
It is possible that you and the Democratic candidate might differ on whose name should appear first in this question. Flip a coin if you cannot agree. Also, I suggested the poll should be conducted a week before the election. This timeframe is not set in stone. Perhaps it would be better to conduct the poll two weeks or a month before the election. You and the Democratic candidate should pick a date that will maximize the odds that the winner of the poll will have enough time to mount the most effective campaign against Reed.
3) Agree with the Democrats to concentrate your firepower against Reed and not against each other. Neither you or the Democrats should run negative adds against each other. You can point out the weaknesses of each other's ideas (or better yet, emphasize the strengths of your own ideas), but do not run negative personal attack adds against each other. The more you attack each other, the more Reed will benefit.
Tom Reed will have a huge advantage over you and the Democratic candidate. He has better name recognition. He has the other advantages of incumbency--i.e. every constituent he has helped is more likely to vote for him. And most importantly, he will have a huge war chest of money (largely raised from large and out-of-district voters). He is almost guaranteed a win if you and the Democrats do not follow my suggestion. But with a united front against Reed we stand a good chance of unseating him.
I made my plea for a unity pact against Tom Reed on John Hertzler's Facebook page on October 12. As of today, he has not responded to my post. I like John Hertzler. I think he would be an excellent, passionate, thoughtful representative who would do an excellent job replacing Tom Reed. However, the Democratic Party boasts a field rich with strong, well-qualified candidates who would do an excellent job in replacing Reed. It is far too early for me to endorse any specific candidate. It is not too early, however, for me to call upon Hertzler, all the Democratic candidates, and Brian Clasby, another Independent candidate to enter a unity pact against Tom Reed.
John Hertzler is most famous for his portrayal of Klingon General Martok on Star Trek:Deep Space Nine. He makes frequent appearances at Star Trek conventions and he has much to be proud of for his role in that highly underrated series. I will therefor conclude my appeal to him and to other Independent and Democratic candidates to form a unity pack with these wise words from two of the best known Star Trek characters.
Update 11/1/17:I have sent a link to this post to all the candidates running against Reed. For the most part, the responses have been less than enthusiastic. I don't think a pact will happen, but I do hope that polling will be done as the general election draws near and that the Independent or Democratic candidate who finds him or herself behind will voluntarily withdraw for the greater good. No explicit pact is really necessary to produce the desired result. After all, millions of monarch butterflies do not have to conspire with each other to arrive in Michoacan, Mexico at the same time every year.
John Hertzler said it was ok for me to post his response to my proposal. Here it is:
Robin, simply put, I will not sign your pact or any pact. I will simply exercise my rights as a citizen. Signing of pacts is the way of Newt Gingrich and Oliver Norquist. Such pacts have the scent of back-room politics and smoke-filled deal making. I won't do it. And the Democrats cannot win in at least 9 of the 11 counties in my district. I do approve of nearly all the Democratic candidates now running. I like them as thinkers and motivated citizens. I have simply chosen a different way. And I want to thank you for posting my responses to your personal messages to me. They absolutely reflect my campaign and my motivations. And again, I have no intention of signing your pact or any such pact. jgh
Hertzler also added, "Although on a different path, we are bound toward the same goal. REPEAL AND REPLACE TOM REED!" While this is not my preferred response, it is still a perfectly acceptable and reasonable response.
Update 11/6/17: Brian Clasby also responded thoughtfully to my suggestion.
Hello, I have read the statements between you and John Hetzler and I do have a few thoughts:
First, insofar as a "unity pact" is concerned, I just don't see how that would work. The idea of pooling votes after the fact not only seems illegal but wrong-headed in that you assume that people are only voting for or against Reed and don't care otherwise. Having a poll just before the election might have some merit but who conducts the poll and why would I believe in polls anymore? Also, by then everyone running is already on the ballot. How do you keep anyone from voting for the candidate who drops out?
One of the questions I get is that of being a "spoiler", or of "siphoning" votes away from other candidates. This is particularly true of those who would like a Democrat elected or simply see Reed defeated. It would seem that there might be might be the same concern for those hoping Reed will be reelected but I've not met as many Reed supporters . . .
I do not see things quite this way but before I address this more thoroughly, I would like to know your thoughts.
While I appreciate this sentiment, I would point out the following:On the political spectrum, Reed is well to the right. He serves the narrow interests of the corporate elite at the expense of the rest of us. He is a supporter of Donald Trump, a politician with fascistic tendencies and the favorite of neo-Nazis and KKKers everywhere. Donald Trump is both a long-term threat (climate change) and an immediate threat to our national security (His recklessness regarding North Korea could drag us into a nuclear war). He is also the poster boy for filling the swamp with corruption. (Books could be written about Trump's corruption and the corruption of those within his Administration. But for a three or four word summary, think "Whitefish Energy, Puerto Rico")
All of Reed's opponents are to the left of him. All, I believe, want to see a competent government run for the welfare of the voters. And all, I believe, would vote to impeach Trump if elected President. Most, if not all those voters who are in the anti-Reed camp are also in the Anti-Trump camp. It is those votes you are going to split since, I believe, you are probably in that camp as well. Reed's supporters don't care if Reed supports Trump. A third party candidate running for clean government that works for the interests of the people is not going to split the vote of the pro-Trump/pro-Reed constituency. He will, however, hand Reed a victory on a silver platter.