The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or Owen Paepke. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.
Jim: Today’s guest is Owen Paepke. Owen’s a retired attorney who has spoken and written widely on technology and science policy. He’s the author of the book, The Evolution of Progress, the end of economic growth and the beginning of human transformation. I checked it out on Amazon and it looks pretty interesting. I actually ordered a copy. And he’s also written a three-volume series called The Seinfeld Election, which he investigates the American political divide. Welcome, Owen.
Owen: Thank you, sir. I’m very glad to be here.
Jim: Yeah, I think this should be a fun conversation. Today we’re going to be talking about and from his new book, The Purple Presidency 2024. And this is going to be the third in our mini series about the No Labels effort that will be coming up. And while Owen’s book’s about more than just no labels, it kind of fits in that space. Just to remind people, a few weeks back we did an episode with Matt Bennett of Third Way, who’s probably the leading critic of No Labels. And then last week we published an episode with Ryan Clancy, who is the chief strategist and of course a very strong advocate for No Labels.
And today we’re going to hear Owen’s version of what’s going on in the political center. So, I happen to find, while I was doing my pregame research, a little interview with you with a local Arizona magazine where you live had many quotes, but three of them I thought were kind of cool. These were question and answers. One of them was when I was younger, I wanted to be the person who reconciled quantum mechanics and relativity.
Owen: Yes, that’s right. That was a little bold.
Jim: Yeah, a little bit, a little bit. Well, hey, I like it, right? And of course, I also picked out of your bio that before we became an attorney, you were actually a chemist. Is that true?
Owen: That’s true. I majored in chemical engineering at Stanford and I worked briefly as a chemist before. I went to law school.
Jim: Well, that’s cool. So, you actually know something about the real world, not just shuffling paper and screwing people.
Owen: I do. Those are fond memories. Sometimes I wish I’d never changed, but there you go.
Jim: Right. Another one, a very apt about to what we’re going to be talking about. A house divided against itself cannot stand. That’s your favorite quote.
Owen: It is.
Jim: Abraham Lincoln.
Jim: And then if I could change anything in the world, it would be restoring America to constructive, functioning democracy from your lips to God’s ears. If there was a God, which I’m very doubtful of, but definitely something I think many of us would love to see. So let’s hop into some of the book. You start right off with something that really resonated with me. Two quotes. I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me. Ronald Reagan, 1962. And then I didn’t leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left me. John Kasich, 2018.
And you know, that really resonates. I feel like a man without a party. I actually was a Republican until 1992. I basically put up with aspects of Republicans I didn’t like because of their strong stance on the Cold War. And since then, I’ve probably voted for the Democrats more often than Republicans. But I haven’t felt at home in either party. For instance, I’m a pro-abortion rights person, quite strong, and a pro-gun rights person.
I mean, what the hell party do I belong to? You know, I take the climate emergency very seriously, but I reject ridiculous things like get it done by 2030 that Bernie was selling in 2020 or the mad ravings of AOC or anti-nuclear talk, et cetera. And on the grounds of being a liberal universal humanist, I believe that people suffering from body gender dysmorphia must be treated with respect and being able to live a life of dignity and love. While I reject a lot of the ultra-trans bullshit, I certainly don’t believe men can get pregnant. And I think the idea that men’s can compete in women’s sports is both dangerous and insane. So what party do I belong to?
Owen: I can’t help you with that. The last couple of presidential elections, I voted for the libertarians. I was something of a libertarian wannabe about 50 years ago. So that doesn’t really apply anymore. But I couldn’t vote for Trump and I couldn’t vote for Biden and I couldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. So I had to vote for somebody.
Jim: Yep. You know, I ended up holding my nose and voting for Hillary and for Biden, because even though I probably disagree with them on policy a bit more than I disagree with Trump. In my view, Trump is just an absolutely impossible person whose character is totally rotten. You know, I was a business guy for many years, hired hundreds, possibly thousands of people. And character matters, right? And you can’t be a rotten son of a bitch as Donald Trump either is or he plays one on TV and I would never vote for Donald Trump. I think 2016 I said I would vote for Saddam Hussein before I would vote for Donald Trump and Saddam Hussein was dead at the time.
Owen: Well, Jim, here’s my point. Regrettably, I can’t take issue with anything you’ve said except that to me, deciding that Trump is worse than Biden or Biden is worse than Trump is just a recognition of the problem. We are not voting for candidates and we haven’t been for some time. We’re voting against candidates. The polls show pretty clearly that most of Joe Biden’s votes were not primarily for Joe Biden. They were against Donald Trump. This is a country of 300 million people. Is this the best we can do that we find the lesser of two evils?
Jim: Yeah, my wife and I talk about that all the time. Frankly, probably you and I at a coin toss would be better off than the choices we’ve had over the last 10 years or so. And of course, we know why. Who would put up with the abuse and horseshit of an American political campaign the way it’s currently structured? It does not attract good people. Right.
Owen: Well, listen, there’s a lot about politics that no longer attracts good people. And that’s very, very troubling. But to me, part of it also lies at the feet of the parties themselves. They really have cultivated an environment where the people that they’re nominating for office and the support for office are not the people that the American voter wants.
Jim: And of course, we have a system of partisan primaries that usually low turnout and usually the most extreme of each party turns out for those primaries. And if you don’t want to get primaried, you have to appeal to the raw meat faction of your party.
Owen: Exactly right. And that’s a large part of what I was referring to. That is the creation of the parties. There’s a number of efforts, including a very bold one in Arizona, kind of along the Alaska lines to try to change that. And I hope they succeed. But the point is the only reason why they may not be succeeding is because of the effective opposition of the parties. They want party first and they prefer extremists to moderates.
Jim: And of course, these institutional structures have been in place for a long while, though primaries weren’t too significant until after the 1972 reforms. You put up a very interesting set of two graphs where you showed the distribution of conservatism, I believe it was, between the two parties in Congress. And back in 92nd Congress, which I believe was about 1972, right before the reforms were put through, there was a lot of overlap.
There was a hundred Democrats more conservative than the most liberal Republican. Where’s it 50? Anyway, it’s a significant number, a lot of overlap. And as you pointed out, there was a hundred that actually did overlap and another hundred that were close and actually could work together. And then by the 117th Congress, no overlap at all.
Owen: Yeah, a complete and fairly wide separation. There are some difficulties with comparing over that long a time period. But if you look at each of those, they’re very indicative of the central problem. We used to have an atmosphere and environment in Washington or a group of people in Washington who were quite capable of interacting and negotiating and compromising. And now we have groups of people who view each other as the enemy. And it’s sometimes it’s a little hard to compromise with the enemy.
Jim: And it’s interesting that we’ve come to this because let’s think about in the Reagan years, we had Ronald Reagan, a very solid conservative and the leader of the house. It was Tip O’Neill, as I recall, right?
Owen: Yes, sir. And that was one of the classic partnerships in Washington and very productive.
Jim: And Tip, very progressive guy. I mean, he was to the left of the Democratic Party at that time.
Owen: I think that’s right. The only thing they had in common is they were both Irish. And listen, they didn’t agree with each other very much, but they liked each other and they could work together to reach some common ground.
Jim: And they did not get involved in the politics of personal insult and degradation. Not at all. They liked each other, as you said.
Owen: Exactly the opposite. And if you look at the 1984 campaign, I don’t know if you or many of the listeners remember those debates, Reagan and Mondale, they had a great time. They made jokes at each other’s expense and they laughed at each other’s jokes. And they were very respectful of each other. And, you know, honestly, you look at it and either one of those gentlemen belonged in the Oval Office. They were fine. They were absolutely fine candidates and fine Americans. How often do we see that now?
Jim: I remember 1992 election where we had Clinton versus HW Bush. And my take on that one was neither of them would have been a disaster. And that was a reasonably good choice.
Owen: And well, and you left out Perot.
Jim: and Perot.
Owen: And Perot is maybe the most informative candidate in that race.
Jim: I backed Perot until he went nuts, right?
Owen: The guy was a bit of a loom, Jim. No argument there. But the point is that he made a huge difference in not winning.
Jim: And amazingly, again, two political, not quite opposites, opponents, Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton managed to eliminate the deficit. Right. What the heck?
Owen: Well, and that in lots of other productive things. That was as productive a team in its time as Reagan and Tip O’Neill.
Jim: Yeah. Some other things you quoted, which I had frankly forgotten, was when Justice Scalia was nominated to the Supreme Court in the Senate. OK, listeners, pick a number in your mind. What do you think the Democrat Republican vote was on nominating Scalia? Probably the most, him and Clarence Thomas, the most hardcore conservative on the court. What’s the answer, Owen?
Jim: to 0.
Owen: Yeah. Well, there’s only 100 people in the Senate. Yeah, 99-0, correct.
Jim: And then when Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who’s extremely progressive, very eloquently progressive, was confirmed, what was that vote?
Owen: Was it 95 or 93? It was overwhelming.
Owen: Yeah, there you go.
Jim: How about that? And then we have two candidates, I would say are less extreme. Ketanji Brown Jackson, 53-47 and Amy Coney Barrett, 52-48. Right?
Jim: Neither of those are, I would say, as extreme as either Scalia or Ginsburg. And yet we’re now having a rotten egg battle every time anybody comes up to the Supreme Court.
Owen: Yeah, I can’t imagine somebody who would get any kind of consensus support in the Senate for the Supreme Court. It’s just not possible in the current environment.
Jim: Yeah, it’s really, really crazy. So what do you think is driving this?
Owen: Well, you mentioned the primary reforms and I happen to think that there was a post in my on my sub-stack. I didn’t happen to have done it, but that primaries are the root of all partisan evil. That’s a slight exaggeration, but it’s not too far off. The primaries strongly favor more extreme candidates and politicians to some extent are like everybody else. You know, they go with what works and what works right now is to get through the primaries by being a very right wing Republican or being a very left wing Democrat.
And that’s a really bad incentive. So I think that’s a big part of it. There have been several books published on this, scholarly works. And there’s also indications that there’s more geographic separation based on political preference and a number of other things that contribute. But my major candidate for this problem is the primary change.
Jim: Yeah, I’m going to add another one as a game theorist and complex systems guy. I would argue that as long as we had a mortal existential enemy in the Soviet Union, the parties had to remain somewhat sensible. You could not be at war internally when you were at war with an external enemy of the power of the Soviet Union. And it’s interesting that we didn’t really see the acceleration of these trends until after 1994, probably. And so I’m going to argue it’s a balance of the two. The primary system is centripetal, having a strong external opponent is gravitational. And there’s a balance of those forces over time.
Owen: Yeah, that hadn’t occurred to me, but I can actually lend a little support to it. If you remember the very temporary unification of the country after 9-11. At the time, we didn’t know any better. And there was a thought that this really could be a mortal enemy. Obviously, there’s a whole lot of evil going on in the fundamentalist Islam community. But at the time, I think there was a concern that we might be in for this kind of sabotage all the time. And the result was that, you know, suddenly George W. Bush was popular with Democrats. That’s pretty hard to do.
Jim: He had a 90 percent approval rating at one point. Holy moly, right?
Owen: Yeah, I was pretty OK.
Jim: My wife and I occasionally joke. Probably the best thing to fix our politics would be if the aliens from Alfa Centauri showed up and they were nasty.
Owen: Actually, there’s a science fiction book or maybe it’s a short story. I’m not sure. It’s been a long time since I read it. But based on that exact premise that a bunch of highly influential brainiacs in the world community invented an alien threat to unify everybody because of the common enemy.
Jim: Interesting. So let’s get back to the presidential campaigns. You know, people like McCain, Romney, Obama, I would say even Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden were closer to the center than they were to the centers of their own party. But then comes Trump, right? Trump is a discontinuous figure in the history of American politics. You know, as I’ve said, I could never, ever vote for Trump. But I also understand why many of my friends and relatives did vote for Trump, because they do feel like they’re being screwed by the elites, that the system is not working for them, jobs being sent overseas, etc.
Working class people really haven’t had a pay raise since 1975. And so I could see why people wanted to stick a wooden rod in the spoke of American politics. But that has driven our system even more out of equilibrium, I would argue, with the Democrats reacting very strongly and often irrationally and badly in the other direction.
Owen: Well, listen, that force is definitely there. And it has been an important one. And it’s funny because people on both the right and the left, along with the center, comment on it. But I’ll suggest something else to you. Certainly at one point in their careers, both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden were more moderate than the average person in their parties. But that wasn’t the case by the time they became presidential candidates. And the common element in both of those was Bernie Sanders. You know, Bernie was the only avowed socialist in the Senate and obviously left wing, which I have absolutely no problem with in the Senate. I have problems with somebody who’s on a political extreme sitting in the White House, but we want diverse views in the Senate in the House.
But here’s the thing. Hillary and her staff thought that she would dispatch Bernie without much difficulty and kind of tune up for the election. And that turned out to be a very, very close race. And with Biden and Bernie, it never went that far. But Bernie was basically holding out the carrot of there’s a large group called the Progressive Caucus or whatever that are more legion to me than they are to the Democratic Party. And so if you want their support, you and I have to make a deal. And they did. And it’s in writing and it’s in print.
And very few people ever pay much attention to it. But it was in July of 2020 and basically it was a compact between the Bernie and the Biden teams. And the compact went about 97 Bernie and about 3% Biden. So he was committed to a platform that was really the most extreme left platform the Democrats had ever done, probably the most extreme ever seen since Eugene V. Debs. And I mean, this was about as left wing a platform that we’ve ever seen since Eugene V. Debs and Biden pretty much. You look at Hillback better and that was right out of that platform.
Jim: And there has been a lot of what I call gratuitous wokery from the Biden administration also. And I think that’s the main payoff to the far left less in actual substance and more in the superficial attributes, which have become the hallmark of the of the far left.
Owen: Well, yes and no. I mean, I certainly agree with what you said, but I mean, I think there’s been a lot of substance to it. I think views much greener than those of the average American are ascendant in the Biden administration. And I don’t think that that was Joe Biden’s invention. I think he agreed to that with Bernie Sanders.
Jim: That’s interesting and probably makes sense. And then we move to the 2022 elections, which was, whoa, what a mess that was. It’s kind of finger stuck in both parties’ eyes.
Owen: Yeah, I don’t see how either one of them could treat that as a victory.
Jim: Yeah. I mean, the Republicans should have, by all normal metrics, should have done quite well, but, you know, there’s still a big Trumpian hangover. There was a hangover around the abortion Supreme Court case. And then the Republicans went and nominated a bunch of screwballs for the Senate.
Owen: Well, yes. And, you know, I have a little personal experience with that because basically all of the Republican nominees in 2022 were handpicked by Trump. And it was the typical problem that Trump nominee was running against five perfectly normal, OK Republicans. And of course, they divided the normal, OK Republican vote and the Trump nominee got nominated because that was a smaller but unified group. So they got nominated and they all lost. I mean, Arizona is not exactly a solid blue state, but go up and down the list of state offices right now and you’ll think it. It is.
Jim: Yep. And I think the most classically absurd one was in Georgia they nominated Herschel Walker, a guy with God knows how many illegitimate children, and who admitted to have been clinically diagnosed with multiple personality disorder.
Jim: That was Trump’s own pick, right?
Owen: It’s funny because it was criticized at the time, but look, the old pros from the Senate looked at that cast of characters that had been nominated for the Senate and said, we don’t have a chance.
Jim: It could have happened, but it was they just worked against themselves. It was ridiculous.
Owen: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: So now let’s get up to where we are going into 2024. We got Trump, who in my mind is nobody should even consider voting for Trump, but a bunch of people will. And we have Biden, who I think you I think we can fairly say has been dragged further to the left than in his historical home. And I think this is hugely important. He’s just too damn old. I mean, neither of us are in the blushes of our teenhood anymore, but I’ll be damned if I’d want to be president of the United States at the age of 86.
And guess what? Seventy six percent of voters agree, including 56 percent of Democrats and 90 percent of Republicans that Biden is too old. And further, he has Kamala Harris as his VP, which strikes me as a real problem. So here we got a madman. And I mean, I can’t decide if Trump is evil, crazy or both, but in any case, someone who should not be allowed to touch, should not be allowed to have any access to any levers of power. We have somebody who’s moved fairly far from the mainstream and is grossly old and has a really inappropriate vice president. What the hell do we do?
Owen: Well, I can’t disagree with anything you said, but it’s not my focus. Look, I think both of the extremes. Let’s just take for ease of reference the progressive caucus on the one side and the freedom caucus on the other side. I don’t think either of them is anywhere close to what the American people want. But I don’t need to decide basically why Biden and Trump are not appropriate for the White House, although the reasons you give are perfectly good ones.
What I do know is poll after poll after poll from every angle with every methodology, with every different group and focus groups and everything else. American people do not want them and democracy has to mean something. Democracy means consent of the governed. People are not consenting to having these two as the candidates. They really want someone else.
Jim: Yeah, the numbers that the no labels folks have found in their polling show somewhere between 63% to 69% want neither of them, right?
Owen: Yes. And again, it’s not I don’t trust any one poll. But when you see so many polls done by quality organizations by Harvard, Harris, by Pew, by Norck, this is this is not amateur hour in the polling community. And these guys do not have an axe to grind. And every poll they do, no matter how they do it, it turns out that people do not want another matchup between Trump and Biden. They don’t want either one of them in the White House.
Jim: That’s interesting. My own little simple cartoon model of the American electorate is about 20% are nut bag Trumpsters, about 15% are raving far left Dems. And that’s 35%. That leaves about 65% of people that aren’t in either of the two extreme camps, which kind of lands pretty well with people who are not willing to put up with very mediocre candidates or worse, just because they are aligned with their ideologies.
Owen: Yeah, exactly. And in many times, they’re not aligned with the ideologies. I mean, I think of my Democrat friends, loyal Democrats, and a lot of the things that the Progressive Caucus stands for, they repudiate totally. They do not want it. And I think of my Republican friends and the things that the Trumpsters want. They repudiate those things utterly. So I really think you can go and actually I’m happy to go issue by issue, but the mainstream and there is a mainstream on most of these issues. There is a majority in the center that’s not being tapped by the parties because they’re insisting on their extremes.
Jim: I wasn’t going to go down through the laundry list of issues. People can read the No Labels platform, which isn’t bad, but let’s hit two. The two hottest button issues, probably abortion and guns. What’s a what’s a mainstream view on those two issues?
Owen: Well, listen, abortion and guns are the two hardest. You’ll never get a consensus because there’s one group and this I’ll come back to the center in a second. But there is a group with respect to abortion who say any abortion abortion on day one is murder on day one after the rape of a 14 year old girl that’s still murder. No matter what, it’s just categorical. And on the flip side, you have a number of activists who just say it’s my body and you have nothing to say about it. As long as that fetus is resonant in my body, it is my call and no one else has anything to say about it. I do not think either one of those is remotely close to a consensus.
I think a plurality comes out somewhere around a 15 to 20 week time limit for getting a legalized abortion saying you have the right to do this, but you need to make up your mind. And I’m not saying that that’s compelling intellectually, but I think it’s the closest thing there is to a mainstream. And I really think that we’re starting to get towards some kind of a mainstream view on guns. Now, there are article two activists who say that a person ought to be able to have 20 bazookas and possibly nuclear weapons because they’re just bearing modern arms.
And then there’s other people who say, hey, these are instruments of death. And I don’t care what the Constitution says. Screw article two. I don’t think either one of those any longer has majority support. I think the view is we’ve seen so many of these killings. The most recent only a few days ago, quite tragic, because that happened to be a very skilled killer and saying, look, there are a bunch of people who should not have guns and so we need to be more careful about screening those people out. And as for the others, for better or for worse, we’ve got to live with it because that’s what article two says.
Jim: Yeah, that probably is a consensus for you. I mean, I’m a pretty strong Second Amendment person, but I also believe that we need to screen out crazy people for sure and that things like red flag laws, as long as they’re implemented with some safeguards, are going to be important. And waiting periods are perfectly reasonable. And I didn’t go a step further of requiring registration of guns. That gets me in trouble. Some of my two A friends, but being able to track the source of guns and how they’ve moved through the economy, I think helps law enforcement quite a lot in cracking down on illegal guns, guns purchased by felons, tracking back to who acquired them, et cetera.
Owen: Well, and even just solving crimes. But I’m going to go back just a little bit because you said, well, people can read the no labels on the issues, but it’s so easy to. I think people get sidetracked into talking about issues that are inherently so contentious and so controversial and so polarized, like gun control and like abortions. There’s things where there are common sense solutions. If you look at the perpetual debt and deficit problem, if you look at, look, Social Security, the trust fund is going to go broke in 2034, maybe 2035.
That’s the entirety of the debate among experts. It’s going broke. That’s just happening. That was true all through the Biden administration. That was true all through the Trump administration and no one’s touching it. These things are absolutely instrumental to the fabric of this country. And there are mainstream views on this and neither party wants to subscribe to them. And I find that very troubling.
Jim: That is, I mean, that was, of course, Ross Perot’s number one thing was the deficit. Number two was the exports of jobs. I lived in New Mexico at the very end of Gary Johnson’s administration. New Mexico is a fairly democratic state at the state level, even though it sometimes goes red at the presidential level. But Gary Johnson was a in a centric pot smoking, marathon running, libertarian, Republican, and New Mexico is kind of a banana republic with very corrupt local politics. And he famously vetoed 450 bills.
Owen: Oh, my God.
Jim: In eight years. And despite the fact that New Mexico is also a relatively poor state, in fact, we often said in New Mexico, thank God for Mississippi. So he didn’t rank 50th in a lot of categories. We were often 49th or 48th. Gary Johnson left office with a surplus. Right. You know, one could imagine an independent presidential candidate who just said, we’ve had enough of deficit. Sorry, people. I’m going to start vetoing bills until we finally get some discipline around here.
Owen: Yes. And vetoes are an essential part of the arsenal. Where was Biden in vetoing spending bills? Where was where was Trump in vetoing spending bills? Trump promised over and over and over again to balance the budget. And he never vetoed a spending bill. I don’t know how that can work.
Jim: Because he’s a pathological liar. That’s how that can work. I mean, literally pathological. I mean, other politicians are at least embarrassed when they’re caught in lies. But I’m not sure if Trump even understands the concept of a lie.
Owen: You may be right. But again, I’m going back to issues and I’m going back to I don’t need to diagnose him psychologically to know that he’s not in the mainstream of the American electorate. And those are the people who are supposed to be presidents.
Jim: Let’s go through a couple of these issues because you’re right. Abortion and guns are probably a bad example because it’s just so contentious. Energy and climate change. There’s one where there’s a lot of room for reasonable policy.
Owen: Absolutely. I mean, listen, this is climate change is real and it is important. And it’s urgent. It’s not a crisis today, but it is urgent and we need to get started today. But the simplest concept and the most important concept that neither side ever pays any attention to is that solutions that will not persuade China are not worth talking about. Because China is now such an overwhelming contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. You need a solution that China will back. And obviously that’s not the Paris Accords.
So that’s not that hard. I mean, it sounds very hard, but all we need is the next energy revolution. And America has been instrumental in about the last four or five energy revolutions.
There’s no reason we can’t do more. I mean, there’s obvious kinds of measures that can be taken where you’ll have grid scale storage that’s cheap. Right now, all the grid scale storage we have is expensive and that makes intermittent power very expensive. Or you need lithium air batteries to replace the lithium ion batteries to do more transportation.
These are technological measures that with a little R&D spending and by a little, I mean billions, but not hundreds of billions. You can achieve these things and you can achieve them quickly. I mean, in 10 to 15 years and actually have a solution that China will go along with. That’s what the American people want. And democracy has to mean something. If that’s what they want, why don’t we have a candidate saying that?
Jim: Yeah, but it is really atrocious. And there’s actually one magic lever which will bring forth innovation and capital investment at a level that would be totally staggering. And that is a 100 percent refundable carbon tax where the money is collected at the gas pump, which the taxes could actually be collected at the wellhead, right? And the coal mines, they don’t have to even spend very much on the collection. And then rebate 100 percent of that per capita to the American people, which basically means if you consume less carbon than average, you make money on the deal.
And yet every decision you make, the thumb of the tax is on that decision. So to take the lower carbon decision versus the higher carbon, it doesn’t have to be that high to start. It could be $50 a ton, maybe, which might add 50 cents a gallon to the price of gas. Let that rise over a 20 year period. You would see the entrepreneurial spirit of America crush the energy problem. And then all the things we invent go out to the rest of the world. So as you say, China could essentially get on the bandwagon for no cost at all.
Owen: And there’s a whole lot of economists who agree with you. I’m not an economist. I’m a chemical engineer by training. And I can tell you that the science is there right now. The engineering isn’t. This needs to be developed into practical solutions. The concepts are all there. And, you know, we used to pride ourselves in that in this country. We were innovators and we did it. Was there the right incentive for everything? I don’t know, but I do know that if you think about the assembly line and the Model T, if you think about large scale steel production, if you think about agriculture, if you just go right down the list, pharmaceuticals and whatnot, technology has revolutionized all of those fields. It can revolutionize energy once again.
Jim: Yeah, that would just add that incentives and slopes are important. And a carbon tax is a gigantic incentive. It’s huge. We’re close in some of these areas. I have studied deeply mass electrical storage, for instance. And there are a number of technologies which seem within striking distance, including iron, air batteries, iron, air.
Owen: I think iron, air and sulfur, salt are probably the two leading candidates. Not saying they’re the only ones, but this is a soluble problem. How about if we solve it?
Jim: Yeah, rather than just posturing on both sides. So all right, we have a situation where we have candidates that are unacceptable to 65 percent of the American people. What can be done about that in 2024?
Owen: Well, I mean, I think at that point, no labels comes into the conversation because they’ve taken a very and I want to be completely clear. I’m a member of no labels, but I do not speak for no labels and they don’t speak for me and we don’t agree about everything, which is fine because people, rational people don’t have to agree about everything in order to make progress, which is sort of a central concept here. But no labels has done something very bold and very brave and they’ve taken a tremendous amount of heat for it, which is to pledge to get a ballot line that will be available for a centrist independent candidate in all 50 states. And they’ve made a lot of progress on that and they need to make a lot more.
And they’re taking a lot of flak for it from some sources that I think they should not be, but that’s how you actually do it. And I go back to the Perot example. We have a great historical example when Perot ran in 92 and despite being a little bit of a flake, he got 19.4 percent of the votes by running right down the center between two candidates who were not radical at all. I mean, H.W. Bush and Clinton were center left, center right. So this is a situation where with much less division than we have today, someone running down the center got nearly 20 percent of the vote.
Imagine what would be possible today. Well, no labels is imagining that and they’re making an effort in that regard. There’s no guarantees. We don’t know who that would be yet. But if you have a centrist candidate and that centrist candidate runs well, win or not. Now, this is one of the places where no labels and I disagree. But you can not win. But if you run strong enough, you’ll change everything.
Jim: Yeah, and the way Perot got the two parties to actually get serious about the deficit. Finally.
Jim: What are some factions that might be attracted to a sensible center candidate? You’ve listed three in your book.
Owen: Basically, this is pretty simple for me, because right now the independence are the largest group and those independence are less leaners than they used to be. Every poll shows that independence are becoming more independent and more numerous. So that’s a group that’s very accessible. Moderate liberal Democrats and moderate conservative Republicans. Neither one of these is very happy with the candidates they’ve had. If you combine that group of people you’re dealing with as you you did the arithmetic earlier, something like 65 percent of the American voters.
Jim: You know, I happen to know a number of reluctant Trump voters amongst my hunting buddies and some of my relatives, et cetera. And they’ll all say Trump is a horrible asshole, but he’s better than Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden.
Owen: By which they mean he’s less bad than.
Owen: I mean, I’m sorry, I’m not here to correct words, but I’m just saying these are primarily votes against people. There are people that we can nominate that we can vote for, Jim.
Jim: And I think that many of these reluctant Trump voters when presented with particularly a really solid, centrist alternative are gettable. And, you know, we’ll find out. Now, I’m going to put forth what I did in the last two shows, which is least from my perspective, and this is just the Jim Rutt perspective. There’s an interesting and somewhat difficult game theory problem here. OK, which is let’s just for fun, put some scores on three outcomes. Biden, Trump and no labels. I’d argue Biden’s a minus 10, not highly desirable, but not a disaster either.
Just for fun, we’ll give no labels a plus 20, because I’d like to see what happens with a Gary Johnson veto wielding, centrist and somebody who is willing to really push hard for sensible policies and not just the ones we mentioned, but also immigration, immigration is a completely solvable problem. But the posturing by both parties made it impossible. But I personally would make Trump a minus 100. So how does one, if you’re no labels, run a campaign so as to probe and see if there’s a chance for the plus 20 and avoid the minus 100 booby prize?
Owen: Well, here’s the thing. First, I think when I heard this in your earlier interviews, I actually think the game theory is really interesting for this. But I do think it’s more complicated. Number one is I think there is an inestimable value if there were a win by a centrist candidate in that it reforms both parties overnight because they really can’t live with that if an independent without party backing comes in and actually wins the presidency, both of them have to sober up and come toward the center and that has a lot more than plus 20 kind of value to me. So I think you’re underestimating that one. But beyond that, you have to go into the second layer of this analysis because you can’t just assess this of what percentage chance do you need for this candidate or that candidate to win in order to make this a positive bet because a narrow loss will still be a very positive outcome.
So that there’s more than three numbers in play here. So to me, if I’m assessing this on a game theory basis, I’m going to say basically what no labels is already doing, which is they pull incessantly to make sure that their assumption that an independent candidate can win is valid, valid in the sense of they have a good fighting chance. And they’ve said that if they can’t see that path to victory, they’re not going to run anyone.
Now, again, we may not entirely agree on that, but that’s what they’re committed to. I think with if it’s Trump or Biden, it’s pretty obvious that there’s a lane between the two of them that you could drive a truck through. And if it’s Trump versus Kamala Harris, you know, seriously, is that going to be a lot different? I doubt it. So there’s a number of scenarios where you can say, hey, there’s a really decent chance of winning here. And if that chance starts rising to 20 percent, 30 percent, I think the numbers in any kind of game theory analysis will fully justify that.
Jim: Yeah, there is something else I’ve probed with Bennett and with Clancy is the data shows historically an evaporation of support for third parties as you approach election day, being that most people are at least a little bit leaning one way or the other. And if a third party is not plausible, some significant percentage of their support dissipates.
Jim: I’ve also hypothesized that there’s the opposite condition, which would likely apply, even though we’ve never seen it since Lincoln basically, which is once a candidate reaches the level of plausibility, you’ll see the opposite, right? The loose leaners go, wait a minute, I’m very, very marginally in favor of Biden, but shit, you know, this centrist candidate looks actually quite attractive, let me flip.
And so you might actually see that if a candidate could be at plausibility, whatever that means, epistemological problem here, call it mid-summer 2024, instead of evaporation, we might actually see condensation as we approach election day.
Owen: I agree with you completely, and I think that’s not just a theoretical possibility, I think it’s a very realistic possibility. Just imagine the various things going on. I mean, Trump is being prosecuted on numerous things, some of which makes sense, some of which probably don’t, but nevertheless, there’s going to be prosecutors cross-examining him, and that’s gonna be on the air every night. That won’t help, I don’t care what he thinks about persecution, that isn’t gonna help.
Biden is not getting any better, he’s getting older, and he’s getting weaker, and he’s showing way more foibles. And then there are debates, the debates will be coming up, just think about that for a second. I don’t know that Joe Biden can debate, and I mean that with no offense to the President of the United States, but with a script, with something that he can read, with something that he can practice and rehearse, and all that kind of stuff, he may be just fine. His speech from the Oval Office the other night, it was pretty okay. But debate in that rough and tumble atmosphere, I don’t think he can do it.
And if he does, I don’t think he’ll do it well. And if the independent is sitting there, I’m happy to debate these two people, and Trump says, I’m above and beyond debates because they won’t follow my rules, and Biden says, oh, I’m not feeling good, I’m gonna stay in my basement. That could catapult the stature of the independent just like that.
Jim: Though of course it would be better if the independent actually could debate the two of them and show them up.
Owen: And who couldn’t show those two? I could show those two up. A decent candidate, it would be a field day.
Jim: Yeah, so it would appear. Now let’s get back to the line I worked with Ryan Clancy, which is, and I think you and he pay me disagree about this, that no label should not be a spoiler, and that if it looks like no labels is gonna be a spoiler in either direction, it should fold its tent at some point. What do you think of that?
Owen: Yeah, I actually think that that’s true, but I think it’s very important to understand the definition of spoiler. Spoiler doesn’t mean anybody who doesn’t win. Spoiler means that you’re taking votes predominantly from one side or the other, and thereby shifting the results of the election. Perot was not a spoiler. Clinton was gonna win either way. We know that because when, where Perot was out of the race, Clinton was leading by almost exactly the amount that he won by.
He took equally from Clinton and Bush, and then another third was from people who wouldn’t have voted at all. So I think that a number of these candidates are gonna take votes from both sides, but they’re not gonna be a spoiler because they won’t change the outcome of the election unless they do it by winning, which was just fine.
Jim: Yeah, we all agreed about that. And of course, a lot of that will come down to who is the candidate, right? And I will say that after I did my two episodes so far, I’ve been thinking about it, and there aren’t that many candidates that strike me that could actually move the needle, especially at this late date. The other thing that’s been quite surprising to me, frankly, it’s gotten lots of feedback from people, talk to friends, et cetera, listen to the first two episodes.
And I was quite shocked to find that even relatively well-connected tracking what’s going on people, most of them have never heard of No Labels or just barely heard about them. They have a real visibility problem at this point, which seems to me to argue that they really need a brand name candidate.
Owen: Yeah, they do need a brand name candidate, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I mean, No Labels own characterization of itself is that it’s going to build the launching pad, but the candidate has to build the rocket ship. Listen, your name one, I’ll name one.
Jim: Okay, I’ve actually been thinking about this. I think there’s only one that would work. And that’s Mitt Romney.
Owen: Mitt won’t run. I’m just telling you, he won’t run.
Owen: He ran a pretty terrible campaign before, but that’s the campaign. And I think he just got very tired. I think Mitt Romney is an incredibly capable man and he’s done a lot of really good things, but he won’t run. Mine is Chris Sununu.
Jim: Okay, that’s plausible. He’s a solid guy. Mine’s second choice would be Lisa Murkowski, very close to the center, very sensible, known to be anti-Trump, and has done a lot of good things in the Senate, and a woman that doesn’t hurt.
Owen: Listen, I agree with you on all of those counts, and I had never considered Lisa Murkowski and a man I very much respect suggested it was a possibility, and I said, it hadn’t occurred to me. I don’t think that would be a bad choice at all. I go with Chris Sununu for a couple of reasons. Number one is that he’s been a very popular Republican governor in a Democratic state for four terms. This is not a man who just preaches that you need to reach across the aisle.
He lives it every day. He went to MIT, so this is no dummy, and he retains that popularity, and if you see him in speaking situations, he’s relatively modest, but he’s quick study, quick thought, quick of mind, shows a lot more of that, and he would be 50 when he became president. And honestly, one of the big problems we have in this country is we have not engaged the millennials at all. I mean, look at you and me, we’re within a year of each other, 70 years old by this time next year, okay? This doesn’t inspire millennials, and we are spring chickens compared to the two most likely candidates for the Republicans and the Democrats. You can’t attract millennials, you can’t even engage millennials with people who they look at as being their grandparents.
Jim: Or their great grandparents.
Owen: Or almost great grandparents, for God’s sake. So this is really a situation where somebody who is like 50 years old, who has some seasoning, who has some experience, Murkowski has that too. I’m not saying these are the only possibilities. You can talk about Baker. Look, I like Kyrsten Sinema very much. I don’t know that she has the experience to be a president right now, but I like her.
Jim: Yeah, she was on my list as well. In fact, in my previous conversations, the two I used as talking horses before I thought about it more deeply, were Larry Hogan and Kyrsten Sinema.
Owen: Larry Hogan, a popular Republican governor of the very Democratic state of Maryland. And listen, Maryland has not been in the world’s great success stories, except in the last eight years, they’ve done pretty well.
Jim: But now the richest state in the United States.
Owen: Well, that really surprises me. I hadn’t heard that.
Jim: Yeah, they have, of course, in some ways a bad thing, because it basically shows the centrality of the federal government to the economy of the country. But yeah, those rich suburbs of DC basically. But yeah, Larry Hogan, interestingly, I got my start in politics at the age of 16, handing out leaflets for Larry Hogan’s father, Larry Hogan Sr., who was a moderate to liberal Republican who kept getting elected in Maryland, where I grew up.
Owen: Listen, the sun didn’t seem to have too much trouble getting elected in Maryland either. And that, if you just posed that question to somebody who didn’t know, what do you think the chances are of Republican governor in Maryland or Massachusetts, they’d laugh at you.
Jim: Though I will say, both Maryland and Massachusetts have a tradition of electing Republican governors for time to time for the same reason New Mexico does, even though it’s basically Democrat, which is the Democrats have left with their own devices just start stealing too much. Yeah, they go crazy. You gotta put somebody in there to stop the steal for a while.
Owen: Yeah, I heard somebody was being interviewed about that in Massachusetts, and they said, of course we like Baker, we would keep electing him forever because it stops the Democrats from going crazy.
Jim: Yeah, New Mexico was Susanna Gonzalez. We backed, my wife and I did, even though, you know, she was probably a little too far right wing for us, but, you know, the amount of corruption had gone out of control in New Mexico with all the branches of the government, including the attorney generals elected New Mexico. All Democrats are all in the tank and the thievery was just nuts. So he said, gots to vote for a Republican, even if we don’t agree with her on some policy issues, because she’ll keep them at least a little bit honest, and she did, she got reelected easily.
Owen: Well, and isn’t that interesting, Jim, because you and I can talk about scenarios that make perfectly good sense and that work at the state level, and yet, nobody will even contemplate trying them. You think about, you talk about third way. They reject categorically the concept that you would run a third candidate when you have Joe Biden that you can elect. I’m sorry, but I can’t make that into a rational construct.
Jim: Yeah, I mean, neither. I do wonder what the hell of the Dems thinking when they have loaded the deck so that Joe can’t even really get a serious competitor. We talked about debates. Joe probably can’t debate. Guess what the Democratic DNC did? No debates this primary season. I mean, what the hell is that, right?
Owen: Exactly, and trying to move South Carolina to be upfront. I mean, since when did the parties get in the business of rigging the game in favor of one or the other of their party members? I just think the parties have gone mad, and they need to go get a jerk back to reality. I do not believe that this is going to be a three-party country, and I don’t think no labels believes that either, but you may need a third candidate. In fact, I think you do need a third candidate if the parties don’t demonstrate very quickly. I mean, within the next six to eight weeks that they can sober up and start serving the American people again.
Jim: Ah, let’s talk about people a little bit. Then I’ll get to my final bit of game theory here.
Owen: All right.
Jim: Some other candidates who would be good, but I just don’t know if they’re well enough known. Rob Portman is a very solid guy.
Owen: Portman, you know, I was asked by another interviewer who my dream ticket was, and I said before I had thought about it enough, I said Portman and Sinema. I said, you know, Sinema needs more experience, and she worked with Portman across the aisle. Portman was a great senator from Ohio. He could still be senator. He could have been senator from Ohio until he died, but, you know, I think you get sick of all the part of the chip at some point. So, no, I think Rob Portman would be an ideal choice. He’s older and he’s not well known, so I don’t think he’ll be the choice.
Jim: Yeah, that’s the issue. I will say on your list, you had some business dudes, Mark Cuban and Howard Schultz.
Owen: Neither one of them is in the picture at all anymore.
Jim: I think we had one business dude. That’s enough for a while.
Owen: Well, no, listen, I mean, if you told me that Jamie Dimon was gonna be serious about this, I would look into it. I would think about it. But all I’m saying is what you see was written basically a year ago. It takes a while to get a book out, all right? And those two are not, wouldn’t seriously be considered anymore.
Jim: Yeah, and I would also say that anybody who still has prospects to one day be a candidate in the Democratic Republican Party is not likely to play like Michael Bennett or Amy Klobuchar or obviously Nikki Haley.
Owen: You know, look, I think Nikki Haley is a very capable person. I think Amy Klobuchar is a very capable person. Klobuchar has been a very good senator for Minnesota. I don’t know about her future aspirations. I won’t pretend to know anything about her personally, but she’s in her third term in the Senate, which with six year terms, that’s a long time. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility. And I think she could be a wonderful president and she would be a lay down hand for a vice president. So I would never rule her out.
Nikki Haley ran further right than I thought she would in the Republican primaries. And so I think she’s kind of ruled herself out from any kind of a centrist role. She could have had that role back, you know, before her candidacy in the Republican party started, but she’s already pledged to support the Republican nominee and she’s running far right, kind of like Romney did. And it’s very hard to come back from that.
Jim: And of course, she’s actually done pretty well. She’s now going to probably be the alternative to Trump.
Owen: I think so too. And listen, if the Republicans nominate her, you know, I don’t think no labels. This is me talking. This is not no labels. I don’t have an inside source or anything. But if somebody like Amy Klobuchar was on the Democratic side or somebody like Nikki Haley was on the Republican side, I think they would look at the polls and say, hey, there’s enough people who would support this person from both sides that we don’t have any business putting anybody out there.
Jim: Yeah, I actually put that to Ryan and he hemmed and hawed a little bit, but he more or less admitted that I gave him two alternatives. I suppose Republicans nominate Nikki Haley or the Dems nominate Gretchen Whitmer. And he basically said, yeah, I guess we probably wouldn’t run him. You wouldn’t quite say it, but you could get
Owen: well, you know, I don’t think there’s actually unanimity within the no labels. I think there’s a lot of discussion going on and I respect all these people and I’ve spoken with Nancy Jacobson and I’ve spoken with a lot of them. And we don’t agree about everything, but I respect all of them and all these conspiracy theories about Oh, they have this plan and that plan. No, they don’t. They’re trying to do the right thing. Now, whether they’re succeeding or not, anybody can debate, but those are fine, fine people. I don’t think they want to get pinned down right now on a lot of things, but if Trump is not the candidate and there’s not some proto Trump that becomes the candidate, I would be very surprised if no labels fielded a candidate.
Jim: That would be my hope, frankly, because this is an emergency situation with two candidates, which are just really not acceptable to two thirds of American people. And if either one is replaced by a tolerable candidate, then it probably makes sense for them to stand down.
Jim: Now, in terms of their timing and their strategy, I’ve thought about it since I had my conversation with Clancy in particular, and I’ve at least provisionally come to conclusion they’re making a big mistake, which is their timeline is not to announce their candidate until April.
Owen: I’m going to qualify this so that we’re operating on the same factual premise. There have been several high level spokespeople within the last week to 10 days for no labels who say they are now contemplating the possibility that not that they made this decision, but the possibility of a March convention. So it might be March rather than April. That may not change your analysis.
Jim: Yeah, that doesn’t change my analysis much, because I’m going to take the perspective that their probability of winning in the general is relatively low. It’s not zero. And I do think there’s a chance along some of the scenarios we talked about, even if it’s Trump versus Biden, the institutional structures, the traditions of people, it’s going to make it hard. But there’s something they could do, which is to accomplish all their goals and save themselves money and wear and tear. So here’s the Rutt, master gambit.
No labels should abandon all their talk about process. And fortunately, the fact that none of the voters have heard of them actually lets them do this, right? Yes, the chattering class would complain about it. But who gives a hell of a chattering class says the actual people have no idea what the label stands for. I believe they should nominate either Murkowski or Romney immediately. And here’s the play, then say they’ll have their convention in March or April nominate a vice president.
And here’s why. Because if they nominate either Murkowski or Romney, saying quite specifically, that if there’s a reasonable Republican or Democratic candidate, they will fold their tent and whisper through the background, that means almost anybody except Trump or maybe Vivek on the Republican side will find out at that point whether the Republicans are a death cult or not. Now, maybe they’ve turned into a Trumpian death cult, which case they’ll go ahead and nominate Voldemort himself again. But if they have any interest in Supreme Court nominations, because there’s no way they can win if Romney or Murkowski is the candidate,
I don’t believe, because it’s going to pull more people from the Republicans than the Dems probably. I would argue that if Republicans aren’t insane, that will produce either a movement to Haley or maybe DeSantis. But even more interesting, and it might be the tipper to bring Junkin in, right? Junkin is almost the perfect candidate for the Republicans at this point. He’s conservative enough to appeal to most factions in the party, yet he’s clearly not insane. Some combination of Haley, DeSantis or Junkin, one of them ends up coalescing quickly because this the point is, if you wait till March, there’s no opportunity to really influence the Republican primary season. You can’t do anything about the Democratic primary season.
They’ve wired that. Good old Joe is going to move forward. However, Trump does not get the Republican nomination. Now, Biden’s own personal argument for why he’s staying in the election evaporated. He no longer is the only guy that can stop Voldemort. You know, we now have somebody you may disagree with, let’s Haley, but he would not think Haley is an evil bad person and he doesn’t need to kill himself in the line of duty to stop Haley from being the nominee. So then Biden steps down saying, hey, the whole rationale for me doing this just evaporated because Trump didn’t get the nomination or at least at a minimum, he says, all right, it’s going to be even harder race.
In fact, you probably lose at 55, 45. If he isn’t careful, I better change my vice president because to my mind, that’s his weakest position. I can just see endless campaigns by the Republicans. A vote for Biden is a vote for Harris. Right. And so we get essentially get a double bank shot here where announcing a strong candidate right now causes a phase change to an anti Trump candidate. Trump dropping out causes Biden to either drop out or nominate at least a better vice president to reduce the downside of him. And no labels doesn’t have to go through all the costs and potential embarrassment of having a long campaign and probably a losing election. So this is classic Clausewitz and art of war indirect strategy to accomplish their goal.
Owen: Well, I admire the creativity, but double bank shots don’t often sink. Those are missed way more often than they’re hit. You’ve got to remember it’s a 501 C4 organization. So they’ve got severe issues in doing anything like what you’re describing. And you say a long expensive campaign. Remember, they can’t donate dollar one to the campaign after they nominate the person they’re out.
So that is going to be up to the person who gets nominated. And they’re going to have to raise their own billion dollars or $2 billion because that’s sort of the cost range here. And they’re going to have to do that. I don’t think, go back and ask Ryan again or ask Nancy Jacobson or somebody because I can’t speak for no labels on this, but I don’t think they want to get involved in what they would view as gamesmanship. I think they want to stay simple and pretty sincere about the notion that they want to nominate someone who they think can win.
Jim: Yeah, maybe, maybe. If I was them, I would love this double bank shot, take out both candidates. Well, I’d actually have to run a campaign. Now, maybe a bit of a long shot, but I would say it’s probably no more of a long shot than running a campaign with a third party from a standing start where hardly anybody even knows you exist a year before the election day.
Owen: Well, but we’ll see. I mean, Perot declared in February of the election year in 1992. And so the difference in February and March may not make that much difference. And there was not nearly the dissatisfaction that there is today with Trump and Biden. People didn’t hate Clinton, people didn’t hate Bush. They were just maybe looking for something a little simpler and more direct and right down the middle. And they think they got that in Perot. So many of these things, if you look at a Trump Biden race, there are so many things that can go horribly wrong for either or both of those candidates that confidently predicting in advance that there’s the third candidate doesn’t have much chance. I can’t go along with that. I think the uncertainties are much greater than the certainties in this scenario.
Jim: I will say that I do think it’s a non-trivial chance they can win. But, you know, and Ryan’s strategy is not crazy, I will say. It could happen. And of course, the other point I make to my Democratic friends who say, oh, no labels, that’s just a front for Trump. I go, have you looked at the real clear politics, polling consensus? I looked at it this morning. Trump is now ahead over Biden by 7-tenths of 1%. If you add in the 2% structural advantage Republicans seem to have in electoral college, that puts Trump a fair bit ahead. So the idea that Biden can beat Trump itself is not by any means a slam dunk.
Owen: No, you’re absolutely right. And people like Third Way, to me, seem to be ignoring that possibility. And that’s a positional blindness that I think could come back to bite them. So I think that your point is valid and important. And, you know, look, the other aspect of this is you might be running Kamala Harris in effect, because if it’s a Biden-Harris thing, and Biden just breaks down next summer, I’m not wishing that on anybody. I’m just saying he’s not a robust 80-year-old. A lot of bad things could happen. And Kamala Harris can’t win that race. It’s not even possible, in my opinion.
Jim: And of course, as you point out, there are other intangibles. I mean, this Hunter Biden stuff could land in a bad way for Biden. I don’t know if it will or won’t, but it could. How the American people react to a presidential candidate with three or four felony convictions. And when some really nasty stuff comes out, you know, as you say, if not directly on TV, some in the state stuff will come out on TV, the federal stuff will come out in, you know, published transcripts and what have you, that may change the attitude of a lot of people. Could we really vote for this scummy guy? Right?
Owen: You’re absolutely right. Look, this goes back to what I was saying. Right now, there’s more uncertainties than there are certainties. And I don’t have that much respect for all the people who say they know what will happen. Third way says they know what will happen, that if you have a third candidate, then that will work to elect Trump. You can’t possibly know that. It depends entirely on who that candidate is and 100 other factors that we don’t know anything about yet. So as an attorney, as an engineer, I was not paid to speculate and to base my advice or my actions on speculation. Let’s wait and get some facts before we start trying to make decisions on this.
Jim: Yeah, that’s where I’m at. I want to know what does the world look like. So they’re not going to go for the double bang shot, which I think they should, because it’s just so damn clever. And it might well work. And even if it doesn’t, they can still fall back to their original plan, at least to nominate the vice president. We want to see what the situation is. You know how, bad does Biden look? What’s the percent? I mean, right now, the other thing I looked up this morning, Biden’s approval rating is 39.9%. The general truism is a president with an approval rating below 40 has gotten no chance.
Right? There’s a lot more negative things that could fall in the news cycle in the next year that could move that number down, in which case he could be a definite loser, even against Voldemort himself. You know, we’ll have to look as time goes on and see, you know, what do the candidates look like? Do both parties actually go through the craziness of nominating the front runners? I will also say the betting odds are not that firm on this anymore. Stossel’s aggregate of wagering sites this morning was both Biden and Trump have about a 70% chance of being nominated. That means the 30% chance of not being nominated. So there’s still a fair bit of consideration in the air that these guys aren’t yet led pipe cinches.
Owen: Yeah. I don’t think that any of these things is a foregone conclusion. But the one thing that I am pretty confident of is that most of the surprises for a Trump candidacy or for a Biden candidacy, most of the surprises would be negative. I mean, we know what’s the best it can be, but we are dealing in a situation where most votes that Biden would get would be anti-Trump votes. And most votes that Trump would get would be anti-Biden votes.
And frankly, it’s perfectly rational. I just think it’s wrong. It’s not the democratic process as the founders envisioned it, where you’re actually supposed to choose between two candidates that you could decently respect and choose the better of them. Consent of the govern. How can that mean that it’s not the worst possibility in the world because his opponent is the worst possibility in the world? That can’t be right.
Jim: Yeah, that’s a hell of a note that that’s where we are at. We’ve had a great conversation. I think we’ve covered a lot of interesting ground, thought about a lot of possibilities. Chris Sununu. There’s one I had not on my list before, but I think Chris would be good. His father was a good guy too.
Owen: His father was solid and that’s part of all the experience. He’s had deep involvement in politics for a long time, but at the same time he trained as an engineer. He worked for a while as an engineer. Look, I don’t have any inside information here. He would be my pick.
Jim: And he’s also a guy who doesn’t really have a future in the Republican Party at the presidential level because he’s too sensible. He’s not obviously insane.
Owen: Well, right. And yeah, seriously, he doesn’t have any chance. And does he want to be governor of New Hampshire forever? I mean, he’s been a good governor, but forever.
Jim: And the fact he’s an MIT boy, my alma mater, that’s got to be a good thing too.
Owen: You can’t go too far wrong with that one.
Jim: I knew his father was an MIT guy. I did not know he was. I guess they both were.
Owen: I didn’t know his father was, but I knew he was. So there you go.
Jim: Very interesting. Anyway, Owen, thank you very much for a wonderful conversation where we wrap up at least for now our arc about No Labels on The Jim Rutt Show.
Owen: It was my pleasure, sir. Thank you.