Google searches for write-in candidates are skyrocketing as voters research alternatives to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, two of the least-liked presidential nominees in history.
Write-in presidential candidate and Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff said widespread discontent could fuel his presidential bid, and that his brand of fiscal restraint appealed to “never Trump” Republicans scrambling for an alternative just weeks before Election Day.
“The Cavaliers came back from three games down, so you don’t know what can happen,” Kotlikoff, 65, said of his long-shot bid. “I think the vast majority of Americans are sick of both of these parties. They want somebody who is technically competent. They want an economist.”
Kotlikoff is on the ballot in Colorado and Louisiana as an independent and is a certified write-in candidate in 39 other states. His campaign plans to challenge write-in votes in eight states that currently do not allow them. Only North Carolina voters will not be able to vote for him, he said.
A write-in candidate for president has never won a state in the general election, although former presidents have won state primaries as write-ins. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican senator from Alaska, successfully waged a write-in campaign in 2010 after losing the Republican primary to a tea party challenger.
“I’m a technocrat,” Kotlikoff said. “I’m a social liberal or social libertarian. A lot of people are looking for someone who is socially liberal and fiscally responsible.”
Kotlikoff wants to freeze Social Security and replace it with personal security accounts, where everyone must save 10 percent of their wages and the government will invest it in a global portfolio to fund a new retirement system.
Kotlikoff said, “Your job’s not the next election, it’s about the next generation” and that Clinton and Trump didn’t want to overhaul Social Security to help the deficit because it was political suicide.
His health care policy eliminates Medicaid, Medicare and Obamacare and replaces them with a “purple” plan where the federal government uses tax dollars to pay for everyone’s basic health insurance but hospitals, doctors and drugs are still owned by private companies.
“Obamacare was well-intentioned but falling apart because the big insurance companies are leaving it,” Kotlikoff said. “We shouldn’t have a system for old people that’s better than the system for young people.”
His tax plan includes eliminating personal income, corporate income and estate taxes and replacing them with higher inheritance taxes and a flat tax for all businesses, combining elements of Bernie Sanders’ and Ted Cruz’s tax plans.
Despite discouraging donations to his campaign, a website littered with references to reducing inequality and a self-described “New Deal” fiscal platform, Kotlikoff said center-right Republicans, not liberal Democrats, were his voting base.
“Democrats are going to stick with Hillary,” Kotlikoff said. “I’m going to split the Republican vote. You’ve got 30 percent of elected or prominent Republicans publicly disavowing this guy (Trump) and 60 percent of voters are not aligned with either party.”
Kotlikoff said years of testifying in front of Congress as an economic expert and writing a best-selling book hadn’t convinced Democrats or Republicans to abandon the status quo and that his views prevented him from influencing policy as an economic adviser to the president.
“I wouldn’t last 10 minutes as an adviser to Clinton,” he said, although Kotlikoff would prefer Clinton over Trump, who he described as an “ignoramus.”
But Kotlikoff said he’d be able to get along with Congress because of his bipartisan work with Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and John Thune, R-S.D.,on the Inform Act, legislation that requires Congress and the president to provide analysis on how proposed legislation and budgets will affect future generations.
“I can hear what both sides are interested in,” Kotlikoff said. “You’ve never seen an economist run for president.”