Well … at least one party didn’t completely shit the bed:
Libertarians on Sunday selected a presidential ticket headed by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who lit into presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump on immigration and a range of other issues.
At the party convention in Orlando, Florida, Johnson got his preferred running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, in a weekend gathering that drew sharp contrasts with the major party candidates — Trump and Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee.
As a matter of politics, this is the strongest ticket the Libertarian Party has ever run. In fact, it’s a massively superior ticket to either of the two major parties. In the past, I’ve voted Libertarian knowing it was a protest vote; that it was probably good that the Libertarian candidate didn’t have a real chance. But Johnson-Weld would actually do a good job in the White House. If they were the GOP ticket, I’d vote for them without hesitation. They have way more experience, way more accomplishment and way less baggage than Trump and Clinton combined. After years of watching the Libertarian Party shoot itself in the face, I’m pleased they finally did something right.
Current polling shows Johnson at about 10% but I expect a more realistic goal is something like 1-5%. Johnson is benefiting both from disaffected Republicans and a media that wouldn’t mind seeing Johnson hurt Trump. In the end, however, the repulsive thought of President Clinton II will make most Republicans vote for Trump. And the repulsive thought of President Trump will make most Democrats vote for Clinton. I would say the ultimate limit would be taking New Mexico with a thin plurality, but that’s very unlikely. But a few percent is enough to potentially tip an election and certainly enough to put a scare into the two major parties. As a practical matter, it might unfold like the Virginia Governor’s race — the Libertarian pulls enough support so that the Republicans can blame them for a Democratic victory, rather than blame their awful nominee. The Virginia governor’s race has another eerie parallel — the Democrat winner, McAuliffe, is now under investigation by the FBI for being a corrupt clown.
Of course, I can already hear the clarion call that a vote for the Libertarian Party is a vote for Hillary Clinton. That’s only true if you assume Libertarians would vote for Trump and that the GOP is somehow entitled to Libertarian votes. I don’t agree with either assertion. Libertarians spent a lot of elections holding their noses and voting Republican because while they disagreed on cultural issues, they agreed on economic ones. But Trump is not an economic conservative in any sense of the word. He is one of the most anti-liberty candidates I’ve ever seen on a ballot. He has inveighed against every part of the Bill of Rights and advocated for a far bigger, far more powerful government. The GOP, I think, is hoping that he’ll get bored and just do whatever they want him to. That was the gambit behind his list of SCOTUS nominees, which was basically cut-and-pasted from prominent conservatives. It’s tempting but it’s also dangerous. Front-man or not, Donald Trump would still have the power of the Presidency at his command. And the last time we had a President who was disinterested in the nuts and bolts of policy, we wound up hip deep in two wars with an economy in flames and a $1 trillion deficit. And Bush surrounded himself with reasonably smart people; Trump is surrounding himself with crackpots.
A vote for Trump is not a vote against the establishment. Trump is the establishment, someone so embedded with politicians that the Clintons literally attended his wedding. He’s out there right now raising money from the typical monied interests, hobnobbing with the typical Washington insiders and advocating for typical expansions of government power. A vote for a third party would sting the establishment way more than a vote for Trump.
Still. It’s five months until the election. I am not absolutely committed to a candidate yet. There are positions Johnson holds that I don’t like. But from where I set at the edge of May, he’s the least bad option.
Update: I mainly wrote this from a perspective of Republicans vs. Libertarians, since that’s my background. But that’s only half the story here. If the Libertarians are smart (not guaranteed) they will try very hard to go for disaffected Democrats as well. In fact, they should push hardest to pull Democrats away from Clinton, including Sanders voters. Hillary Clinton is a crony capitalist, an anti-civil libertarian and a war hawk who will stomp on about 70% of what Democrats claim they stand for. If you’re any flavor of Democrat — liberal, moderate or conservative — the Libertarian ticket is massively superior to the Democratic one. And it’s time the Libertarians made that point as loudly as possible.