For once the Libertarian Party nomination might actually be worth having, with some polls showing the likely nominee, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, pulling 10 percent of the vote while still a virtual unknown and before any kind of campaign has been run. It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which the negative campaigns of Hillary and The Donald drive enough voters to the mild-mannered Johnson to tip enough states to throw the race into the House of Representatives, or even win the Electoral College outright. Disgust with the negative campaigns of the two major party nominees is partly how Jesse Ventura won the 1998 governor’s race in Minnesota. Even failing either of these outcomes, a strong showing by a Libertarian ticket could prove a breakout moment at long last, putting the Libertarian Party in a position to exert some real gravitational influence on both parties going forward.
But naturally libertarians, being essentially anti-political by core ideology and purists in practice, seem determined to blow this potential breakout opportunity. The party nominating convention is under way in Orlando, and Johnson is already running into trouble because of his suggested running mate, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld.
But here in the corridors of the Rosen Centre Hotel and Resort at the Libertarian National Convention in Orlando, it could all fall apart as anti-authoritarian Libertarian Party activists, loath to be defined as “Republican-lite,” are increasingly and loudly critical of Weld, who joined their party only weeks ago.
Johnson seems to sense his dream ticket could be in trouble. The former two-term governor of New Mexico was booed at a convention forum on Thursday for calling Weld “the original libertarian.”
And Weld did little to help himself at a Friday night vice-presidential debate in which he got a chilly reception from the hardcore audience of Libertarian true-believers. Asked who did more damage to America — President Obama or President George W. Bush — Weld gave a classic politician answer. “I’d rate it a tie,” he said. He used the word “miasma” in his closing statement.
At one point, Weld said he would stay in the United Nations — an idea anathema to many in the crowd — and said that when people think of Libertarians they often think of “unattractive people” in their neighborhoods.
Weld advocated cutting taxes. One of his opponents yelled, “Taxation is theft!”
I’m wondering whether Weld really wants the VP slot with comments like this. Or maybe he really just doesn’t know libertarians and libertarianism all that well. (More reporting here from Reason magazine.)
Already you can hear lots of rumbling among libertarians that they aren’t excited by a Johnson-Weld ticket. Hard core libertarians are essentially indistinguishable from Marxists: both believe in the “withering away of the state,” and the utopian inclinations of both make it impossible to perceive the wisdom of the old saying that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Compromise? Never. Nominate a running mate who is less than perfect on the libertarian PC scorecard? Not gonna happen.
If this convention ends in a train wreck, I predict the Libertarian Party will blow their greatest opportunity yet, and finish with the usual 1 percent of the vote they always get.