Right now the Libertarian Party is meeting in their national convention in Orlando, Florida. The 2016 Presidential Election is one of the most cascading moments in American history with two of the most polarizing figures in American politics today leading the charge; Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The opportunity is unique for the Libertarian Party to take advantage of this moment and propel their message and party into the mainstream of America. Gary Johnson, the frontrunner, facing big challenges from cyber security pioneer John McAfee and The Libertarian Republic founder Austin Petersen.
The Economist, the leading economic publication in the world, ran a story about Governor Johnson that shows that the mainstream media is ready to hear the Libertarian message…as long as it is from the right person:
Tiny, electorally trifling and obsessed with guns and weed, cherished emblems of its 11,000 members’ freedom, the party has never mattered in national politics. It is by some measures America’s third-biggest—yet not flattered by that comparison. In 2012 Mitt Romney crashed to defeat with 61m votes; Mr Johnson, who ran for the Libertarians after failing to be noticed in the Republican primaries, won 1.3m. Yet he could be about to improve on that.
Mr Johnson and his running-mate, Bill Weld, a former governor of Massachusetts, are expected to emerge from the Libertarians’ convention in Orlando on 30th May with the party’s ticket. If so, he could feasibly launch the biggest third-party run since Ralph Nader won almost 3% of the vote for the Green Party in 2000—including 100,000 votes in Florida that may have cost Al Gore the presidency. Or he could do better; a poll by Monmouth University put Mr Johnson on 11% in a three-way race with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. That was especially creditable given how little he is known; he figured in almost no national polls in 2012. It has encouraged Mr Johnson to think he could register the 15% vote-share that would guarantee him inclusion in this year’s televised debates.
With publicity, he could catch on. He has the accomplishments of a chest-beating conservative hero—he is a self-made millionaire, triathlete and razor-beaked deficit hawk; he vetoed 750 spending bills in New Mexico. He is also a sometime dope smoker (he resparked his youthful habit in 2005 to manage the pain from a paragliding accident), who comes across as almost goofily unaffected. He speaks in horror of the disdain many Americans show for Mexican immigrants—whom he calls “the cream of the crop”—as if it were borne of some crazy misunderstanding, rather than embedded nativist resentment and economic anxiety. Voters sick of political polish might like the mix: he really is authentic. Yet Mr Johnson’s main cause for hope is the unpopularity of the likely Republican and Democratic alternatives.
The moment is right here for the Libertarian Party to grab hold of the national spotlight. While others in the party think that the other candidates would have a good shot at doing this, it has been hard to see them getting the same national attention that two former Governors gain by running for President. I am a fan of Austin Petersen, but he is just a 35 year old blogger who is running for President. I do not see him getting the attention that is expected to come to the Libertarian Party in this election cycle. He has a bright future ahead of him and his time will come.
Even though Gary Johnson and Bill Weld are not the ideal Libertarians that members of the party might be looking for, they have enough Libertarian creds to market the Libertarian brand to the ordinary American who has been sucked in by the two party system and knows no better. The chance is here to shake things up and make the Libertarian Party into a household name.