In a recent Monmouth University Poll concerning the 2016 General Election, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump, 42 to 34 with Gary Johnson a distant third with 11%. Seeing as Johnson has done very little campaigning and is seeking the nomination of a third party, (the Libertarian Party), that is a really an impressive number. Imagine how well Johnson could do with additional media exposure. Or to put it another way-
Dear Libertarian Party: Please don’t screw this up.
In a year where the two major parties are preparing to foist upon the American people the most unpopular nominees ever, this maybe the Libertarian’s best opportunity in a generation to spread their message and gain political clout. So the party needs to act like a real political party and actively try to win the election.
It is showing some tentative steps in this direction. On March 29th, the three main candidates for the Libertarian Party Nomination, Gary Johnson, Austin Petersen, and John McAfee debated one another, moderated by John Stossell. It is scheduled to be aired tonight, April 1 on Fox Business Network. As to why you would air a political debate on April Fool’s Day is another question.
(Unless it was one involving Donald Trump where, during the closing remarks The Donald stops, smiles broadly and says, “April Fools!” and then walks off the stage revealing the last 11 months was actually the most diabolically planned prank in history).
Contrary to what some people believe, Libertarians don’t need to water down their brand to appeal to a greater swath of people, they just need to do a better job of conveying the message. What does this mean? It means appealing to voters without sounding extreme. For example, during the 2012 campaign, Johnson campaigned on cutting the Department of Defense’s budget by 50%. At first blush this sounds insane and conjures up images of a skeleton army barely able to defend our borders. In reality it would have meant reducing the Defense Budget to 2008 levels. That is how Johnson should have presented the proposal. Most Americans would think, “2008 levels? That’s not so bad. We hadn’t been attacked since 9/11 and we were in Afghanistan and Iraq.” By phrasing it that way, it would force the other candidates to explain why we weren’t safe in 2008 or what all of that money bought in the intervening years. This maybe an area where Austin Petersen would do better than Johnson. (Petersen has run a consulting firm).
In addition, the Party and the candidate will need to spend actual money campaigning. This means television ads. While Johnson had great ads, they were only available on YouTube. Unless you’re either a supporter of a candidate or a political junkie, you’re not going to YouTube to watch political ads. If you want to attract more supporters, you need to go to where they are. And television is the best option. And if you really want to attract attention, buy ads that will run during the prime time hours of the 2016 Summer Olympics. Is it expensive? Sure. But you will see interest in the campaign increase. And get a big enough increase and the Libertarians will be on the stage for the General Election Debates.
So, as I write this, I have no idea what any of the candidates have said. I can only hope they have treated the debate with serious forethought and earnestness. In other words, they are running their campaigns as if they actually want to win the Presidency.
By this time tomorrow, we will know the answer.