Of Libertarians and Bernie Sanders

The Libertarian Party Convention is next weekend in Orlando, FL. According to a Fox News Poll released this week Johnson is currently at 10%, drawing equally from both Rs and Ds. This is in line with last month’s Monmouth Poll. As the convention draws near, the three leading contenders are seemingly making a final push to get the Party’s nod.

Gary Johnson announced his Vice Presidential Candidate this week. I’m not sure why Johnson made the announcement now. The last guy who did this was Ted Cruz. And we know how well that worked out for Eduardo. Johnson’s choice is William F. Weld. Like Johnson, Weld is a former Republican governor of a democratic state. In this case, Massachusetts. I think Weld’s selection is an interesting one and I think I understand the logic that is driving Johnson’s decision. Weld has a solid reputation as governor. This ticket is an appeal to a no-nonsense, down to business approach. It would, in some ways, be the approach Real Clear Politics’ Bill Scher advocated for Hillary,i.e. Channel Warren G. Harding. Johnson/Weld is an appeal to normalcy, not revolution.

Because both men are former Republican governors who were immensely popular in blue states (And there are few states in the US bluer than Massachusetts), such a ticket has appeal to disaffected not only to #NeverTrump Republicans, but also to Democrats who are being increasingly sidelined in the Sanders/Warren shift of the Democratic Party.

(To explain how popular Weld was as governor of Massachusetts consider this. Weld lost the 1996 Senate race to John Kerry. In the exit polling, the voters roughly broke into three categories: People who voted for Weld because they liked the job he did as governor; People who voted for Kerry because they liked the job Kerry did as Senator; and People who voted for Kerry because they like the job Weld did as governor.  There were a sizeable number of people who thought Weld would better serve the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as governor instead of in the Senate and voted accordingly.)

Looking at the ticket strategically, Johnson/Weld, does it really expand the pool of voters to the Libertarian party? Because they are so similar, the ticket isn’t making an appeal to disaffected conservative voters of the #NeverTrump Cruz variety. If Austin Petersen made this choice, I could see how it was designed to expand his appeal to those libertarians who were concerned about his somewhat more conservative bend. Of course, Bill Clinton’s choice of Al Gore is somewhat similar to Johnson’s choice. Both Clinton and Gore were (at the time) centrist Democrats. The selection of Gore did nothing to expand Clinton’s appeal to either the very liberal wing of the party or the remnants of the Scoop Jackson Democrats.

Weld is not a traditional libertarian and has advocated some positions that are normally anathema to LP members (gun control, more interventionist foreign policy). Fortune recently referred to the Johnson/Weld ticket as “Libertarian Lite”. But they meant it in a good way. If the party is to expand beyond being a party that hovers at the fringe, it will have to move from pure ideology to more nuanced positions that are electorally palatable. Maybe Weld is a signal that it is OK for disaffected Republicans are starting to consider the Libertarian Party their natural home.

Ironically, a Johnson/Weld ticket could help Trump. Depending on how popular Weld remains in Massachusetts, it is theoretically possible the LP ticket could take enough votes from Clinton to split the vote and Massachusetts flips from Blue to Red. Even if it doesn’t, if the Libertarian candidate shows any signs of taking votes away from Clinton in Blue states, she will need to expend campaign funds to shore up her base. And money spent in Massachusetts (or New York or California) is money that can’t be spent in Ohio and Florida….

Then there is John McAfee who, as Reason’s (and Fifth Column Podcaster) Matt Welch wrote, “seems to have taken Dos Equis’ ‘Most Interesting Man in the World’ ad campaign as a personal dare”. McAfee reminds me of a James Bond villain. If he became President, I would not be the least surprised if he gave an address from the oval office, sitting behind the desk, stroking a white cat. The man at times seems to be a few sandwiches shy of a picnic. That being said, maybe Johnson’s ‘Return to Normalcy’ pitch is wrong for this election cycle. Maybe the public is craving crazy. In that case, McAfee (who is amazingly 70 years old- That makes him only 2 years old than Clinton and 4 years younger than Sanders) would be the best choice. In response to another Reason contributor, Brian Doherty, McAfee said

I’m 70! You can do anything you want to waste time.[Doherty is 47] I can’t. I’m doing this to change the country that I love as much as I love myself. So you can believe it. I don’t give a shit or not whether you believe it! It’s whether I live it. And I live it, I have lived it my entire life.

He’s not sugar coating things, kids. McAfee has spent a lot of time warning about the threats and dangers of cyber-wars and has called out China for its activities in hacking US government websites and the failure of the US to take the necessary action. He is also much more emphatic about the LP’s philosophy of leaving people be, taking great umbrage at Johnson’s view that not only should Christian Bakers be compelled to bake cakes for Gay Weddings, but Jewish Bakers should be compelled to bake cakes for Nazi weddings.

 

[Let’s just pause here for a moment to contemplate the idea that Nazi Cakes is now in our political lexicon]

 

McAfee’s VP choice is Judd Weiss, a self-made man who sold his businesses and now spends his time as the Libertarian Party’s unofficial-official photographer. Weiss seems to be in the McAfee mold. Check out his website hustlebear.com:

And I can say without reservation, the Libertarian Party is by far the biggest sinkhole of time, energy, money, resources, and emotion in the wider liberty scene. Useless would be an improvement for the Libertarian Party. There are inefficiencies in other organizations, but at least they’re working together cooperatively. The Libertarian Party has become the cage match arena to fight bitterly with other libertarians over positions of no power. I say this with a broken heart, as I’ve witnessed too many of my friends get sucked into petty squabbles and distracted from our wider goal. It’s embarrassing and frustrating.

 

And this guy is running for the VP slot. It’s bold, it’s brash and rather counter-intuitive to trash the party you’re in. But again, if Crazy is the New Black, McAfee-Weiss might be the Libertarian Party’s best choice.

Last, but not least is Austin Petersen. Petersen seems to be the main rival to Johnson for the nomination. And Petersen is staking his claim to the nomination by going hard after the Ted Cruz #NeverTrumps supporters, highlighting his bona fides as a pro-life libertarian. He is doing a good job of reminding Republicans that there is more to the LP than legalizing drugs. He seems to have won over Glenn Beck which augurs well for increase public exposure during the general election campaign. He’s also doing a lot of Periscope and other social media appearances, something neither Johnson nor McAfee seem to be doing. As far as I can tell, Petersen hasn’t chosen a preferred VP nominee. (I tweeted his campaign, but haven’t heard back). It would interesting to see how Petersen views the Vice Presidency.

No matter who the Libertarians nominate, he will be better than either Trump or Clinton. The question though is which of the three will have the best chance to convince voters conditioned to duopoly in politics to vote for someone other than a Republican or Democrat.

***

And speaking of Democrats, I would be remiss if I didn’t note the growing levels of Angst in Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton, the heir-apparent since 2012 and crown-princess of Acela-landia is having great difficulty in dispatching the campaign of Bernie Sanders, a man who has only been a member of the Democratic Party for 20 minutes. She barely beat Sanders in Kentucky. It’s so close, Sanders could petition for a recount. That petition would go to Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes. Why oh why would the Sandernistas think the Democratic Establishment was trying to disenfranchise them?

Bernie it seems, is making it hard for Hillary to pivot to the middle. As long as he is in the race, she has to continue to campaign and make public pronouncements in support of hard-left ideas. Ignore the irony of the democrats being unable to have their etch-a-sketch moment for a moment a just enjoy the angst of the main stream media. There is column after column after column explaining why it’s time for time for Bernie to walk away and to stop attacking Hillary. And so many of them begin with some variation of, “I like Bernie’s ideas, but….” They have been so amazingly smug about Trump’s ascendancy in the Republican Party that they completely ignored Sanders’ rise in their own.  And Sanders is every bit as dangerous to the Dems as Trump is to the GOP.

It’s too late to stop it. And why should Bernie stop? He owes nothing to Hillary or to the DNC. And the more they tell his supporters to shut up and submit, the louder and angrier they will become. The longer he stays in, the more he locks Hillary into supporting his causes, his ideas. Hillary wasn’t originally for the $15 minimum wage. She wanted $12. It was Bernie’s campaign that caused her to support the fight for 15.

Now Democrat Elite are afraid of what will happen at the Convention in Philadelphia. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has gone so far as draw an analogy to Chicago 1968. The great irony is the riot in Chicago was not the anti-war protesters, but the Chicago PD. (Hence the reason it is known as the police riot). It wasn’t the insurgents who rioted, but the agents of the State, the status quo. So, either the Senator is ignorant of history or she is attempting to send a chilling message to the Sandernistas: Get in Line or Get Crushed.

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