We Libertarians have labored in obscurity for so long that the attention we’re receiving of late is a little intoxicating. Heck, we even had a presidential debate on a national cable TV show — and it was actually mentioned on a couple of other national cable TV shows. For the first time in years, libertarians have had a presidential nomination contest worth talking about, and we’ve taken full advantage. But here’s the thing. We’ve had our fun. Now it’s time for libertarians to get serious.
Thanks to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, we are looking at a presidential election unlike any in our lifetimes. 30%, 40% or even 50% of Republicans and Democrats alike are telling pollsters they don’t want to support their parties’ likely nominees. Record numbers of independents have fought their way to the polls where possible to vote for their favorite anti-establishment candidate. And even “establishment” media such as the New York Times and CNN are acknowledging the unique opportunity the Republicans and Democrats are creating for a credible third party candidate.
The operative word, of course, is “credible”. But what are we Libertarians doing? In our excitement, we’re pretending that we have a decision to make about who our nominee for President should be. In all due respect to the process, consider the choices: First, let’s narrow the field a bit. There are several good folks running, and anyone who enters the arena deserves credit for doing so. However, thanks largely and perhaps unfairly to John Stossel and most of the libertarian media, most agree that the nomination “race” boils down to three candidates: John McAfee, Austin Petersen, and Gov. Gary Johnson.
McAfee is an interesting fellow. No question about that. He built a business, made some money, and certainly made a name for himself. After all, how many Americans have their very own icon on millions of computer screens? But he’s interesting for a lot of other reasons as well — reasons that might make for a great biopic on late-night cable, but that are clearly disqualifying as a credible presidential candidate. Just Google him, and after you get past the software ads for a company he no longer owns, you’ll see what I mean. We Libertarians are a tolerant bunch, but the vast majority of American voters are, frankly, not. If Hillary Clinton has a problem because of her email issues, just imagine the problems John McAfee would have.
Furthermore, what about John McAfee’s Libertarian credentials? Well, not too long ago he was running as a candidate from some strange cyber-party and calling for very un-libertarian things from the government. Then he figured out that ballot access thing.
What about Austin Petersen then? He’s an articulate guy, in a theater major kind of way, and a world-class Facebook poster. The reality, though, is that running for President is the best job he’s ever had. Austin Petersen’s other claim to fame: He was a producer for a cable TV show, booking important guests, including Gary Johnson. Give him credit for creating an illusion of accomplishment, but let’s be real: He runs a website with the word “Libertarian” in it.
Finally, there is Gary Johnson. Self-made millionaire. Two-term Governor. Called the “most dangerous politician” in America. Nicknamed Governor Veto and Governor No. Regular guest on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and a host of other national news outlets. He’s the guy who is both credible enough and libertarian enough to be the spokesperson of choice when the world outside the libertarian echo-chamber wants to talk with us. He is profiled by both the New York Times and MTV on the same day. And he’s already at 11% in a three-way race with Donald and Hillary, without even getting the nomination yet.
While McAfee and Petersen’s “campaigns” have consisted almost entirely of trashing Gary Johnson, Johnson’s time is spent talking about liberty, smaller government, and the failure of the two-party duopoly to represent the majority of Americans. He’s growing libertarianism while the others are trying to split our 1% into even smaller pieces.
And what are libertarians doing? We’re pretending there is a question as to who our candidate should be.
In normal times, that might be OK. It would be kind of fun in a “we’re not going to win anyway” year. We can debate libertarian purity, pick apart Governor Johnson’s every statement, and make the Governor run a gauntlet so that we can all administer a lash or two as he passes by. We can do all that, despite the reality, as one national commentator said just days ago, that “He’s just way more Libertarian than just about any politician you can name”.
Or…We could stop playing games, recognize the historic opportunity that is staring us in our collective face, and get behind the obvious choice, Gary Johnson. Libertarians could get serious. We could actually get about the business of communicating with the millions of voters who don’t want Hillary or Donald — but who don’t yet understand that the common sense, experienced and “mainstream” choice in November will be a successful entrepreneur and Governor who offers less government and more freedom, and who is a Libertarian.
Gary Johnson won’t ask us. He respects the process, and is breaking his back every week to get to as many Libertarian gatherings as he can, whether there are 400 people or 40. He knows he has to earn the nomination, and unlike others, he appreciates the serious, grown-up responsibilities of carrying our banner.
It’s time that we respect ourselves, our Party, our obvious nominee, and get on with the business of making history in 2016. It’s time for Libertarians to get serious and get behind Gary Johnson.