Last weekend, the Libertarian Party held its national gathering in Orlando, Florida, and nominated former New Mexico Republican governor Gary Johnson for the presidency and former Massachusetts governor William Weld as his running mate, thus offering the Republican #NeverTrump folks — whose complaints I’ve been covering for months — a chance to put their money where their mouth is and support a non-Trump pair of Republicans.
Will it surprise you to learn that the brethren are not flocking to Johnson? Conservatives may like to flaunt their connection to libertarianism whenever a “libertarian moment” in the press turns it into good publicity, or when they’re trying to get laid or score weed, and Lord knows they love tax cuts and the Randian rule of Makers over Takers. But in the end Johnson/Weld doesn’t offer enough of what they really want — e.g., persecution of women and minorities, and True Conservative escapism.
As I mentioned last week, some rightblogger critics of Trump have looked at Johnson and been disappointed because he’s so, well, libertarian rather than forthrightly rightwing. Still, some admire his small-government bona fides. Last week, John J. Miller puffed Johnson at National Review. Sample: “ ‘From the right angle, he looks like Harrison Ford,’ wrote GQ, which doesn’t normally print admiring profiles of former Republican governors — let alone run pictures of them shirtless, as it did with Johnson in 2011.” That should get them Feeling the Johnson, as it were.
Miller also reminded readers that while Johnson is pro-choice, “he also believes Roe was wrongly decided,” and as governor Johnson “slowed the growth of government, presided over a series of tax cuts, and finished his eight years in office with fewer employees on the state payroll than when he started,” making New Mexico the economic powerhouse she is today.
But National Review also gave the floor to former Republican operative Mary Matalin, who agitated for Johnson’s rival for the LP nomination, Fox News/Tea Party factotum Austin Petersen, in part because of Petersen’s “reverence for the dignity of universal human liberty (which necessarily includes unborn Americans)” — i.e., he’s anti-abortion. Here’s an example of Petersen’s oratory on the subject: “What if we compromised on abortion? You can eject the baby, but you can’t stab it in the brain, poison its heart, or rip it to shreds. Fair enough?” (If you thought libertarians were naturally pro-choice, you must be new around here.)
“And make no mistake,” Matalin went on: “Young people — including many Democrats — would be open to someone [like Petersen] who is pro-life and a constitutionalist, despite the fact that Millennials voted for Barack Obama twice.” How did she figure? Because “the Millennial generation (which now outnumbers their Baby Boom predecessors) quickly and completely soured on ‘hope and change,’ ” Matalin said. She did not cite a poll nor any other evidence for this finding, but did say that “it seems inconceivable (and would be unprecedented in American history) that their permanent fallback position would be for a Soviet-era redistributionist or a Kardashian-esque political whirling dervish.” Maybe she should tour college campuses and explain this to the kids; clearly she’s got the lingo down.
RedState founder Erick Erickson also pimped Petersen at the Resurgent. Johnson’s endorsement of Weld — who, like Johnson, was a Republican-elected governor of a blue state — “shows Johnson has learned nothing and is not really serious about being a candidate beyond the fringe,” said Erickson, whereas “a lot of Republicans would potentially take a fresh look at Petersen.”
Reason, the flagship Libertarian publication, celebrated the convention with a video explaining to Republicans why they should go LP for Trump year. “For Republicans what I would say is, this is genuinely smaller government,” said Pennsylvania delegate Jeffrey Mitchell. “We’re not interested in taking your money and giving it to welfare recipients,” said a smiling LP Senate candidate, Lucy Brenton. (She did add that “we’re certainly not interested in giving your money to corporations either,” but any actual Republicans watching the tape would probably take that as a bizarre non sequitur.)
Pennsylvania delegate Robert Clark counseled Republican resignation: “You may not agree with everything [Gary Johnson] says,” he said, “but he’s likely going to be the best you’re going to get and, as unfortunate as it may be to be in this situation, you may want to consider voting for the lesser of three evils.” Let go and go Johnson!
Very little was said in the video about the stuff that really makes Republicans Republicans, though LP Senate candidate Michelle Darnell did urge, “let’s set some of those social issues aside, temporarily,” and Austin Petersen assured gay-marriage enemies that “I will never make them bake the cake,” which I hope someone made into a banner.
Believe it or not, Reason also had a video on why Democrats should vote Libertarian. Most of the LP talking heads in this one adopted the pretense of sympathy for the Bernie Sanders campaign that some conservatives have been using to deceive Sanders supporters and get in some sneaky shots at Hillary Clinton.
Party chairman Nicholas Sarwark, for example, said Democrats had been given a chance to nominate the “populist” Sanders but had chosen instead to “rig the game” for Hillary. “[Sanders] is a genuine human being,” said Robert Clark. “I’m sure most of his supporters don’t agree with everything he has to say, but they believe in him because he’s someone they can connect with.”
“When I talk to my ‘Bernie friends,’ ” claimed Darnell, “what I will say is, why would you want a government with more power and control, and bigger, controlled by the very entities that you don’t like?” Which is an interesting way to approach people who are planning to vote for a socialist.
“Libertarians have a natural affinity with Bernie Sanders supporters,” claimed LP Senate candidate Alex Merced, a person under seventy wearing a bow tie. “I can know with my own U.S. Senate campaign, I’ve gotten a huge response from Bernie supporters, because we agree on ending the war on drugs, we agree on NSA surveillance, we agree on a host of issues that Hillary doesn’t represent.” Of course, Merced is against some things Sanders is for — like the minimum wage — and Reason authors’ usual attitude toward Sanders is more like that found in Steve Chapman’s April column, “Liberals and Conservatives Should Reject Sanders — His policies come from a fantasy world.” But let’s not get hung up on that, man — the young relate to Bernie and, after a little political Rohypnol, may transfer their affections to libertarianism!
The convention came and was, by all accounts, a lively affair with a half-naked fat guy, boot-headed Vermin Supreme, and enraged yelling for liberty. There was also a candidates’ debate at which Johnson was booed for supporting driver’s licenses and the Civil Rights Act. “The sneering headlines will write themselves,” lamented Reason’s Matt Welch. “Whoever wrote the [debate] questions did the Party, in my judgment, a great disservice,” sniffed Welch’s colleague Brian Doherty. “A C-SPAN audience did not need to see the five candidates pondering out loud whether drivers licen[s]es are legitimate.” God save libertarianism from libertarians!
But the joke may be on the binary Rep/Dem crowd after all: Chairman Sarwark told CNN that the party had “established a ‘back channel’ to the Koch brothers, in the hopes the wealthy libertarian-leaning funders donate to the Libertarian Party.” Could oceans of money from the Kochs, one of whom was the LP vice-presidential nominee in 1980, elevate the Cause? Or is Sarwark just recycling old Daily Caller bullshit?
Who knows and, in the final analysis, who cares — Trump and Clinton are still the Big Tent attractions, and zillionaires who want to own the earth will probably just buy into one or the other of these known quantities instead of playing around with the LP, whose 2012 candidate for president got 1 percent of the popular vote (that candidate’s name, by the way, was Gary Johnson). So many of the old guard remained unaffiliated with a candidate, at least for the time being, while others sank back into dreams of a Real Republican alternative. National Review’s Jay Nordlinger even wrote a campaign speech for his own fantasy Real Republican campaign. Sample: “Neither [Trump nor Clinton] has a clue about trade. Actually, Mrs. Clinton may, in fact, know about trade, but she is too beholden to the socialist Left to tell the truth about it.” Well, Clinton’s Wall Street donors should get a laugh out of that, at least. Where have you gone, Mitt Romney? The Makers turn their lonely eyes to you.