I attended the Libertarian Party National Convention as an Ohio delegate last weekend, as well as worked as a floor captain for Governor Johnson’s campaign (my duty was to persuade undecided voters to cast their ballots for Governor Johnson for president and Judge Jim Gray for Vice President). I came away from the Convention extremely optimistic about the campaign, the future of the Libertarian Party, and consequently, the hopes for our nation’s future.
I have three main points.
The Johnson/Gray Ticket Can Win in November
Everyone knows this is a long shot, but not as long as many believe. While a number of things have to happen, none are a long shot in and of themselves. First, Ron Paul needs to concede. Assuming he does, these voters will flood to the Libertarian Party, which is their natural home anyway. Indeed, those of us on the campaign are already putting in place a game plan to maximize their impact once they arrive. And, of course, an endorsement from Dr. Paul would be very welcome.
Second, if the economy continues to struggle—even if it is due to the travails in Europe (no fault of President Obama’s)—many Democratic voters will continue to look elsewhere, as many already are. We will welcome them with open arms.
Third, if Governor Johnson can get to 15% in the polls, he will get on the debate stage next fall. If that happens, anything can happen. Indeed, many Republicans are so disgusted with Mitt Romney (D-Mass.) as a candidate that they are justifiably giving up on the GOP. If Johnson becomes more prominent as a candidate, fiscal conservatives (including many Tea Partiers) will be forced to choose between a candidate who will submit a balanced in 2013 (Johnson), and one who wants to tackle the budget deficit by increasing defense and Medicare spending, as well as “fixing” the safety net if needed, as opposed to reducing entitlement spending (Romney (D-Mass.)).
While it is a narrow path, it is a viable one. Republicans can laugh all they want. I’m a Tea Party libertarian, and I’m used to Democrats deriding the Tea Party movement. I can handle the derision from nominally conservative Republicans. As Gandhi famously said:
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
The Freedom Message Will Win Regardless of November’s Results
Governor Johnson has noted that Dr. Ron Paul frequently refers to himself as a “messenger.” The message is freedom, and Governor Johnson is the next standard bearer for the freedom movement in America. Dr. Paul has gotten the message past the point of being ignored, and has moved it to the point of being laughed at, and even fought. That means in Gandhi’s timetable, Dr. Paul has almost singlehandedly moved the freedom needle from step one to step two, and almost has it to step three. If those of us in the Libertarian Party can secure those gains—or advance the ball forward—it will be a tremendous victory.
Moving the message to the Libertarian Party and out of the polluted air of the GOP was an inevitable and brilliant decision by Governor Johnson. I can safely say that with a few rare exceptions, voters under 25 years of age are not going to vote Republican, ever. George W. Bush and crew permanently tarnished the GOP brand name in the eyes of these younger voters. They are very receptive to libertarian ideas and the Libertarian Party, which does not have Bush baggage to drag around. Call the GOP a living fossil; there are living specimens, but they’re past reproductive age.
Consequently we are targeting the college vote with great success. If we did not have an eloquent statesman to deliver the message to these voters, as well as to offer them a choice in November, the message of freedom might begin to fade. That Governor Johnson and Judge Gray will be campaigning on behalf of freedom throughout the summer and fall is a victory unto itself.
Growing the Libertarian Party (and Possibly Defeating the GOP)
Readers may think that I am so vehemently opposed to both Obama and Romney (D-Mass.) because I am a partisan, and it is the job of partisans to advocate for their candidates. True. Anyone who has read my writing knows I am about as fierce of an opponent of Obama’s as you will find. I warned people about him during the 2008 election cycle, but few listened. Then, once he was elected, some urged me to give him a chance. My response was always some version of this: “Hell no; I know what he wants to do to us.”
But when it comes to the former Governor of Massachusetts—have you ever notice his campaign never refers to him by his formal title?—some think my fierce opposition to his candidacy is the just the sour grapes of a former Republican. Au contraire. I am a former Republican precisely because the GOP does things like nominate Romney (D-Mass.) for president. Think McCain, Bush, Dole…
But what about the argument that voting Johnson is the same as voting for Obama? Not true. Next week I will explain why a Romney (D-Mass.) administration presents as great of a threat to our nation’s future as Obama.
(As a side note, exactly how much input do you Republicans have in nominating “your” Vice Presidential candidate? How about zip-zero-nada? The same is not true of the Libertarian Party. Governor Johnson endorsed Judge Jim Gray for VP, but Gray faced a fierce challenge from old guard favorite, R. Lee Wrights (who is a hell of a gentleman, by the way). On the morning of the VP nomination our polling showed the race about even, with a lot of undecideds. That’s why my work as a floor captain and swaying the undecideds was so critical, and Judge Gray won with 60% of the vote. Naturally he did a lot to help himself by delivering a powerful nomination speech.)
Anyhow, Johnson’s candidacy has led to a significant influx in new LP members. And—this is very critical—there is a growing sense that the GOP is skating on thin ice. It’s holding for now, but far from safe.
For example, I spoke with a recently-converted Libertarian who served as an advisor in every Republican administration since Nixon. Yes, he is on a first-name basis with every living Republican president. In the words of this former top GOP advisor, “the Republican Party is a total piece of s**t.”
He also said that relatively few of his colleagues criticized his move. Most admitted that the GOP has badly lost its way, but they weren’t quite ready to jump. I asked him if it was like a dam waiting to burst, as many were just waiting for a few more to go first. He responded: “Absolutely!”
So, if the Johnson/Gray campaign can contribute to either a) the growth of the Libertarian Party as a viable third party, or, b) continue to chip away at the thin ice on which the Republican Party is skating, the campaign will be a huge success. Based on early data, the campaign has already been very successful.
(I want to note that we are getting large numbers of Democrats as well. In general we are snagging Republican leadership, but Democratic rank-and-file.)
But you can take away from this piece one basic fact: the Johnson/Gray campaign will win—and is already winning—this year. It just depends on the definition of success.
This article is also published at http://countrythinker.com/home/.