Gary Johnson, the presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, may not win, but he could complicate both Trump and Clinton’s campaigns.
In 1955, the historian Richard Hofstadter declared that “third parties are like bees, once they have stung, they die.” Gary Johnson (63), former governor of New Mexico, has been nominated as the third candidate for the American presidential election in November 2016 by the Libertarian Party. There were no primaries and no raucous and spectacular convention like the Republicans held in Cleveland this week. But he wants to dispel the idea of the bee. And what is more, he thinks that there has never been a better occasion to do so.
Seldom in American history have voters had a choice between two candidates who are both so unpopular. Seldom have we seen the Republican Party hierarchy try, right up until the convention debates, to find procedural means to overturn the popular vote in the primaries. For party grandees, the candidate’s ability to do the job will be in doubt until the last minute. As for Hillary Clinton, her evident carelessness in handling her emails when, at a crucial time, she was at the heart of American diplomacy raises questions far beyond the Democratic Party. Even given the pressures she faced, her reliability and even her sense of duty in the management of affairs of state are called into question.
Vacuuming Up Votes on the Right
So, could voters’ reluctance to continue the old way of swapping between the two traditional parties – a challenge to the status quo already symbolized by Trump – give the Libertarians a chance, if not to win, at least to affect the result? The Libertarian doctrine is to campaign for the least possible state intervention in various aspects of life: including the economy, but also in health, education, defense, security and all other societal issues. They are, for example, in favor of the legalization of the sale of marijuana.
Gary Johnson has been crafty enough to form a ticket with William Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts, a moderate Republican who is – it goes without saying – anti-Trump. He reckons that economic themes – fewer taxes, fewer subsidies, less state support – may win over voters who, although in the habit of voting for the designated Republican candidate, are put off by the billionaire property tycoon’s excesses of language and his temperamental character. Thus vacuuming up votes on the right.
In the Firing Line: The Fateful 15 Percent Mark
But on the Democratic side, there are voters who hate Hillary Clinton’s personality and have supported Bernie Sanders’ campaign since the start of the primaries. They will agree with Gary Johnson’s program for social reform. Gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana, education for all and even stopping military intervention overseas. He has even created a quiz for Democrats to show those disappointed by Bernie Sanders’ withdrawal that he can deliver what they want.
And it works. Polls show that Gary Johnson is winning more of Hillary Clinton’s potential voters than those of Donald Trump. And in just a few weeks, the party pooping candidate has moved from 10 -12 percent of voting intentions for November’s final showdown. His sights are now set on the fateful 15 percent mark. This would enable him to participate in the television debates alongside the winners of the two traditional party nominations. The effect of Gary Johnson’s candidacy is already evident on both groups of voters. Even if this slim, greying man with a permanently tanned complexion and great charisma enters the hallowed circles of those who are allowed to participate in these great televised debates — and which we know have a great influence on American voters — be prepared for surprises. And, who knows, for some reversals of fortune…