Is Gary Johnson a viable alternative to Clinton and Trump?

According to the Associated Press, Donald Trump now has enough delegates to be considered the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party this year.  This is the result of a number of unbound delegates who have made their decision for him, in addition to those he’s won in primaries so far.  By contrast, Clinton and Sanders are still competing for the Democratic nomination, and while New Jersey is likely to side with Clinton, California is presently too close to call.

This leaves us with the candidates of the two major parties—presuming that Clinton does finally get the nomination, as is likely—having the highest unfavorability ratings of any candidate since CBS and The New York Times started asking the question in 1984.

Cue the third parties—there’s a large empty space on the national stage for likeable outsiders who aren’t schlepping around enough baggage to need its own convention hall.  This isn’t as crazy a thought as it sounds to people firmly in the grip of Democrats or Republicans.  In 1992, Ross Perot led poll numbers over Bush and Clinton for a while, and even with his later meltdown, he still won nineteen percent of the vote that November.  More recent evidence of the power of third parties comes from the 2000 presidential election in which Ralph Nader probably cost Al Gore the State of Florida.  And if we need an example of a third party actually winning, recall that the Republicans themselves were upstarts that replaced the decaying Whig Party in the years just before the Civil War.

One such alternative party with an appealing candidate is the Libertarians.  Their likely nominee, Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico and 2012 candidate for president, is in many ways the embodiment of small-government politics.  His socially liberal, while fiscally conservative stances include being somewhat pro-choice on abortion, a defender of gun rights and legalized drugs, and a proponent of free trade and much more open borders.  In summary, as long as you don’t ask the government to pay for it, he seems fine with you doing whatever you’d like with yourself and your consenting friends.  He’ll even sell you the pot candy for your personal entertainment, since he’s currently the CEO of Cannibas Sativa.

His potential running mate, Bill Weld, former governor of Massachusetts, isn’t such a clear choice, at least when it comes to gun rights.  Weld supported legislation to ban so-called assault weapons in the Bay State and to limit handgun purchases, though in a post on Facebook, he celebrates his conversion to the cause of gun rights. But Johnson’s position on the subject has been consistent throughout his public life, and perhaps Weld’s born-again libertarianism would hold.

As a political junkie in addition to being a gun nut (let’s use that term proudly), I can’t resist a fantasy election in which Clinton and Trump find themselves sharing the debates with Johnson as a Libertarian and Bernie Sanders as the nominee of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party or whatever political group can get his name on the ballots in all fifty states.  Democrats and Republicans have for too long assumed that our votes for either of them are automatic, and in a year when the tops of their tickets are filled by two disliked candidates, it would be instructive to have outsiders who represent the core philosophies offering an honest statement of opposing views.  Johnson is going to run, and if he can pass the fifteen percent mark in polling, he’ll have a spot in the debates.  What Sanders will do is anyone’s guess.

If there’s any lesson to be learned from all of this, it’s the fact that American voters are tired of liars and phonies.  I’m hoping that exhaustion leads us to forcing the major parties to offer better candidates or face dissolution.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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