Third Parties

Can a Third Party Gary Johnson Run Save the GOP?


At Conservative HQ, Andrew Davis thinks a Gary Johnson Libertarian Party run could scare the Republican Party straight:

 in this spirit of checking corruption among the ruling class that conservatives and Tea Partiers should take keen interest in Johnson's run—not for what it could do to strengthen third parties, but for what it could do to weaken the grip that the Republican Establishment has on the GOP. 

The reason the Republican establishment has been able to dictate the direction of the GOP for so many years is because the conservative grassroots has been unable to unseat them from their Ivory Tower. The Tea Party, and its foundation in the belief that the GOP should return to its limited government roots, is a byproduct of a growing discontent with the direction of the party at the hands of liberal Republican leadership.

In 2010, the Tea Party showed the Republican Establishment just how powerful it was. They knocked-out RINO candidates in the primaries, and elected an impressive class of Tea Party-backed candidates into office. However, the lessons of 2010 seem to have faded, and Republican leaders are back to their old tricks. 

What will it take to get them to listen to the grassroots? Nothing short of removing the power they've used to stay at the top.

That is where Johnson comes in. His mass appeal, especially to fiscal conservatives who feel betrayed by the Republican leadership's wishy-washy stance on spending cuts, has the potential to siphon votes away from a moderate Republican presidential candidate like Romney. In a political environment where the conservative grassroots base has more allegiance to message than party (as seen in the 2011 Virginia election), a third-party candidate like Johnson, with a strong conservative message on spending, could be doomsday for a content-free Republican candidate. 

While who knows what the mysterious world of tomorrow may hold, my read on political culture is that a Johnson Libertarian run that the Republicans could blame for an Obama victory would not make the GOP at large cry "Oh God what have we done by disappointing the small government crowd so badly? Let's mend our ways!"

It would rather, I suspect, double and treble their hate-on for that sort of extremism that leads people to believe they should have choices beyond what the Republican Party wisely chooses to offer, and further destroy any influence such folk have in the Party, at least in the short term.

In the long term, what has to happen is that more voters have to agree with and be willing to act on that small-government perspective. 

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  1. How much long term good did Ralph Nader do for the Democratic Party?

    1. Obama won in 2008, did he not?

      1. With democratic majorities in both the house and the senate and still couldn’t do much.

        It’s far from clear that losing two elections to Bush just to wait for Obama was a net positive for the Democrats.

        1. But think of all self-esteem of minorities that were raised!

        2. Dodd-Frank
          Affordable Care Act
          Stimulus I
          World Apology Tour
          Trillion-dollar deficits
          Credit downgrades
          Almost total shutdown of Gulf oil industry

          Sounds to me like he accomplished a lot in those two years.

    2. The centrist position on health care shifted quite a bit to the left. Other than that, I’d agree with you.

    3. The party’s center of gravity (particularly on the economic policies he cared about) moved sharply leftward since the beginning of 2000.

  2. “That is where Johnson comes in. His mass appeal……”

    Wait, what?

    1. I think this is a relative comparison.

      He has more mass appeal then say Bob Barr did.

      1. Cite?

        Bob Barr at least had the luxury of name recognition.

        1. That’s right. Famous children’s elephant.

          1. lmao

      2. I’d vote for Johnson or Paul. Otherwise, there’s not much difference to me between Obamney, Gingrich, et al.

    2. Johnson’s mass appeal in comparison to the other likely LP candidates.

      Even subatomic particles have mass.

  3. It would take about a lot more than Gary Johnson to trick the GOP into staying on the fiscal straight and narrow.

    1. So, here’s the problem. Ready? Wait for it…

      Gary Johnson sucks at politics.

      I mean, I like the message. I think he’s a person “I might like to have a beer with.”

      But, seriously, if you’ve been following him…it’s just sad.

      He’s doesn’t have basic political skills, such as:

      -raising money
      -“working a room”
      -announcing to everyone he speaks with that he’s running for president
      -collecting and growing lists of supporters
      -building a large infrastructure of hard-working volunteers
      -Answering questons in a way that is fluid, knowledgeable, confidence-inspiring (or even just coherent)

      In short, he sucks. His victory in New Mexico was a lucky fluke, just like our 1990s national budget surplus.

      It’s too bad that G. Johnson doesn’t have any political skills because his actual policies are just what this country needs.

      1. Anyone else remember the Reason post on just how bad a candidate Gary Johnson was back when he announced? It was up for almost a minute, IIRC.

        Johnson totally sucks as a politician. He seems to have negative skills.

        1. Johnson totally sucks as a politician. He seems to have negative skills.

          Isn’t that a requirement for an LP candidate?

      2. I will agree that he seems awkward and uncomfortable with politics, but I would take exception with the “answering questions” bullet point… I do think that he projects intelligence and a pragmatism that inspires enough confidence in me to think that this is a guy who is not wedded to certain ideological approaches, that he is open to adapting and modifying plans after analyzing results. And he projects the same sort of straightforward honesty that Ron Paul does. And, basically, Paul is 76, so Libertarian leaning voters need to find some younger leaders, like Gary Johnson.

  4. Did Perot scare them straight?

    1. Yes. At least for a short while.

    2. For about 4 years.

      Many political analsyis shows included the question “What do the Perot voters think?” as least once per show for several years.

  5. my read on political culture is that a Johnson Libertarian run that the Republicans could blame for an Obama victory would not make the GOP at large cry “Oh God what have we done by disappointing the small government crowd so badly? Let’s mend our ways!”

    Gore is to the right of Obama. Nader did move the democrats further to the left.

    Vocally you would not get a “Let us mend our ways” but the facts on the ground could very well be movement in the libertarian direction.

    Another counter point is that Clinton did move in the direction of a balanced budget after Perot gave him an election win over Bush Sr.

  6. Can a Third Party Gary Johnson Run Save the GOP?

    a) Why the hell would anyone want to “save” the GOP?

    and b)

    liberal Republican leadership?

    … what?

    Is the idea we need James Dobson to clean up the GOP?

    1. a) because it sucks and could stand to be improved
      b) you’re saying the GOP leadership is conservative?

      1. Things that suck could stand to die on their own faults

        And no, I’m pointing out the definition of ‘conservative’ has now gone so wacky that people call the big-government socialcons ‘liberal’. Meaning: no one seems to know where the fuck the political spectrum poles lie.

        I don’t need a party to be saved: I need decent candidates to get elected. If our electorate keeps demanding idiots to be their torchbearers, I’ll happily stay the hell away from playing ball. I like Gary Johnson, but if he can’t so much as fill a town hall in New Hampshire, call me unimpressed with his chances at fomenting a revolution in the GOP

  7. The GOP would respond by purging itself as much as possible of any libertarian elements. Which might be a good thing, come to think of it, because no sane libertarian is going to even attempt to work within the Democratic party. You have to be fairly delusional to do so within the GOP, for that matter.

  8. Start blaming libertarians for screwing up the election in 3…2…1…

    The republicans, in showing their absolute unwillingness to deal with libertarians have sown their own demise. What started with Reagan ended with Bush the lesser and now there are enough people sick of them and their lying ways and will tip the election back to Democrats. Their only hope is to secure the Senate and build upon their house majority for any relevance in the next 4 years.

  9. If he’s going to run in another party, contest the Democratic primaries! He’s anti-war, liberal on social issues… make some Lefty heads explode!

  10. Johnson can better “save the GOP” by joining Rand Paul in the Senate. There will be an open seat in New Mexico and he has already proven he can win handily in state-wide elections. What is he waiting for?

    1. I agree, but he’s said he doesn’t want to be a senator.

      His LP candidacy, though, could be very interesting, especially if he’s competitive in NM. Hell, there’s even a small chance he could win the state in a three-way race, especially as he’d be the only candidate in a heavily Hispanic state supporting liberalizing immigration.

      1. *yawn*

      2. That’s unfortunate that he doesn’t want to be a senator. As things stand, he has no shot at becoming president, and if the Republicans do beat Obama and manage to win the Senate (which they could do only by a slim margin), then the Senate will be the arena in which the showdown over the size and cost of government takes place. Propenents of smaller government will need as many senators with good sense and strong resolve as they can get, and Johnson would be a great asset in that regard. I hope he changes his mind.

        1. Agreed. Libertarians are only going to take over the GOP in baby steps. We’re acutally making good progress (relatively speaking) by having Justin Amash, Ron Paul, Jeff Flake, and Tom McClintock in the House, Rand Paul in the Senate, three libertarian leaning shows on Fox News, and Ron Paul making a good solid showing as a presidential primary candidate.

          Relatively speaking, this is the age of libertarian enlightenment.

          It would be good to have Gary Johnson in the Senate to help reinforce Rand Paul.

      3. He also said he didn’t want to run third party earlier.

      4. Where’d you read that?

  11. Johnson can better “save the GOP” by joining Rand Paul in the Senate. There will be an open seat in New Mexico and he has already proven he can win handily in state-wide elections. What is he waiting for?

  12. If Gary Johnson runs as LP candidate and Ron Paul is not VP, I’ll lay money now that he’ll get at maximum 2% of the vote. Bob Barr proved that running in the LP is a horrible idea for an otherwise viable candidate. Then again, not getting Ron Paul’s endorsement might have hurt him as well.

    If Gary Johnson and Ron Paul run as an independent ticket and seek to build a coalition of nominations from the LP, Reform Party, Constitution Party, Pot Party, etc. they would be more likely to succeed. Then when the race is over, start a new pragmatist libertarian party seeking to combine that coalition under one roof. A good start might be to take over the shell of the Reform Party. Their name alone is automatically appealing to disenfranchised moderates.

  13. Ron Paul is way too much a vainglorious prick to be anyone’s VP. He’s never won anything of significance and he never will. Why aren’t these libertarians already running in the libertarian party instead of expecting republican voters to turn into libertarians? Talk about a bunch of self-entitled d-bags.

    1. If he loses the GOP race but still wants to keep his message out there, he’ll have little choice, unless he doesn’t want to be on the ballot in states like Texas. Sore loser laws would prevent him from being the LP’s presidential candidate if he ran in the GOP primary.

      1. Sore loser laws would prevent him from being the LP’s presidential candidate if he ran in the GOP primary.

        Actually, they don’t, since the presidential candidate isn’t who is actually being elected in the general election. Voters are voting for a slate of Electors, and they didn’t run in the primaries.

        1. Wow – looked it up and you’re right actually. I didn’t know that…

    2. And also, running in the GOP primary attracts infinitely more media attention than running in the LP primary. Remember, the LP is the party that nominated a complete nobody named Badnarik back in 2004. It shouldn’t be a big surprise the media ignores them. I think the whole movement needs to hit the reset button.

      1. Badnarik would have been a great president, though. He promised to wear a .45 revolver to his press conferences. He was the first politician I ever donated to.

      2. I wondered who were the LP candidates and so I worked my way through the list on their eb page systematically… It was a depressing experience. I am pretty sure that at least one of them is on some sort of watch list.

  14. Why would he want to run against Ron Paul?

    1. Ron Paul is not going to be the GOP’s nominee, and if by some fluke he is, I’d hope the LP would not run a candidate against him. A Johnson indy run will give Paul’s supporters an outlet and Paul a potential insertion onto the national ballot while enabling all libertarians to coalesce behind Paul in the GOP primary and maximize his support. It’s win-win imho.

      1. “Ron Paul is not going to be the GOP’s nominee, and if by some fluke he is, I’d hope the LP would not run a candidate against him.”

        They pretty much have to thanks to ballot access rules. Now they can, I believe, nominate Paul and get around that, but that also creates some problems.

  15. So will government get bigger or smaller with a second Obama presidency?

    As it is nearly impossible to win enough electoral votes, as name recognition alone for most people who don’t follow politics gives Dems/Repubs more than 190 electoral votes each.

    Like it or not this is a two party system, quit your crying and change one of the parties from the inside.

    A vote for anyone other than a R/D in a national election is a vote against the side you are closest to in ideology. FACT

    1. Not if you were planning to stay home otherwise. My write-in vote for Ron Paul in 2008 didn’t cost John McCain California, and even if he had lost by one vote, it wouldn’t have been mine.

      1. You not voting is a vote for the other side too, as you could have cancelled out one of the Obamabot’s votes

    2. Smaller – fighting between a Republicrat legislature and a Demoblican executive will be delicious.

  16. If Gary Johnson runs as LP candidate and Ron Paul is not VP, I’ll lay money now that he’ll get at maximum 2% of the vote.

    The LP getting 2% ? lol
    They broke 1%, what, once?

    1. Ed Clark at 1.06% in 1980.

    2. Note the “at maximum”. That would be a fluke.

  17. How many elections does it take to purge the wishful thinking that “This time the LP vote will count for something”?

    Bollucks. I’m too old and too tired to invest in that fantasy anymore.

  18. A Garry Johnson nomination by the LP in 2012 would signal to libertarian leaning politicians that they can stay loyal to the Republican Party for decades and still get a fast tract LP route to the presidential elections. That would take pressure of the Republican Party by making it less likely for their governors and congress reps to leave the party.

    1. He’s a dues-paying member of the LP. If you don’t ascribe to TEAM X politics, you can be a member of more than one party. But if Johnson is not enough of a TEAM PENGUIN partisan for you, then that’s your burden to bear.

  19. No.

    The GOP is not likely to be scared of a third party candidate.

    A Rand Paul presidential run in the GOP, might.

    Oh well.

    The problem with America is societal. The idiots in office are symptomatic, not causative. I would like to think that the United States of America had some future in which it returned to individualism and liberty, but that’s just fantasy. A very large portion of this country’s population is composed of people who:

    – Believe in moral relativism and reject moral absolutism
    – Rationalize their theft by proxy of the property of others through government force
    – View government as something in between their mommy and God

    I don’t think that the above referenced segment of society can be persuaded otherwise. But remember: Divorce isn’t an end, it’s a beginning.

    1. The problem with America is societal. The idiots in office are symptomatic, not causative.


  20. Maybe next time they’d think twice about excluding a two-term GOP Governor from the debates. Why should Johnson (or anyone) be loyal to a party that excludes him like that?

    1. Isn’t it the media sponsors that are keeping Johnson out?

  21. I don’t see the GOP being the least bit scared of someone who anybody who doesn’t read Reason knows anything about It’s sad really. I was actually considering changing my registration if he ended up making noise. At the end of the day though you can’t be a libertarian minded person and think your views are going to be held up in the slightest by the Republican Party. I mean I’m sorry I’m not the least bit excited by a little tax cut one in a while. Especially if it comes as as bone thrown to us after a massive expansion of government and a rather disturbing lust for war. Sorry, not going to happen! When more Rand Pauls start showing up, you know people who actually give half a shit about liberty then maybe I’ll play ball again. Until then, screw ’em! I hope they lose in ’12 and continue to lose for a very long time.

  22. The GOP is only interested in saving its self from people who want to save the GOP. They don’t think they have a problem.

  23. Johnson should definitely run third party, but it would be better if Paul did it. The Republicans must be punished for being insufficiently pure. They’ve been very bad and they need to be taught a lesson. This is exactly how people should approach voting in a duopolistic system such as the US.

  24. I have to think that “pothead” Johnson would pull at least some of the democrats as well. I don’t see his base as being all Republican.

  25. An article on Politico actually says that Johnson is the LP’s third choice after Ron Paul and Jesse Ventura.

    The Libertarian Party will forever be recognized as idiots if they choose Ventura over Johnson. Ventura lost his legitimacy a long, long time ago.

    1. At least Ventura once had some legitimacy to lose….

  26. If Johnson doesn’t even appeal to more than 1% of Republican voters, then why would he sway anyone nationally?

    Ron Paul probably has a good 10% of the Republican party behind him. Is that a lot? No, at least that’s a base.

    The sad thing is, if Ron Paul would stop blaming the US for 9/11, he would probably be a lot higher. Isolation is one thing, casting blame towards your country is another.

    1. Easy answer: if it were approval voting, Gary Johnson would likely win more than Ron Paul. If Ron Paul wasn’t in the race, he’d probably also be getting 10%+ and have gotten more media coverage. But because he’s the second choice amongst Paul voters, who can’t be swayed from their top pick despite Johnson’s superior experience and lack of wacky affiliations, which is why he’s consigned to the bargain bins. If Ron Paul is not going to be on the national ballot next November, a Gary Johnson third party ticket would be a logical place for Paul’s supporters and endorsement to go. Also it would send voters like me who prefer Johnson over to Paul in the GOP primaries while still giving me my preferred candidate in November when it counts. Win-win.

  27. The problem is that libertarian ideas have zero appeal to the rest of America. The whole premise of libertarianism is that the rules you want applied to yourself should apply to everyone else. The average American wants special rules that apply only to himself. He wants others to pay taxes. He wants others to have their subsidies cut. He wants others to have their choices regulated. The only person he believes in freedom for is himself, and both parties run on that platform.

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