As Trump vs. Clinton looms horrifyingly on the horizon, normal human Americans seek any escape route, even one as outre as the Libertarian Party. That is, we've seen more chatter and news and commentary about the L.P.'s still ongoing-presidential race (which will be settled by the bare majority of 1,000 or so delegates to the national Party convention over Memorial Day weekend in Orlando), particularly the one who outside onlookers (and many insiders as well) assume will certainly get it: Gary Johnson, who won the nomination last time and won the Party's largest-ever vote total at 1.27 million.
He's also a pretty successful two-term state governor, from 1995-2003 in New Mexico, and most recently a potrepreneur with Cannabis Sativa Inc. (He's also a splashy world class amateur athlete of the climb-Everest variety.)
I dinged National Review's David French yesterday for seeming to ignore that the L.P. had a likely very "serious" candidate already on board, a two-term Republican governor. He chimed in with a longer take on Johnson, in which he more or less concludes, sure, cool, but, he actually uses and likes marijuana, with lame "choom gang" references. (If you don't get that reference, thank a teacher.)
French also has the usual right-wing complaints about being soft on overseas villainy and, strangely because Libertarians are usually attacked for being unreasonably doctrinaire in opposing certain aspects of civil rights law as they affect private citizens, French joins Johnson's L.P. competitor Austin Petersen in slamming the Gov. for saying in the candidate debate aired on John Stossel's Fox Business News show last month that he thinks people should be forced to bake cakes for people they object to on political or religious grounds.
Mother Jones also profiled the L.P. candidates. The reporting mostly centered around a four-candidate debate at the New York state L.P. convention last week. The story was quite even handed from that magazine's progressive perspective, made John McAfee (the most colorful, notorious, and likely name-recognized of the challengers, inventor of the anti-virus software named after him) seem as entertaining as he is, and intimated that McAfee is perhaps too colorful and entertaining for this staid process:
When moderator Todd Seavey invited him to make an opening statement, he told attendees that he "slept through" his debate prep but would "hopefully" have something better to say during closing statements. He stared up at the chandelier when his opponents talked and he dragged his hands slowly over his face, as if he hadn't slept in a while. Earlier, when Vermin Supreme, a perennial presidential candidate and performance artist famous for wearing a black rubber boot on his head, approached McAfee and gushed that together they will "turn up the brightness of the future!" McAfee replied, "anything to get me through the boring shit I've been going through for four months."
MoJo's Tim Murphy notes, after respectfully summing up the others in the debate–Johnson, movement celeb Austin Petersen (chief of the Libertarian Republic news and commentary site and former producer on Fox Business' Judge Andrew Napolitano show Freedom Watch), and hardcore anarchist and Free Stater Darryl Perry, that McAfee is:
for people who don't like the old way of doing things. Derrick Michael Reid, a long-shot candidate who participated in a JV debate that preceded the main event, put it to McAfee as they huddled outside the restaurant. "If Johnson gets nominated, the country just goes through a big yawn—'oh, the goofy governor,' and that's it," he said. "They nominate you or me, they go viral." At the very least, it'll get them on Spike TV.
…(All the candidates agreed that their path to success is predicated on doing something Johnson didn't do in 2012—qualify for a presidential debate.) Trump, who long ago flirted with a run for the Reform Party nomination, is not so different from what the Libertarians aspire to be. He is someone whose policies don't fit neatly inside the two-party framework and who has managed, with minimal assistance from establishment organs, to force his way into the conversation and disrupt the whole damn thing….Unfortunately for the Libertarians, there has already been a transformative outsider candidate in 2016. And he's taken over the GOP.
McAfee got a big personal profile running at The Awl this week as well. The writer, Zachary Schwartz, was around McAfee the same time I was in New York in late March for an L.P. candidate profile in our forthcoming July issue of Reason; at the time he said he was with Playboy, but the story ended up here at The Awl.
McAfee has in some ways turned himself into a living, walking, breathing men's magazine profile: tough, strange, unpredictable, connected to matters of world import (cybersecurity, politics), with more than a hint of danger. Schwartz gets that across pretty well, combined with his trickster fuck-with-the-squares comedy and absurdity. He also gives fair attention to the issue McAfee is most deadly serious about: the threat of Chinese cyberwar bringing our nation to total destruction.
Schwartz was, as was I, backstage with McAfee during the Stossel debate. At that time, McAfee seemed bored with the process, telling me at halftime that "I'm not even sure I was there" at the event that had taken a break a minute earlier. His weariness with debating his opponents seems to have mounted.
The trickster candidate straight-facedly assured the world, in a message he posted on Facebook, that he'd be missing one planned forthcoming debate because he had a prior appointment on a "whale fucking contest."
McAfee admits he won't miss hearing Johnson "declare 'Uber everything' and 'I climb mountains." or Petersen crowing about being born near a town called Liberty, Missouri. (While assuring Petersen that "I genuinely like you.")
In other L.P. chatter:
• The RT network is hosting a live nationally televised L.P. candidate debate next Thursday May 12, which in their most recent announcement has Austin Petersen, Darryl Perry, and Marc Alan Feldman committed to attending, no Johnson or McAfee.
• Though he's shown no sign of any interest ever and just endorsed his own party's nightmare Donald Trump, The Washington Times still wonders: Could Rand Paul end up the L.P. nominee? (Yes, it's physically possible, it he decides he wants to. The delegates in Orlando can do whatever they want, bound by no earlier caucuses or primaries.)
• Johnson appears somewhere in the middle of this The Hill list of where Trump-angry GOPers might look for presidential hope come November.
• Controversy!! over (bachelor) Austin Petersen having had a personal ad years ago on a dating site aimed for "sugar babies."
• Johnson and Petersen outreach to disillusioned Republicans upon Cruz dropping out.
• McAfee associate Rob Loggia tells the L.P. they can't count on disaffected current GOP or Sanders voters to win, but must reach to that near majority every time around who don't vote at all. Loggia also argues that while Johnson seems to write off the non-political-pros in the L.P. race as non-serious, the real silly thing for the L.P. to do would be to repeat what they tried and failed in 2012.