A new nationwide poll has Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson pulling an eye-opening 10 percent. Johnson's newly announced alliance with the former liberal Republican governor of Massachusetts is producing Wall Street Journal headlines such as "William Weld Teams Up With Gary Johnson, Boosting Libertarians." As the L.P. gears up for its nominating convention next week, it has become clear that the only tangible political action in the #NeitherTrumpNorHillary universe is happening not in the transient fantasies of Bill Kristol, but in long-haul work of America's third political party.
I write about the Libertarian alternative in this morning's Los Angeles Times:
For the majority of non-Beltway Americans who prudently maintain unfavorable opinions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Libertarian candidate is certain to advocate several welcome policies that neither major-party nominee will touch with a 10-foot pole. In a political year that has broken one precedent after another, the Libertarian Party may well shatter its previous record of 1.1% of the vote.
Fiscal conservatives anxious about the country's $19-trillion debt will be happy to hear that all three leading Libertarian contenders — former New Mexico Republican Gov. Gary Johnson (who was the party's 2012 nominee, pulling 1.0%), antivirus software designer John McAfee and 35-year-old libertarian media entrepreneur Austin Petersen — want to eliminate large swaths of the federal government. Those alarmed by Trump's cavalier approach to the Constitution will notice Petersen waving around a pocket-sized copy while Johnson talks up repeal of the 17th Amendment.
Progressives who dig Sen. Bernie Sanders' opposition to drug prohibition and military interventionism — issues on which Clinton has been awful for decades — can rest assured that the Libertarian Party embraced these positions decades ago. Johnson as governor in 1999 became the first major American politician to come out for ending the drug war; McAfee's core message is that "our bodies and minds belong to ourselves," and Petersen dreams of a world in which "gay married couples can defend their marijuana fields with fully automatic machine guns."