Gary Johnson

Libertarian Party Presidential Debate: Gary Johnson is From a Different World

Can even their nominee from 2012 be libertarian enough for the Libertarian Party?

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The final presidential debate at the Libertarian Party National Convention happened last night (aired live on C-SPAN), featuring what most media treated as the "likely three"—former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, antivirus software innovator John McAfee, and libertarian movement mover and shaker Austin Petersen—plus anarchist firebrand Darryl Perry and surprisingly amusing wildcard Marc Feldman, selected via token ballots cast by Libertarian delegates.

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The debate lasted a punishing two hours. I was unable tonight to learn who wrote the questions, which were delivered by radio host and libertarian fellow traveler Larry Elder. As the debate unfolded the questions consisted of too much historical and philosophical minutia seemingly tailor-made to make Libertarians seem hopelessly eccentric to a national audience, far too little dealing with the news and concerns of the 2016 election. 

Whoever wrote the questions did the Party, in my judgment, a great disservice. [UPDATE: Elder tells me via Twitter that he wrote them himself.]

A C-SPAN audience did not need to see the five candidates pondering out loud whether drivers licences are legitimate. (Among other challenging questions that could serve no other purpose but to embarrass the Party and its candidates in the eyes of any random cable viewer were such pressing, burning 2016 presidential campaign questions so often thrown at Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump as: would you have fought World War I? II? Apologized for bombing Hiroshima? Voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Do you think drivers need to be licensed? Should it be a crime to sell heroin to 5-year-olds? I'm enough of a movement veteran that these things just flowed by me at the time, but in retrospect they seem the worst sort of hectoring irrelevances designed to make the Party's candidates seem like eccentric loons.)

A lot was said in two hours. Feldman, who I'd previously ignored in my convention coverage, delivered a standard middle-ground Libertarian activist set of opinions, but expressed in often funny jokes, ending in his closing statements in a barn-burning rap in which he referenced every type of Libertarian activist and all his presidential opponents.

Darryl Perry delivered straight-up passionate anarchism, with the state always the wrong answer to every problem. In talking to a couple of handfuls of delegates after the debate, it seems likely Perry will probably do better on the first presidential ballot than many might have guessed. He seemed a favorite freak-flag-fly choice for delegates who don't expect him to survive that many ballots or be the nominee. Feldman's good humor and solid Libertarianism will earn him a fair number of first ballot votes as well.

Even among people who don't love Gary Johnson, I found few people who swore they'd never vote for him. If it comes down to him and any other single opposition, it still seems likely to me that he will win. Austin Petersen, who declaimed a vivid and hardcore vision of libertarianism tonight, turns lots of voters off with what is perceived as arrogance, I found. 

But the most interesting story coming out of the debate is the degree to which Gary Johnson was simultaneously the most strongly disliked, or disapproved of, candidate while still seeming the favorite of more than any other single candidate. No one got more, and more sustained, boos than Johnson did, for various departures from movement orthodoxy.

Some of them seemed understandable reactions of a guy who has had experience in the world of "real politics" and knows what will and won't fly. There is zero percentage to be gained in the actual world of normal American voters to be openly against drivers licenses, and it's a damn shame the question was even asked.

Johnson's description of the core of libertarianism as "fiscally conservative, socially liberal" seems to weary the serious convention crowd. That a core part of his quick discussion of immigration involves the idea that an immigrant should "pay taxes" doesn't seem to thrill everyone either. Johnson said he first was satisfied with a "get government out of marriage" solution to gay or plural marriage debates, but decided that the concept of marriage was so tied in to so many laws that it was better to just take a "government shouldn't discriminate" solution. He boldly and simply stated that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which drew boos, as did his heretical opinion that drivers licenses might be a legitimate state function.

He showed a foreign policy vision that, while also clearly more in the main of conventional American politics, seemed legitimately disturbing to Libertarians. He was very much against the Iran nuke deal, insisting that unfreezing their assets will merely lead to more terrorism, leaving unanswered the question of what efforts the U.S. should go to to ensure that Iran never becomes a nuclear power.

He more or less openly called for war against North Korea, in alliance with China. He was unwilling to condemn the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan. He unqualifiedly discussed the threat of Islamic terrorism without discussion of U.S. interventionist role in Middle East in possibly exacerbating the problem. (He was smart enough to simply say "I don't know" to silly questions about whether he'd have entered World War I and II, though others were willing to condemn World War I at least.) Johnson generally seemed willing to rethink U.S. troop commitments in Europe and other spots across the globe at least, but he sees threats demanding action in more places than most Libertarians.

Johnson garnered lots of boos by claiming that the free market is killing coal; he didn't really adequately explain what he meant by that, though it might have had to do with the price of natural gas falling. But a large part of the crowd seemed both annoyed at any admission that global warming might be a problem requiring government action, and annoyed at the idea that anything other than regulations were keeping coal down. Saying he imagined replacing the income and corporate taxes he hopes to eliminate with a FairTax style consumption tax annoyed a crowd more primed to just hear that "taxation is theft"—though Johnson has learned enough about dealing with Libertarian crowds to use that phrase too.

His favored technique was linking any question to some actual experience as governor of New Mexico, to remind delegates that this executive thing was natural to him. It isn't always clear most Libertarian delegates want to hear about real world experience as opposed to a passionate or smart expression of core libertarian philosophy. He did win cheers for openly calling for legalizing all drugs, but boos for admitting that some provision would need to remain in the law against supplying drugs to children.

In his closing statements, Johnson dealt quietly with the question of whether he was libertarian enough for the Libertarians. He admitted openly that he likely was not the most libertarian candidate they could pick, but that he believed he was the one this year who could get them the most attention and votes.

A delegate with the Montana delegation named Dorn was contemptuous of what he called the "cult" of marching sign wavers following what he considered a statist candidate, Johnson, though he admitted he could support Johnson if he were the Party's pick. From various conversations, it became clear that Johnson's pick of former Massachusetts governor William Weld as his vice president gained him little love from the delegates, though many were resigned to picking Weld if Johnson wins the presidency just to give him what he wants.

After the debate, Johnson's campaign manager Ron Nielson said Johnson is always "trying to be the same and not pander. He's not going to satisfy every libertarian on every issue, but will probably be the most effective" at bringing his message to the mass public. Neilson thinks Gary's general likeability will be a plus, even if some delegates are attracted by what they see as the fresh energy of a Petersen or a McAfee.

But Nielson, while by no means taking anything for granted, seems reasonably confident about what might happen Sunday when the Party votes for its president and vice president. If they win, their immediate needs are continuing to capitalize on the earned media that they have been drowning in since the Weld for vice president announcement and the convention, and take it from there.

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NEXT: Gary Johnson: Running for President Without William Weld Would be Like Running a Marathon with a Broken Leg

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  1. No driver’s licenses? Drugs for kids?

    These sound like legitimate questions if there is in fact disagreement among the candidates, which it seems there is.

    So I can see how Johnson begins sounding like the sane one.

    “He boldly and simply stated that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which drew boos”

    In this case, I can understand the boos. And I understand the relevance of the question.

    Johnson, and the Democratic candidates, say that the 1964 act should be extended to new forms of “discrimination” as defined by various activists and loons, including discrimination against nazis. Here is a fairly obvious point of disagreement between Johnson and some of the other Party members.

    Here is confirmation of what many libertarians have been saying – once you go down the road of denying freedom of association, you begin denying it for more and more reasons.

    If Johnson had simply said he accepts the 1964 Act but doesn’t want to make it worse, maybe there would have been fewer boos?

    1. As for World War One, if there’s any candidate still in favor of *that,* they should be exposed.

      As for World War Two, if there’s any candidate who takes the Pat Buchanan position of “we shoulda stayed out,” that candidate should be exposed, too.

      1. I don’t recall Hirohito giving FDR the choice.

        1. Well the US should have continued to sell oil to a country waging offensive war and committing atrocity after atrocity.

          1. “In 30 minutes or less, please consider, should the locals in the Alps Highlands area have worked harder to prevent the passage of Hannibal and his elephants, in his attack on Rome? If so, why? If not, why not? Be sure to couch your answer in terms of the non-aggression theory.”
            And then we wonder why the Libertarian Nanosecond is always 3 or 4 years from now?

    2. (the Democrats don’t want to ban discrimination against Nazis, I’ll give the Dems that much credit, it seems to be strictly a Johnson idea)

    3. McAfee gave the best answer on the kids/drugs thing, stating clearly that it was a parent issue, not a govt issue.

    4. If Johnson had simply said he accepts the 1964 Act but doesn’t want to make it worse, maybe there would have been fewer boos?

      That would’ve been a tolerably sane answer. But the fact that he totally endorses the role of govt as social engineer of society, demonstrates how thoroughly he misunderstands Libertarianism.

    5. This is the same complaint I had about the Fox RNC debate. They spent 1/3 of the time getting the candidates to talk about God. And then they mixed in abortion and any other red meat they could. But not much of relevance to a President of the United States actually doing his job.

      Then we get “are you in favor of driver’s licenses?” Ok, red-meat libertarians: Exactly how many federally issued driver’s licenses are there? What a stupid question.

      How about the civil rights act? Sure, there’s quite a conversation to be had on the topic. There’s Jim Crow, segregation laws, the need for the Federal government to act to protect citizens from state-ordered discrimination…. But you want to make sure that we sound like a bunch of racist nutballs, then go ahead and ask that question in a limited debate format where all we are going to get is a bunch of sound bites of libertarian candidates sounding like racists. Nice work.

      Pretty much exactly like the Fox debate doing its damnedest to get the RNC candidates to sound like a bunch of religious fanatics.

      That this is the forum that was actually put on by the party is pretty much perfect. This is exactly who we are. A bunch of inside-baseball nerds who have no clue what we look like to other people. You can’t lead with “wouldn’t vote for the civil rights act” and “selling drugs to kids” and “the gold standard” when you are trying to explain liberty.

    6. I do think that discrimination laws are a legitimate issues, but rehashing the history of the Civil Rights Act is so fucking stupid. Not least of which because the Civil Rights Act did a lot of good and necessary things to end government discrimination. A much, much better way to discuss public accommodation is to actually ask a question about it directly.

    7. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.
      http://www.realcash44.com

  2. Brian is pretending that there was a national audience on CSPAN on Memorial Day weekend. How cute.

    He more or less openly called for war against North Korea, in alliance with China.

    I am forming the opinion that Gary Johnson just isn’t that bright. And if he said this, it would be further evidence. I am personally weary of Johsnon who is plenty goofy in his own right being presented as the serious candidate.

    *Insert penis euphemism here*

    The Nazi cake thing seems minor to some, but the culture war bullshit is big right now. Especially among the young. And you guys are picking a candidate who has adopted a position even more ridiculous than the progs. Because of some executive experience he’ll never use.

    1. Brian is pretending that there was a national audience on CSPAN on Memorial Day weekend. How cute.

      ^This^

    2. Maybe not a national audience, but it is already being used by media sources to show the L.P. as a bunch of crazy nut jobs that do not deserve to be taken seriously, and you can bet that the vast majority of sheeple will not take a moment to look for some kind of context further explanation.

  3. It’s seeming like GJ will be the nominee sans a black swan outcome. I guess every voting bloc Rep/Dem/Lib alike will get to feel like they’re gobbling down a shit sandwich this year.

    1. I mean, what the fuck? I can’t even get my completely inconsequential favored libertarian candidate. Am I going to have to start my won party?

      1. Seems that way. Or settle for the “None of the Above” option (don’t vote).

  4. The debate was fucking embarrassing. Ridiculous questions, idiotic anarchist audience booing people for saying that people shouldn’t be able to sell drugs to kids. Anarchist guy with weird ears made it seem like a legitimate freak show. People were spouting Facebook memes as if they were legit are answers. If not a Facebook meme the answer was “no government more Liberty”.
    If the lp wanted to remAin in obscurity last night was the way to do it

    1. There is a reason a lot of libertarians aren’t Libertarians.

      1. “There is a reason a lot of libertarians aren’t Libertarians.”

        Amen to that.

    2. Yeah, we want a seat at the big table, but don’t think that requires some compromise, or at the very least some grown up behavior. We’re going to piss away our best shot in a generation to get more than a pinky toe in the door because the same grade of lunatic fringe that cheers on Bernie and Trump and fractures their respective parties is going full #neverJohnson. Cleary disunity is contagious this year and ‘perfect is going to be the enemy of the good enough’

      1. And Johnson is probably better than “good enough”. I took that isidewith.com quiz. With the caveat that there is necessarily a loss of subtlety with something like this, I agree with Petersen almost 100% but I still agreed with Johnson on 90%.

        Of course, I’m a lot less dogmatic than the hardcore LP crowd.

        1. Geez! I tried that isidewith.com quiz and couldn’t stomach all the questions that assumed the government should make those decisions. Should gay marriage be legalized? Should offshore oil drilling be expanded? and so on. Just couldn’t stomach the core assumption.

          1. If you click on the “more options” button then there are usually choices like “get the government out of it”

            1. Didn’t see that in the first two sections (social, environmental).

              1. Hmm. There was an “other stances” option for every question I saw.

                1. I saw that, but it could just as easily apply to socialists of all stripes from fascism to communism. I ain’t checking that box, it’s meaningless.

                  1. If you clicked the “other stances” option, other stances do pop up, including an empty box to fill in your own stance if you didn’t like the options provided.

                    1. An empty text box, that’s really useful to an automated quiz. Have they got Googe language processing answers in real time? Like I said, meaningless.

                    2. Example…

                      Should the U.S. expand offshore oil drilling? learn more
                      Yes
                      No
                      No, end all offshore oil drilling
                      No, and nationalize the energy sector
                      No, but maintain our current offshore oil wells
                      No, and provide more incentives for alternative energy production
                      Yes, and deregulate the energy sector to let the free market determine the best energy sources
                      Add your own stance

                      Which you would have seen if you just clicked on the damn button 🙂

                    3. I DID click on the button, and the choices were just variations on statist assumptions. The empty text box is pointless unless a human is processing answers in real time.

                      Every question has the base assumption that government should have a say in what happens. Not a single answer, including Other stances, included “It’s none of the government’s business” except in very limited ways. For instance, Should the Social Security retirement age be raised? The most limited government answer possible was something about privatizing it, which is not the same as the government shouldn’t even be in the retirement business to start with.

                      (On that — some would say that privatizing Social Security is the equivalent of getting the government out of the retirement business, but they still assume the government sets rules for Social Security deductions, the primary difference being that now I get to direct the investment of the money that the government mandates be taken from my pay, I still don’t get to use that money before retirement, and there are all sorts of tax penalties if I don;t use it in government-approved ways.)

                    4. There are questions that have options like “Government has no business doing this”, such as those on discrimination and wages. But whatever. I found the quiz interesting for seeing where I line up with the candidates. Not surprisingly, I align with every libertarian candidate at about the 90% level or more.

                    5. More to the point of your example — “Yes, and deregulate the energy sector to let the free market determine the best energy sources” is not the same as “It is none of the government’s business in the first place.” “Deregulation” implies the government can regulate, but out of the goodness of its heart, by the temporary Beneficence of its self-selected elite betters, it has decided to let it slide, for now, in this area, and you should all bow down and be grateful for this temporary limited non-interference.”

                    6. You must have come straight from the convention floor…

        2. I took the isidewith quiz and got Gary Johnson almost in a tie with Ted Cruz.

          My top pick according to the quiz was the hardcore ancap, Darryl Perry.

          And my lowest rated “pick” was that statist fuck from Ohio who worked to keep the LP off the ballot — and who Weld endorsed.

          1. Heh, Kasich was also my lowest. Even lower than Trump, Clinton, or Sanders. That’s saying something.

          2. Heh, Kasich was also my lowest. Even lower than Trump, Clinton, or Sanders. That’s saying something.

        3. Gary was notably lower than Peterson or McAfee for me, which jives with my real life reaction to all three, but at the same time I’m not arrogant enough to whine that a guy who I agree with 92% of the time is unsuitable to represent me when the other options are who they are.

          Also, I am apparently sitting at the exact ideological midpoint between Ted Cruz and Daryl Perry. I found this amusing because they are both largely agreeable yet slightly horrifying to me, but in different ways.

    3. Exactly what business is it of the government’s if a kid wants to buy drugs? Kids don’t have body autonomy?

      1. No, they don’t. They are effectively property of their parents until majority age, barring some sort of emancipation. Selling to them would require some sort of permission slip or just having the parents give it to them.

  5. Don’t look now, Reason, but The Huffington Post scooped you.

    “Speaking in a southern drawl from Memphis, TN, Darrell Castle, Presidential nominee for the Constitution Party answered my questions:”

    TL;DR version – end foreign entanglements, end the Fed, pay off the federal debt, he opposes the Drug War more than his party does.

    1. And while this isn’t part of his campaign, his law firm is open to suing cops for wrongful death.

      1. +1 for this guy. He seems saner, and way more intelligent on the issues than GJ.

        1. I’m not saying he is or isn’t crazy, because some stuff he says might seem weird to outsiders, but if he’s crazy, he was still able to found his own business.

          To be sure, the business is a law firm, but nobody’s perfect.

    2. DC: Yes I do. I’m very much opposed to it. I’m not necessarily opposed to free trade. I don’t think the TPP is about free trade. I really don’t see any need to turn the trade sovereignty, the authority of the United States over to foreign corporations. I don’t like the idea of giving international corporations, never mind foreign governments, them too, but foreign corporations, the right to sue the United States and demand that it change its trade policy. I want the United States to be a free and independent country. If we want to negotiate a deal with Mexico for example that says: you let us ship our goods to Mexico without import duties and we’ll do the same for you, I have no problem with that. But that’s not what the TPP is about so I’m dead set against it.

      Why can’t more people articulate exactly this? Tired of people shilling that being against TPP means being against Free Trade.

      1. I’m not necessarily opposed to free trade.

        BZZZZT! No thanks. Anyone trying to restrict free trade is a straight up statist.

        1. I am against the TPP primarily because (a) it’s not about trade, it’s about US hegemony over copyright and other non-trade matters, and (b) the so-called token benefits it offers on free trade could easily be done unilaterally — drop tariffs, subsidies, all trade barriers all at once.

        2. In the context of the rest of the answer I read that as “Being against the TPP does not make it necessary that I am against free trade”.

          1. The rest of the answer isn’t any better. Full of support for negotiating trade treaties, when free trade can be accomplished entirely unilaterally. If China wants to tax their citizens to subsidize steel for US consumers, why should I get hot and bothered? As Don Boudreaux says, anyone who thinks the US should tax US consumers with a tariff because China is taxing its citizens to sell us cheap steel, then the US should tax US citizens who buy sugar that the US government has subsidized with taxes taken from US citizens.

            1. then the US should tax US citizens who buy sugar that the US government has subsidized with taxes taken from US citizens.

              Mike Bloomberg approves this message.

              1. + 16 ounces

            2. If China wants to tax their citizens to subsidize steel for US consumers, why should I get hot and bothered?

              The same reason you’re hot & bothered about other things that don’t affect you personally. If there’s injustice, what difference does it make where it takes place? Would it make a difference if it were about taxing people only in Penna. to make steel cheaper for buyers in NY?

  6. I didn’t watch the debate, but judging from the write-up and comments here, LP delegates sound more hardcore than your average libertarian (or at least more hardcore than the LP membership) and when you think about it that sounds logical. But it seems paradoxical when you consider that they might nominate GJ. I’m looking forward to finding out who they actually choose today.

    1. Here’s hoping it’s more ‘electability’ and less ‘purity test’. I’m not in the LP for the trolls, I’m in it to get one within striking distance of oval office, if not in it.

  7. You start with a governing philosophy suitable for a society of subsistence farmers, and are then surprised that is seems embarrassing to a modern audience when some basic questions are aired?

    1. Can you give examples of subsistence-farming societies governed by libertarian principles?

  8. So _Warren_ posted this article last night, covers CNN talking to GiIlespie and Welch then Weld. Here’s how they are trying to sell libertarianism:

    The talking points seemed to center around the idea that the Libertarian Party is a “centrist” party somewhere between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. At one point, Gillespie told the CNN host that in the past the party was “filled with a lot of weird people, gold bugs and people who want private sidewalks.”…He went on to say that the LP was in support of pro-gay laws, which, he said, Republicans were against.

    Hey…what could go wrong with this sales pitch?

    What Gillespie doesn’t want to admit is that idiots like him have been driving this bus for a very long time. And it’s gone no where. They aren’t Milton Friedman making practical compromises with reality. They are shitting on the core message of libertarianism wrongly thinking that a little lip service to both sides will get them votes.

    1. What makes you think CNN reported accurately here when they screw up so much reporting on many other issues?

      1. Because it sounds exactly what jacket boy would say

  9. And that HuffPo article is the only coverage over there. The main page features Hillary at the top, with Trump right under her. A quick count shows 13 articles on the main page about the main party candidates. And the one article covering the Libertarian party convention – the only convention currently taking place – is about how the party is in revolt over Johnson’s choice of VP.

    Hop over to their “politics” page and the top article is “Lyin Trump!” Not a mention of the Libertarian party that I can see. But there is a piece about how puppies can save liberals from feuding. So, there is that.

    Over at CNN we did garner a mention. There’s a link 1/3 down the page, buried among other single phrase links: “Libertarians hope to break out of obscurity. ” Well, not hidden in a stack of plain-text links they won’t.

    Over at Fox, the most likely place to find a friendly voice…. no mention.

    MSNBC actually has coverage – a link on the main page – not at the top, but actually on the page – says “Libertarians meet to pick 2016 candidate”. And the article is actually a fair and straight news piece about the convention and the candidates. No coverage of the actual convention yet though.

    Drudge seems to know that nobody is moved to click by libertarians.

    A quick search says that Yahoo News is the most popular news site. No mention.

    So where are we really? The only mentions we get are at far-left sites. And mostly obscure and not favorable.

    1. The far-left sites want to divide the GOP to get their horrible candidate over the hump while drawing in viewers. The libertarian party will draw some initial attention as a means to accomplish that, and be abandoned because no one cares.

      There are a shit ton of NeverTrump types who are going to listen to Gary Johnson talk, here a few of the views the people here tell me I should overlook, and walk away. He has an awkward style of speech that makes him come off as soft to many Republicans (who already laugh about this, when they even know who he is), and he is adopting the big culture war positions that are going to piss off not just libertarians but the vast majority of conservatives to include those on the NeverTrump brigade.

      Gillespie loves Johnson. Gillespie couldn’t sell a ham sandwich to a homeless man.

      1. Because homeless men have no money…

      2. How about selling a home to a hamless man? Is there some cx between homelessness & hamlessness?

    2. There was a “what is libertarianism” article on CNN. I stopped when it described libertarians as Ayn Rand acolytes that think egoism is better than altruism. I think I’m also just boycotting CNN from now on. I’m not even convinced it was done as a slander – it was probably written by some uninformed and lazy “journalist” who couldn’t be bothered to actually learn about what they were writing about.

      But it demonstrates why this is an important year for libertarians. We may actually get a look from enough people that we could dispel a lot of the myths and misunderstanding of what we believe.

      Of course, if the LP delegates had their way it sounds like it would just confirm all the worst stereotypes.

      1. Most of those articles seem to be written by people who read Atlas Shrugged in college and then “grew up” when they entered the “real world.”

      2. I never read Atlas Shrugged. Am I’z not a real libertarian? 🙁

  10. Seriously, questions about selling drugs to children and driver’s licenses? No wonder the LP has managed to be so ineffective.

    1. It was a mass purity test billed as a debate

  11. I dunno if I agree about asking the candidates questions they wouldnt ask major partiers. if democrats and republicans are arguing about whether 30 or 45 percent is a better tax rate(I dunno what numbers they want) a moderator probably wouldnt ask them about the legitimacy of federal income tax but that’s the argument I think we should be having. Im glad it’s getting some kind of airing.

  12. Looks like I’m going to have to hold my nose and not vote again.

    1. I’m voting LP regardless of who the candidate is and I really encourage everyone else to do so as well. They aren’t going to win, so the details of how they would govern are irrelevant. But a strong showing for the LP as a party could raise awareness, maybe encourage part of the LP to get it’s act together to become a viable third option, and maybe impact the other parties if the LP is perceived to have drawn a consequential number of votes away from them.

      1. That’s what I keep hoping. But you gotta sound sane when you step on the national stage. Nobody is taking the green party seriously for that very reason.

        Ron Paul barely managed to pull it off. And he had the best comeback to the “here, please sound nutty” setup question in his last run. When asked about legalizing heroin in the debate, he turned it back on moderator Chris Wallace.

        “How many people here would use heroin if it were legal?” Paul asked. “I bet nobody would.”

        Then Paul invoked a voice of sarcasm.

        “Oh yeah, I need the government to take care of me,” he said. “I don’t want to use heroin, so I need these laws.”

        It was awesome. But a rare moment. And his style tended to only appeal to core libertarians. We need a politician with Bill Clinton’s charisma who can pull off that version of the liberty message. I don’t know where he is. I guess Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson isn’t going to be the guy this time around.

        1. I’d vote for Ron again, but these guys are just getting too cute with the over esplainin’ to the unenlightened. Petersen shows flashes of a human touch, but then goes back to being a smug prick in the next sentence.

        2. I’m WAAAY too smart to ever-ever abuse heroin, I have no need for Government Almighty to protect me…

          But don’t forget, I am waaay morally righteous, more so than 99.75% of the population… All those OTHER stupid mother-fuckers NEEEED Guv Almighty to PROTECT them! (unlike MEEEE… But I have to be magnanimous enough to vote for the cops to go and force others to be as GOOOD as MEEEE).

          Never-ever under-estimate the power of sheer paternalistic self-righteousness, to keep otherwise sensible people from voting for Libertarians!

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  13. Now I see Johnson’s strategy – find a group where he looks like the sane one.

    Not an easy task when you’re for compulsory nazi cakes, but maybe he pulled it off with these LP activists.

  14. So I finally get to C-SPAN to check out the coverage. Hey! Libertarians all over the place. Front and center!

    Ehh…. Wait a minute…. I never noticed that…

    The new Liberty Flame logo…. Looks really cool. Except…. when you put it on each of the podiums it looks like a bunch of big “T” logos for Trump. Even has his trademark hair swoop. It looks like a giant Trump version of a Nazi rally.

    1. Looks to me like hair on a golf tee, which sounds about as Trumpish as it gets.

  15. It’s kind of sad watching so much time, energy, angst, & ink being devoted to covering something as meaningless & inconsequential as the Libertarian convention.

    1. Actually I am kinda having fun watching folks like Maddow stress about it, ever so slightly.

      1. I doubt she loses a nanosecond of sleep over it.

  16. Oh boy, now I’m having to question who my protest vote goes to? If you’d asked a few months back, I’d have easily said “Yeah, I’m going to vote for Johnson again this November.” Now, I don’t know. I mean, I’d still take a squishy not really libertarian candidate like Johnson over the Republicans and Democrats, but with these bizarre things he’s been saying and then his desired VP candidate have really got me questioning if I could vote for him. Do I really want him being the standard bearer of libertarian values to an audience that doesn’t really know libertarianism but this year might be open to hearing it?

    1. Unless you’re an LP delegate, you can’t impact who will be the standard bearer. If Johnson wins, he’ll be out there campaigning and maybe getting some legitimate coverage regardless of how you intend to vote.

      But you regardless of who the standard bearer is, you can still vote for the standard itself. I’m not exactly a huge fan of the LP, but as I say above, a strong showing could do a lot of good. The LP candidate won’t be president, and we’ve already seen what happens when the LP only gets 1% of the vote, so there really isn’t anything to lose by voting LP regardless of who the candidate is.

      1. I suppose that’s true enough. Still, I worry that people who don’t pay much attention to politics will see Johnson out there campaigning, and decide that “Oh, libertarians are just Republicans who like drugs,” and then dismiss libertarians as nothing but that in the future.

        1. I can understand that, but to the extent that happens, it will happen regardless of how any of us votes in the general election.

    2. Why worry about it? Your vote literally doesn’t matter.

      It’s not a productive use of your time.

      1. It’s not a costly use of my time, either.

        And you are wrong that it doesn’t matter.

        One vote doesn’t have much impact, but a block of votes starts to. But to form a block, you need individuals to vote. And the casual voter is very unlikely to vote in a block that has zero chance of having a measurable impact, let alone winning. So you need a core set of passionate, committed voters to form a block that can start to have enough of an impact that casual voters will consider it. Apathy does worse than getting you nowhere — it concedes power to the people who actually care and are willing to work harder than us.

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  20. Johnson generally seemed willing to rethink U.S. troop commitments in Europe and other spots across the globe

    While the Republican nominee is actively campaigning to end our committments as the centerpiece of his foreign policy.

    1. Except when he is campaigning to bomb the hell out of ISIS, take on Iran, or make our military so strong, so awesome, you won’t believe how good our military will be, that no one will have the balls to mess with us or Trump, or any other things he has said he will do that are completely inconsistent with ending our foreign commitments.

      If you want to vote for Trump because he pisses off people you don’t like or because he entertains you or because you want to tear things down, then that is obviously your right. But you really should stop pretending that Trump has a consistent governing vision or that you can reliably assign any probability to how he will act as president.

      1. But you really should stop pretending that Trump has a consistent governing vision or that you can reliably assign any probability to how he will act as president

        Trump bought a full page in the NYTs to explain his foreign policy views back in 1987. He’s saying the exact same thing today as the presumptive Republican nominee.

        1. And it’s still inconsistent with the other things he has said as the Republican nominee with regards to ISIS, or Libya, or Israel. We’re supposed to make other countries pay for their defense (great!) but also go harder after terrorists operating on foreign soil and spend more to build up our military so that no one will threaten us (which is already the case)?

          1. The neocon establishment believes Trump’s foreign policy is indistinguishable from that of Ron Paul.
            Many high-profile veterans of the Bush administrations are now supporting Hillary on that issue alone.

            1. The difference is that Ron Paul was never a stooge for Putin, nor was his campaign full of people on Putin’s payroll

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  22. If Libertarians want to be anything more than a debate club, we need to drop the whole “No True Scotsman” routine when it comes to candidates. Sure those who identify as L/libertarians know that we offer the best political option, but we live in a country that’s been brainwashed by public schools for generations to believe that there are only 2 options for them — the Ds & Rs. & on one hand you scare the Rs b/c of our socially liberal stances & non-interventionist foreign policy, while on the other, you scare the Ds b/c they can’t get onboard w/fiscal responsibility, personal accountability & smaller government. For get winning elections, we won’t even be relevant in elections if we don’t promote candidates that can appeal to those who do not readily identify as a L/libertarian. The vast unwashed have been brainwashed to see L/liberatianism as extreme, and a threat to their way of life. If we want to pull the “No True Scotsman” routine & only elect a “perfect” Libertarian, then the “party” will go no farther than internet chat rooms & comments sections, & tiny conference spaces at local restaurants & hotels. Like it or not, it’s really that simple.

    1. I don’t think you understand the “true Scotsman” saying. It’s about redefining things to make your analysis of distinctions fit.

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  24. I was a libertarian, switched to the republican party to win a local election, and recently came back to being a registered libertarian. I wanted to become more involved in the party and have to say seeing last nights debate turned me off immensely. It reminded me of listening to my brother and his friends who went to Penn State and didn’t develop a culture of critical thinking, they seem to go with what the crowd feels at the time. That perception was apparent as most of the candidates were merely playing to the crowd and “libertarianism” It’s exactly what the conservative republicans, and progressives do. I was ashamed to be associated with people like that who call themselves free thinkers. I was not a major fan of Gary Johnson until last night. He’s the only candidate that stood out as someone with the ability to think and relate ideals and puritanical principals to real world problems and was grounded in reason and common sense. Some of the candidates appeared to have had put too much into their bodies to be clear thinkers. I’m incredibly disappointed in the mockery of last nights “debate” – it wasn’t even a debate, it was more like a Trump reality show that I did not expect nor wish to be associated with.

    1. who went to Penn State and didn’t develop a culture of critical thinking

      Hey now.

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