Wall Street Journal Editorial Page: Johnson/Weld Is an 'Honorable Alternative' to Trump/Clinton

Mainstream media sympathy for the Libertarian Party ticket


Reporting for duty. ||| Matt Welch
Matt Welch

The lead editorial in today's Wall Street Journal is headlined "The Libertarian Alternative: An option for the many Never Trump, Never Clinton voters." After throwing cold water on "the mooted third-party campaign from within the GOP," the Journal makes its case:

The Libertarians will offer a policy alternative to both candidates on free trade, and perhaps on taxes if Mr. Trump doesn't clarify his position on taxing the rich. They'll also contrast with the Republican on immigration. Mr. Johnson could help himself by reassuring voters that he isn't one of those libertarians who thinks the only defenses we need are anti-missile batteries and the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Mr. Johnson isn't likely to win a state, but he can still play a useful role by reminding the major party candidates that they aren't the only choices. Mr. Trump seems to think he can say whatever he wants because millions of voters are repelled by Mrs. Clinton. The Libertarians give these voters an honorable alternative if Mr. Trump makes himself unacceptable.

Your next president, with the First Fiancee. ||| Matt Welch
Matt Welch

Also editorializing positively was The Springfield Republican of Massachusetts, under the headline "Can't stand Trump, Clinton? Libertarian Party offers choice." Sample: "if the Libertarian Party is ever going to get a real look from voters, this has been lining up to be the year…. Johnson and Weld will have been successful if they manage to get some libertarian notions into the conversation over the next five months."

On Friday, Scott Shackford reported that Google Trends had recorded more than 650 news articles the previous seven days referencing the Libertarian Party. That number as of today, according to Shackford? More than 2,000. And quite a bit of it positive, too, as in this Washington Post headline: "This year's Libertarian ticket has remarkable political experience. Now will it matter?" Yahoo! Finance offers up: "The Libertarian Johnson-Weld Ticket Is Bad News for Donald Trump." More respectful treatment can be found at the Boston Globe, Bloomberg View, and on and on.

At Forbes, John Zogby makes the intriguing case that Snake People Millennials could be ripe for the Libertarian pickin':

They will decide the outcome in 2016. Donald Trump's support is miniscule among this group and Clinton does not generate any enthusiasm among younger voters because she appears to many to be a combination of too establishment and too disingenuous. Even though Bernie Sanders most likely will endorse and campaign for Clinton, as will President Barack Obama, who received a large percentage of support among young voters in 2008 and 2012, they still may not vote in significant enough numbers. To be sure, many will hold their nose and vote for Clinton because of their fear of a Trump victory. But the real question is will there be enough excitement to get Millennials out to vote. While early reports on the Libertarian ticket of former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld suggest that they may draw votes away from Trump, I think they may actually hurt Clinton even more. […]

Johnson and Weld just may have the most compelling message for Millennials. They are running as fiscal conservative purists and can draw from a group that is deeply concerned about both college debt and unparalleled public debt. And they are social libertarians: pro-choice, anti-government meddling in matters of personal privacy, decriminalization of most drugs, and they oppose United States meddling in foreign adventures and war. These young people are America's First Global generation and they are diverse and less inclined to see other peoples and cultures as the "other."

One source of perhaps-unlikely support is coming from hawkish Washington Post conservative Jennifer Rubin, who is arguing not for voting for the L.P. nominees, but for the media to give them an appropriately robust level of coverage:

1. Johnson-Weld should be included in all major polling, especially since 15 percent in national polls is required to get into the presidential debates.

2. In figuring out how to balance air time, the media rightly complains Hillary Clinton is not available nearly as much as Trump. That excuse, however, does not wash with Johnson-Weld who should be interviewed on a regular basis.

3. In treating Johnson-Weld as normal candidates the media should press for positions on key issues. What do they plan to do about the Islamic State? If they cannot get a flat tax, what sort of tax reform do they favor? If they disband the Education Department, should federal funding for schools disappear? What drugs would they legalize? In other words, treating them as serious candidates requires serious questions.

More in that vein here, including this kicker: "The least the media can do is not prejudge the result nor prevent two perfectly qualified, accomplished governors from making their case to the voters."

Has there been some negative press? Oh, you betcha, as Nick Gillespie has previewed, and which I'll get to more in a later post. But as Gary Johnson pointed out during the Libertarian National Convention, the amount of press attention the party has received these past two weeks has been unprecedented. And not just in terms of quantity.