The Libertarian Party held its convention over the Memorial Day weekend and nominated credible candidates for the Presidential elections. For President they chose Gary Johnson, a 2-term Republican governor of New Mexico who served in that post from 1995 to 2003. For Vice President they selected Bill Weld, also a 2-term Republican governor, who was first elected in Massachusetts in 1990 with 51% of the vote and was subsequently re-elected in 1994 with 71% of the vote. Both are fiscal conservatives who slashed taxes and spending during their years in office. And both are staunch defenders of abortion rights.
To the extent that there is a unifying principle that defines the Libertarian Party, it is the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP), which in essence says that your freedom ends at the tip of my nose. Accordingly the use of force (except in self-defense) or fraud is anathema to libertarians. Otherwise libertarians are content to let the market function as it will without the huge regulatory infrastructure it is now saddled with. And libertarians are perfectly happy to spend money for self-defense, but they are loath to intervene in foreign affairs unless the U.S. is attacked.
A major point of contention among libertarians has to do with abortion rights. The party platform explicitly supports what it refers to as the right to life in that it supports “…the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others….” The party also rejects state imposition of the death penalty. The platform says that it “[recognizes] that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can have good-faith views on all sides…” but that the matter should remain one of individual conscience.
In part because the negatives associated with the major party candidates are so high, and because the Libertarian nominees (Johnson and Weld) are serious people with actual political experience, the Libertarian Party is getting a look from people who would normally ignore them. The latest Bloomberg Poll has Clinton at 49%, Trump at 37% and Johnson at 9%.
So it is worth keeping an eye on the Johnson / Weld ticket if only because it may present a reasonable alternative to Trump and Clinton. And it would be an altogether wholesome development to have smart and committed libertarians on the debate stage with the major party candidates if only to let some of the hot air out of the Clinton and Trump balloons. But for the Libertarians to truly succeed they need more than a respectable showing come November. They need to build a solid political foundation so the Party can promote the libertarian idea, win elections up and down the ballot, and implement policies designed to promote liberty.
That’s a tall order in a 2-party system. But given the electoral disaster in the making, it’s certainly worth watching the Libertarians to see if they are ready for prime time.