June 10, 2016

THREADING THE NEEDLE:

Can Gary Johnson possibly find mainstream appeal? (Shikha Dalmia, June 10, 2016, The Week)

[T]he 2016 election -- which pits a stupid candidate from the Evil Party against an evil candidate from the Stupid Party -- presents a potential third-party challenger with a real opportunity. But to capitalize on it, Johnson will have to present himself as a credible alternative to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump whom voters can take seriously. He needs to do more.

The Week's Michael Brendan Dougherty lamented that the Libertarian Party's 2016 nominees are "super qualified but entirely unappealing." Likewise, Washington Examiner's Tim Carney commented that conservatives looking for a plausible third-party alternative shouldn't turn to the libertarian ticket because it has decided to run "against conservatives more than for liberty." Indeed, noted Carney, Johnson and Weld seem to be signaling, "We don't need those backward Christian Right bozos as much as we need you MSNBCers." The Federalist's David Harsanyi echoed similar sentiments.

Apart from the fact that Johnson and Weld are both pro-choice -- Johnson moderately and Weld strongly -- what triggered this widespread angst on the right was Johnson's comment that he would be fine with legally requiring Catholic bakers to service gay weddings. Freedom of conscience is a bedrock Libertarian tenet and a key reason why many serious religious believers gravitate toward Libertarianism -- notwithstanding the common perception of it as a secular philosophy that believes in laissez faire economics and morality. Hence, Johnson's concession on religious liberty is without a doubt troubling for many Libertarians as well as conservatives.

Purity is not possible in politics. But Johnson has to be principled if he wants to hang onto his natural constituency while expanding his appeal to other voters. His gay wedding cake capitulation will alienate religious Libertarians without gaining any MSNBCers, the vast majority of whom are already in the tank for Hillary.

No doubt, what's really driving Johnson is a desire to avoid tripping up like Sen. Rand Paul, who drew withering criticism several years ago when he expressed qualms to Rachel Maddow about the 1964 Civil Rights Act's ban on private racial discrimination. 

Posted by at June 10, 2016 12:14 PM

  

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