Libertarians and the 2016 Presidential Nightmare

In an election year where the third party candidate may actually have a chance, we’ve been given just another poor option from the libertarian party.

By Jeffrey Cope, Texas State University


October 31st, Halloween, normally the scariest day of the year.

But this year, I say that day is November 8, Election Day.

Watching the 2016 presidential election is like being stuck in a nightmare that just will not end, and I fear the worst part hasn’t even begun. But as tormented as I may be, along with everyone else I’m sure, none can be more horrified by the election than the libertarian party.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have become the respected presidential nominees, positions that represent the finest examples of leadership the United States has to offer. As a result, I am having to continually pinch myself to make sure I’m awake because I feel like that candidate lineup just cannot be my reality, but it is, I think? Wait… Ouch! Yep, it’s real and it’s happening.

The two primary candidates are notorious for their poor conduct and are highly disliked by many voters, according to Gallup polls. And because of the bad reputations of both Clinton and Trump, Pew Research shows that voters are going to vote deliberately against a candidate, rather than for a candidate based on their good traits. Perhaps because neither seem to have any?

Gary Johnson: The Wrong Man for the Right Job

Image via The Atlantic

For instance, of the endless controversies surrounding Hillary Clinton, one problem I find frightening is the issue on whether she should even be the nominee in the first place. WikiLeaks, a whistleblower organization with a perfect ten-year record of accurate releases led by Julian Assange, now in his fourth year of asylum at an Ecuadorian embassy in the U.K, organization, released leaked information regarding the Clinton campaign. The leaked info showed the Clinton campaign’s coordination with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as well as major media outlets to prevent the nomination from going to Bernie Sanders. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the DNC, had to resign following the revelations. As WikiLeaks continues to release tens of thousands of emails and information regarding the shady dealings of the democratic nominee, I would assume that the Clinton campaign’s fate is to suffer a death by a thousand cuts, or shall I say, a loss by a thousand emails.

Yet, if the election is anything like the nightmare the campaigns have been, I imagine that Clinton will somehow become a zombie and continue clawing at the White House. The question is, will the large amount of Sanders supporters vote Trump in retaliation to keep Clinton out?

Unfortunately, on the other side of the coin, there is the blond-haired troll that is Donald Trump. He outrageously suggests the mass deportation of millions of undocumented and illegal immigrants and refugees. And he most notably intends to construct an “impenetrable” wall along the southern border, a policy that effects many people in the Hispanic and Muslim communities. Stop and Frisk, another invasive policy favored by Trump, is argued to have contributed to the ongoing feud between police and members of the Black Lives Matter movement. Trump is also criticized for his obscene comments regarding women, as was recently heard in his “locker-room” comment with Bobbie Bush. The recording is over a decade old but serves as an example of his crude behavior that has upset many women voters. In many ways, the Trump campaign appears to be igniting a divisive and hostile atmosphere across the country which may push people into voting for Clinton, just to keep Trump out.

I find this to be a nightmarish situation as do most people, I would assume. Although, typically when it comes to choosing between a zombie and a troll, the lesser of two evil, is the preferred method, I’m afraid. So obviously this begs the question, why is there not a suitable third candidate to act as the heroic monster slayer, especially this year?

Well, there’s the libertarian nominee Gary Johnson who could have taken quick advantage of the situation and presented himself as the hero, the balanced candidate who finally represents a serious third party option. Many libertarian party policies are taken from both sides of the aisle, which often equates the stance to being socially liberal and financially conservative, a happy medium if you will. But sadly for the libertarians, their likely hero turned out to be the village idiot.

Gary Johnson: The Wrong Man for the Right Job

Image via The Chicago Tribune

Peace and freedom are the general ideas that make up the political theory of libertarianism, according to the party’s website. The ideology is based primarily around a free market economy and the structuring of a small and limited government that adheres to the non-aggression principle and serves to defend individual liberties. The expectation is that more freedom will allow for society to develop and evolve naturally through peaceful means rather than using too much forceful regulations and restrictions to control human nature. Not a bad option when you consider the other two parties and their monstrous candidates. Which is all the more reason why the libertarian party is now so horrified.

With this terrifying election cycle in particular, the libertarian party does stand to gain the most by possibly claiming a large number of votes due to the mutual disdain for the other two candidates. Taking these votes would undoubtedly alter the outcome for Clinton or Trump. An ideal time for a protest vote if I may say so myself. Election Day is just a few weeks away now, and a third party is unlikely to win. But if the candidate still receives a modest percentage of votes in the election, they, the libertarian party in particular, will gain significant influence for future elections and may become even more of a serious and viable voting option. However, I do think the opportunity has been mishandled by Johnson.

What turned a dream situation for libertarians into a nightmare of doomsday proportions were a number of foolish and costly mistakes made by Johnson himself. Simple political errors have effectively undermined much of the progress previously made by the party, turning a worthy protest vote into what now feels like a wasted one.

Likely to be remembered for his Aleppo moment, Johnson, in an MSNBC television discussion, seemed to have not known or had forgotten about Aleppo, Syria, a current hotspot for global conflict and the resulting refugee crisis. The media soundbite will haunt Johnson’s presidential campaign. And that is probably because Johnson decided to double-down in a later MSNBC interview when asked about having a favorite world leader. He replied that he was “having another Aleppo moment” as he could not think of any world leaders. Gary Johnson is the former Governor of Arizona, a border state. Saying the president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, would not have been the greatest answer, but it would’ve definitely made sense given his general environment, yet he still couldn’t recall any names.

Mistakes involving foreign policy can be fatal flaws for the libertarian party which is often accused of being weak in that area. Hell, the isolationist argument is perhaps the biggest argument against the party. And Johnson just severely damaged their reputation in that regard, a demoralizing situation for all the supporters in this election.

Gary Johnson: The Wrong Man for the Right Job

Image via Mother Jones

Perhaps the most cringeworthy action by Johnson was made just prior to the first debate in another MSNBC interview asking about the importance of his presence on the debate stage. To his credit, Johnson did try to make a valid point, but he chose to make the point by talking with his tongue out, saying that he could do such a thing during the debate and still serve an important role just by being there. Well, unlike his tongue, the point failed to stick out, and Johnson didn’t get into the debates. The attempt looked tremendously unprofessional and was damaging to any serious public credibility of libertarianism. Having to watch each debate, knowing that there should have been a third voice, is troubling to me and has to be heartbreaking for the once again voiceless libertarian party.

Whether it’s Johnson or libertarianism, the party has proven incapable and unprepared to be considered a serious contender for president. So with unfavorable candidates all around, and despite not having a designated hero to the story, I suggest that voting for a third party at local levels, libertarian or other, will be the best solution. I’m afraid that the reality of always choosing the lesser of two evils has produced unbelievably terrifying leaders. And as much as I dread the idea, that type of thinking is what will take place in this election. I know that I’m stuck with either a zombie or a troll.

It’s time people open the door for a new, and hopefully sane, voice to be heard. Voting for third parties on local and state levels will be more effective in the long run. Wishful thinking on my part? Undoubtedly. Will having three primary voting options fix everything? Absolutely not. But pinching myself isn’t doing anything to stop the nightmare.

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