The Petersen and McAfee campaigns (which are now apparently the same thing?) were always a bit silly, but the past few days they’ve completely jumped the shark. I’ve been busy with the Wisconsin convention (big success, by the way! Great job and thanks to everybody who came out!), so I haven’t been as glued to my computer screen as usual. But now that I’ve had the chance to glance at what they’ve been up to, I’m a bit flabbergasted. These are not the sorts of campaigns Libertarians deserve.
If you think your only path to the LP nomination is tear down your opponent with lies that insult the intelligence of the delegates, then you don’t deserve the LP nomination. Whining that another candidate is better-organized and has more support, certainly isn’t any reason to nominate you. Throwing a feet-stamping temper-tantrum on Facebook really isn’t the kind of thing that says “trust me with America’s nuclear arsenal.”
Trying to play the victim when you’re losing is an age-old political tactic, but it’s clear there are some candidates who actually care about the well-being of the Libertarian Party, while there are some who are only in this for themselves and the personal publicity that goes with being a “presidential candidate.”
Libertarians have spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours of labor over more than four decades to make ourselves the only alternative party able to put a Presidential nominee on the ballot in all 50 states. We do this for a number of important reasons beyond just having a candidate in the presidential race, reasons that some of the candidates for that nomination seem wholly unaware of.
Gov. Johnson has worked tirelessly to attend more LP state conventions in 2016 than any other candidate for the nomination, and when he’s not doing that he’s busy doing more interviews with major news outlets than the rest of the field combined. He has endorsed and supported Libertarian candidates for lower office in 2012 and 2014, before McAfee had even discovered the LP and while Austin was still bashing the LP in favor of GOP candidates. In 2012, he was one of just two candidates in the party’s history who manged to more than double our vote total. Through Our America Initiative, he’s led the fight for debate inclusion for whoever the Libertarian nominee is, as well as organizing Libertarian activists to engage in state and local politics on important issues, including lobbying their state legislators for things like ballot access improvements.
He has also, not once, gone after any of his opponents with a negative attack or smear campaign. Aside from a couple of instances of responding to them in debates, he hasn’t even mentioned their name. This isn’t new: he’s quite proud of the fact that he ran his successful re-election campaign in New Mexico without once mentioning his opponent in any advertisement. His campaign message is always built around making the case for himself, not denigrating his competitors.
The point of the L.P. nomination process is, ideally, to produce a better nominee who can go into the general election with the support of the party to win over the broader public. That includes a healthy discussion and debate of issue positions, as well as honing skills at presenting the libertarian message. From the party’s perspective, the best candidates who aren’t the nominee, are the ones who help shape the message in a positive way, and who help resolve intra-party conflicts now that could potentially come up later. Baseless slander and trying to blow up the party on a personal ego trip doesn’t get us any of that.
I have always been open to the possibility of a better candidate, and part of that is at least *acting* like you’re a serious candidate for the most powerful office on the planet. McAfee and Petersen haven’t done that, and at this point it seems exceedingly unlikely that either are capable of it.
I was asked this weekend, “The LP isn’t seriously going to nominate somebody else, are they?”
My response: almost certainly not, but if they do, it won’t be seriously.