Meet the libertarians — the #NeverTrump movement’s last hope
By Matt Welch
May 19, 2016
Get over it, #NeverTrumpers. No amount of praying for a political unicorn to inhabit Bill Kristol’s www.renegadeparty.com can overcome the cruel logic of the electoral calendar, with its expired filing deadlines and hopelessly uphill signature-gathering requirements. There’s only one non-Republican or Democratic entity likely to be on the ballot in all 50 states come November, and that’s the Libertarian Party, which selects its presidential nominee in Orlando next weekend.
Politico reported Wednesday that an unnamed anti-Trump schemer (I’m guessing rhymes with “Shill Pistol”) said there was “a 50-50 chance” that one of either Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Wyoming), or Mitt Romney would agree on an independent run by maybe some time next week. When that Hail Mary inevitably fails, the Libertarian Party will have already popped the first corks on what promises to be its most intensely scrutinized convention in the party’s 45-year history.
For the majority of non-Beltway Americans who prudently maintain unfavorable opinions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the Libertarian candidate is certain to advocate several welcome policies that neither major-party nominee will touch with a 10-foot pole. In a political year that has broken one precedent after another, the Libertarian Party may well shatter its previous record of 1.1% of the vote.
Fiscal conservatives anxious about the country’s $19-trillion debt will be happy to hear that all three leading Libertarian contenders — former New Mexico Republican Gov. Gary Johnson (who was the party’s 2012 nominee, pulling 1.0%), antivirus software designer John McAfee and 35-year-old libertarian media entrepreneur Austin Petersen — want to eliminate large swaths of the federal government. Those alarmed by Trump’s cavalier approach to the Constitution will notice Petersen waving around a pocket-sized copy while Johnson talks up repeal of the 17th Amendment.
Progressives who dig Sen. Bernie Sanders’ opposition to drug prohibition and military interventionism — issues on which Clinton has been awful for decades — can rest assured that the Libertarian Party embraced these positions decades ago. Johnson as governor in 1999 became the first major American politician to come out for ending the drug war; McAfee’s core message is that “our bodies and minds belong to ourselves,” and Petersen dreams of a world in which “gay married couples can defend their marijuana fields with fully automatic machine guns.”