Friday, December 9, 2011

Potential spoiler or possible ace in the hole?

There is no denying the Republican Party has gone to great lengths in order to keep former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson out of the public eye and from presenting his vision of libertarianism to the public.

As time winds-down before the Iowa Caucus next month, Johnson could very well get a last laugh of his own at the GOP.

Discussions of him leaving the Republican field and pursuing the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination have been America’s worst-kept secret which very, very few in the mainstream news media have mentioned.

Thank goodness for the Judge…

When Johnson made his appearance on Freedom Watch with Judge Andrew Napolitano, December 7 on Fox Business Network, he tackled that topic with a response that was noticeably noncommittal when it comes to offering a definitive “yes” or “no.”

What I noticed when watching the interview was he made a point of emphasizing that “the message” was always his goal with his campaign. As he pointed-out, his constant exclusion from GOP debates denied him any chance to spread it.

And then he hinted at something noteworthy during his interview with Napolitano: if former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich land the nomination, he is likely to pursue the Libertarian Party’s ticket.

The unspoken hint is that he won’t do it if Representative Ron Paul gets the nod.

Johnson is a smart man. He wants to succeed personally yet at the same time has a genuine love of his country and his principles – principles of liberty which Paul shares. At this point it seems clear to me what Johnson’s strategy is moving forward: one way or another, libertarianism is moving to the forefront of America’s political discussion.

He also knows the GOP’s trepidations regarding how a strong third-party candidate could affect voting dynamics come November 2012. By inching ever closer to seeking the LP’s presidential nomination, Johnson may be the best thing to ever happen to Ron Paul’s candidacy.

How so? Johnson – in my view rather patriotically – is willing to serve as a bargaining chip for liberty.

If the message hasn’t already been explicitly sent (albeit behind closed doors) to the GOP establishment it will be coming soon: you need to support Ron Paul from here-on-out or face a three-way election in November.

The Republican Party’s regularly stated goal has been to unseat President Barack Obama in next year’s election. Its members have been saying this since 2009. Although Johnson has a strong track record of drawing Democratic voters in his two successful gubernatorial campaigns in New Mexico which easily debunks the worn-out notion of “stealing conservative votes,” common sense dictates the GOP is not the least bit interested in taking any chances.

If he chooses to run as a Libertarian, Johnson will be the most viable third-party presidential candidate to run in 100 years. Unlike H. Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996, Johnson has a solid track record as a government executive – which also lends him greater name recognition than Paul enjoyed in 1988 or Bob Barr in 2008.

Most importantly, unlike Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 he is not a Progressive, statist troll.

To summarize, as the Libertarian candidate Johnson would be poised to take a significant slice of the electorate pie. If he goes this route, the Republican National Committee may have to swallow its pride and accept his terms.

Still, his candidacy on the Libertarian ticket would be a dream-come-true for many party members – myself included.

Bloggers have noted in recent days that the Johnson campaign has been bombarded with correspondence by Libertarians to switch tickets. Members of our party have been reaching-out to him to make the right and honorable move – myself included.

While I will understand if he pursues the strategy laid-out above and secures the GOP nomination for Paul it will to the chagrin of many Libertarian Party members, we must remember one of our party’s most popular slogans: the party of principle. And if we believe in our core principle of maximum freedom – both economic and individual – through minimum government, we must then be willing to set aside our own partisanship and embrace this potential path toward restoration of liberty.

One key red flag being raised is time is slowly beginning to run short for Johnson to make a decision. Delegates for the Libertarian National Convention will be meeting in May to select the party’s presidential nominee.

My bet, however, is the picture for the Republican primaries ought to be fairly clear by the time Ohio holds its vote on March 6 – two months before the Libertarian convention.

In other words: fear not, my fellow Libertarians – there will be a resolution to this, one way or the other.

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