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The Libertarian Ticket

The Libertarian Party nominated former Govs. Gary Johnson and William Weld for their presidential ticket over the weekend:

Johnson, 63, won the nomination on the second ballot at the party’s convention in Orlando, Florida, defeating Austin Petersen, the founder of The Libertarian Republic magazine; and anti-computer virus company founder John McAfee. The delegates selected former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld to be his vice presidential running mate.

The Johnson-Weld ticket could end up being the most electorally successful Libertarian ticket on record, and it does provide disillusioned voters from both coalitions with a reasonable alternative to Trump and Clinton. The Libertarians have arguably just put forward the most credible and competent ticket for the general election so far, which underscores how pathetic the major party nominees are. Between their two candidates, the Libertarians may end up having the ticket with the most executive experience and the nominees most qualified for their respective offices.

While it seems likely that the Libertarians stand to benefit from the widespread unpopularity of both major party nominees (Dan McCarthy casts doubt on that here) and a (shrinking) anti-Trump faction on the right, it remains to be seen how much Johnson can improve on his 0.99% showing from 2012. One difficulty for Johnson in winning over anti-Trump voters is that many of them are against Trump because they believe his foreign policy will be insufficiently aggressive and reckless, and so they aren’t likely to support a ticket with a foreign policy that is less interventionist than Trump’s seems to be. The Libertarian ticket might also be attractive to some anti-Clinton voters on the left, but probably because of the former Republican background of both nominees it won’t have as much appeal. Disillusioned social conservatives probably have a more obvious choice in supporting the Constitution Party.

Johnson’s foreign policy has been generally sound over the last decade, but he has occasionally indulged some ill-considered ideas. His rhetoric on humanitarian intervention has sometimes been confused and at odds with other positions he has taken, which has led me and others to find him to be somewhat incoherent in talking about these issues. On the plus side, he was genuinely opposed to the Libyan war from the beginning. Johnson would seem to be much less inclined to meddle overseas than either Clinton or Trump, and unlike Trump he has a record of opposing wars from the start.

Update: I hadn’t realized that Johnson was firmly opposed to the nuclear deal with Iran. That is a lousy position for him to take, and it is wildly at odds with his previous statements.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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