This year promises to be an extraordinarily entertaining election year for those of us who enjoy watching presidential politics.
The "Donald" seems sure to win the nomination. He has run a strong, populist campaign, and I'll give him credit for that. I'm not really sure what he believes yet, but I'm not really sure he knows what he believes. I saw a report the other day which showed his voter registration over the last couple of decades--he's been back and forth between Republican and Democrat quite a few times, and his current iteration as a Republican was was within the last few years.
Hillary Clinton is--unless she's indicted before then--going to be the nominee of the party. Bernie Sanders promises to take it till the last ballot is cast at the convention, however, so the promise for some entertainment from the Democrats exists. Hillary will probably have to out promise Bernie (i.e., try to match him for socialism), in order to keep all out war from occurring--and to keep the Bernie folks from bolting the Party. Sanders has hinted at a 3rd Party run, but with one exception, there aren't going to be many serious opportunities for 3rd Parties this year, just because of the need for ballot access.
That one exception is....
The Libertarian Party is on the cusp of having one of the most interesting tickets in its history--we'll know for sure after their convention over Memorial Day weekend. What's interesting about it, you ask? The emerging "likely ticket" of former New Mexico Republican Governor Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts Republican Governor William Weld as Vice President.
Why is this so unusual? A couple of reasons:
- Johnson and Weld were both Republican GOVERNORS--in other words, unlike (to the best of my recollection) any other Libertarian ticket to date, this one has two people who have both won statewide elections, in largely Democratic states--and they both won re-elections, as well.There's more practical, successful political experience than there's been on a LP Ticket, ever.
- Having two former Governors on the ticket means that the LP will be the only ticket which has both members of the ticket having had serious elective executive experience (Trump, obviously has none, no matter who he names as his VP; Clinton was U.S. Senator, but her executive experience was appointive as Secretary of State, and not everyone would consider it to have been successful).
- Rumors of Koch Brothers tossing money at the Libertarian Party in this race aside, the Johnson-Weld ticket should be able to raise (and spend) more money than previous Libertarian Party tickets have been able to. One gets the impression that lack of funds seriously restricted the campaign trips that previous LP candidates could make. That could make a huge difference in polling, which then determines whether the LP candidates will make the debates in the fall (the standard is that they have to be polling at 15% in a series of national polls, I believe).
Does that mean the Libertarian Party nominees have a shot at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Probably not--although there are some out there who contemplate Johnson/Weld potentially winning their home states and one or two others, resulting in no one having 270 electoral votes, and throwing the race to the House of Representatives. I think that's a lot of "ifs".But what id does mean, perhaps, is that a serious conversation about what government should be doing can be had. It might mean that the LP will get 5% of the vote or more--which would then make them eligible for matching funds in 2020.
The "gravitas" of a ticket with two, two term governors may provide a refuge for both Republicans and Democrats who are discontent with their likely nominee. That's one of the interesting things about the Libertarian Party--smaller government and fiscal responsibility (conservative issues, typically), also means (to many Libertarians) less government in your personal lives (which seems to be more appealing to the liberal side of the equation).
A strong Libertarian run has the potential to shake up the binary R or D decisions that people make. Both the Republicans and the Democrats will dislike a Libertarian presence, but I think that it could actually force both parties to define themselves more clearly, and prioritize their proposals for governance accordingly. I don't think that we're approaching the end of a two party system in the U.S. I think we'll always have two parties, unless we structurally change the way we elect our representatives (winner take all, single member districts; as opposed to proportional multi-member districts). But the names of the parties, and the looks of the parties can (and has) change; and I think it possible that third parties could serve as something akin to "holding areas" until such time as a realignment takes place, and it becomes clear to citizens once again where they belong.
Keep watching--there will be more excitement before this is all over, I think.