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Former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Republican Party’s Presidential nomination, reluctantly endorsed presumptive GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump, averring that the race between Trump and likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is a “binary choice.” This is the mentality the Libertarian Party faces in presidential election cycles. Although the party has the political dexterity to get its Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees on the ballot in all or almost all fifty states and the District of Columbia, many voters either are not cognizant that the party has a nominee on the ballot, or immediately eliminate the candidate from consideration, believing that a vote for a non-major party nominee is a wasted vote.

The Democratic-Republican duopoly employs rhetorical brainwashing to maintain their electoral hegemony by using the hypnotic technique of “repetition,” continuing to repeat the message that a vote for a third party is a wasted vote, inculcating this notion in the minds of American voters until the vox populi eschew their conscience and select a nominee from one of the two major parties.

The Libertarian Party has been in an electoral steady-state in the Presidential sphere since it began nominating candidates in 1972. Only twice, in 1980 and in 2012, did the party garner at or near 1% of the national popular vote. Their Presidential nominees have often been non-politicians who appear to be in the race to wave the party’s flag rather than to be serious contenders. In addition, the candidates have sometimes been doctrinaire Libertarian ideologues who view any attempt to mainstream their message as apostasy.

This year, the applecart could be upset. The frontrunner for the nomination is former Republican New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. Former Republican Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld has agreed to run as Johnson’s Vice Presidential runningmate. Both candidates are serious political players with redoubtable experience as Chief Executives. This is coupled with a political climate where neither of the likely nominees from the two major parties are favored by a majority of voters.

The Libertarian Party preaches a mantra of “Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom.” The party is generally thought of as a non-interventionist party. Libertarian devotees support limited government intervention in the economy, limited involvement in the affairs of other nations, and limited intervention in personal behavior. The Libertarian Party is often ideologically identified as the fiscally conservative, socially liberal party.

Though the party barely registers in the polls, a recent Gallop survey revealed that 27% of the American electorate are ideologically Libertarians. This finding illustrates that the party should work to consolidate the voters who actually support the candidate closest to their values.

Part of the reason why so many American voters identify as Libertarians but do not vote for the Libertarian Party nominee might be that voters who know of the party’s existence are more moderate Libertarians. While they support the idea of limited government, they would not eradicate the Social Safety Net. They might agree that the U.S. should stay out of foreign entanglements, but would not egress from all international organizations. They may support abortion rights, but favor restrictions on late-term abortions. In addition, voters could be turned off by Libertarian nominees who preach the Libertarian gospel but who have never actually run anything substantial.

Both Johnson and Weld are moderate Libertarians with both electoral and executive prowess. While Johnson is a more libertarian than Weld, neither is a rigid Libertarian ideologue. Both were elected twice as Governor with support from both Democrats and Republicans.

Johnson was elected in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1. Weld was elected in a state where GOP registration was only about 13%. Johnson was first elected in 1994, defeating three-term incumbent Democratic Governor Bruce King.

Johnson won the New Mexico Governorship not by proposing a radical reconstruction of the role of government but by bringing a “commonsense approach” and applying business principles to state government. He amalgamated traditional center-right conservatism. Johnson reduced the growth of the state budget, cut taxes, and advocated a school voucher program. Johnson entered the national political stage in 1999 by becoming the highest elected official to explicitly call for the legalization of marijuana, an issue which now strikes a resonate chord with the electorate.

Weld, a former U.S. Attorney, won the GOP nomination for Governor in 1990 by defeating the House Minority Leader Steve Pierce, a full spectrum conservative. In the General Election, Weld won over Democratic voters by highlighting his support for abortion rights, tax reduction, and taking a hard line on crime. He waxed sentimental about the days when prisoners experienced: “the joys of breaking rocks.”

Weld ran to the left of Democratic nominee John Silber on the environment. During a debate, Weld exploited a claim by the Democratic nominee, John Silber Ph.D., that beavers created so much wetland that preserving wetlands should not be of concern. Weld quipped: “Would you tell us doctor, what plans, if any, you have for the preservation of open spaces in Massachusetts, other than leave it to beavers?”

Weld was re-elected in 1994, pocketing a record 71% of the vote. Despite a modicum of Republicans in the state, Weld won 346 of the Commonwealth’s 351 municipalities.

While Weld often garners the Libertarian label, his record as Governor shows him to be a very watered-downed version. Weld supported the 1994 Federal ban on some semi-automatic firearms, Affirmative Action, and later in his term proposed and signed budgets which increased state spending. In his 1993 State of the State Address, Weld proposed more state spending and avowed: “We’re not against government spending. We don’t wish to dismantle government.”

When Weld ran unsuccefully for a U.S. Senate seat in 1996, he ran as a technocratic pragmatist, emphasizing his bi-partisan bone fides, exclaiming: “I have worked with Democrats, Republicans and Independents . . . Since I’ve been Governor, we practice good management in Massachusetts, not partisan finger-pointing.”

That year Nathaniel Palmer, an unpaid field operative for the Weld Senate campaign, approached the state chairman of the Libertarian party asking if the party would endorse Weld. Palmer recounts: “His response was indignant and incredulous – the way most Libertarian react, which I had naively forgotten. He said there was no way that would ever happen and that Weld was the furthest thing from a Libertarian.”

With a broad cross-section of voters across the political spectrum disaffected with the likely major party nominees, the Johnson/Weld ticket has a real electoral opportunity. The first step is to prove to the general electorate that the ticket is center-right fiscally and center-left on social issues, not a rarified Libertarian ticket. The ticket must support a retrenchment from foreign entanglements, and make the case that U.S. intervention effectuates blowback, ironically making the U.S. less safe. However, the ticket must emphasize that the U.S. will defend the homeland and will not enfeeble its military apparatus.

The ticket must create a master narrative of two outsiders with executive experience with a moderate Libertarian worldview. The ticket must also communicate that it is not confined to a Libertarian straight-jacket, and is willing to work with members of the two major parties.

A recent poll showed Johnson registering at 11% nationally. This is a number no Libertarian ticket has ever remotely reached. If the ticket registers at 15% in five national polls, Johnson would be allowed to participate in the Presidential debates. This would afford voters the opportunity to see Johnson on the same stage as the two major candidates, giving him nearly universal name recognition, and evidencing the fact that the American electorate has more than a simple “binary choice” between Clinton and Trump.

Some unadulterated Libertarians would be disconsolate at the ticket’s effort to broaden its appeal, but as Palmer points out, with the inclusion on the ticket of the more mainstream Weld: “I’m sure the anti-Johnson faction of the party now will point to further evidence that Johnson himself is not Libertarian, just an opportunist who couldn’t get the Republican nomination. And that generally sums up why the Libertarians do so poorly to advance candidates.”

A Johnson/Weld ticket must ignore this view, and present itself as an alternative to the two major parties. The campaign should repeat a quote by former U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy (1959-1971) in 1978: “Saying we should keep the two-party system simply because it is working is like saying the Titanic voyage was a success because a few people survived on life rafts.”

This is a once in a political lifetime chance for the Libertarians to present themselves as a viable and credible alternative to the electoral hegemony the Democrats and Republicans currently enjoy. A Johnson/Weld ticket will not likely win the election, but it could serve as a wellspring for qualified moderate Libertarians to run for down-ballot offices in the future, making the Party a “third force” in American politics, and making the party an electoral threat in future Presidential elections.

Follow Rich Rubino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichRubinoPOL

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Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump is in the inchoate stages of vetting possible Vice Presidential runningmates. Much media focus is centering on Ohio Governor John Kasich. Electorally, it would make sense to select a popular Governor of a critically important showdown state. No Republican has ever won the Presidency without carrying the Buckeye state. However, it would be unlikely that Kasich would accept the offer. It would not be in Kasich’s best political interests to be associated with the Trump brand.

Current polls show Trump well behind Democratic Frontrunner Hillary Clinton. However, Kasich is currently ahead of Clinton in the polls. Should Trump lose in the General election, GOP voters would regret that they nominated Trump rather than Kasich in 2016. This would put Kasich in the electoral catbird seat for 2020. He could spend 2018 on the campaign hustings, stumping for Republican Congressional Candidates, collecting chits and ingratiating himself with GOP benefactors. This could put him in a position as the early frontrunner for the nomination in 2020. Kasich’s odds of winning the General Election in 2020 would be good, as Republicans would be galvanized to nominate an electable candidate, having been shut out of the White House for twelve years, and the electoral pendulum would likely swing back to the Republicans, as Americans would have fatigue at the same party occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for so long.

Beyond those considerations, Trump is not presenting himself as a traditional milquetoast Republican. Trump emphasizes an “America First” policy, which includes economic nationalism, opposing most trade agreements that the U.S. has negotiated in recent years. Trump labels NAFTA (signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993): “The worst economic development deal ever signed in the history of our Country.” Kasich voted for NAFTA and other trade agreements when he served in the U.S. Congress. Trump’s America First Policy also dictates opposition to most recent U.S. foreign interventions. With respect to this issue, Kasich is wedded to the interventionist bloodline of the party. In addition, Trump often bemoans the influence of large financial institutions on the political process. Ironically, Kasich is a former senior executive at Lehman brothers. Finally, Trump advocates closed borders and deporting the estimated 11-12 million illegal immigrants currently in the nation. Alternatively, Kasich favors a comprehensive approach to immigration reform, including a path to earned legalization for undocumented immigrants.

It is quite common for a candidate of one wing of a party to be paired up with a candidate from a competing wing to harness party unity. In 1880, Republican James Garfield, who emphasized Civil Service Reform, was paired with Chester A. Arthur, who had made a career as a beneficiary of the corrupt civil service system and opposed reforms. In 1904, the progressive Theodore Roosevelt was paired with the conservative Charles Fairbanks, and in 1976, the moderate Democrat Jimmy Carter was paired with the liberal stalwart Walter Mondale.

For Trump, selecting a runningmate with a different vision would likely be a non-starter. The media would focus with laser-beam precision on the differences between the ticket mates. Accordingly, Trump’s runningmate would need to be an individual who sings from Donald’s hymnbook on almost all of the major issues.

Trump averred he wants to select someone “who is friends with the Senators and Congressmen” (Senators are actually also Congressmen). This would imply that Trump would focus on either a sitting member who has relations with members on both sides of the aisle, or a former member. The former member would likely be someone without lobbyist ties, as Trump has emphasized his independence from members of the unpopular profession.

Trump would have a huge problem persuading a sitting member of Congress to agree to be his runningmate. Few members of the U.S. Congress who are up for re-election would sacrifice his/her political career for what could be a hapless Vice Presidential run. While it is possible to seek re-election to the House or Senate while concomitantly running for Vice President (as Lloyd Bentsen did in 1988, Joe Lieberman did in 2000, and Paul Ryan did in 2012), only a candidate from a reliably Republican state or district facing token opposition would take this risk. Most Representatives and Senators in at least nominally competitive races would not want to be tethered to Trump.

Of the sitting Senators, Trump’s biggest booster is U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL). While Sessions is charismatic and is simpatico with Trump on illegal immigration, the two have irreconcilable differences on other issues. Sessions has voted for many of the Trade treaties Trump condemns. In addition, Sessions supports proposals to privatize Social Security. Contrariwise, Trump opposes any changes to the Social Security system, pledging to: “do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is.”

Trump showcases his opposition to the Iraq War, charging that the U.S-led invasion “destabilized the Middle East.” It would not likely be a litmus test for a Vice Presidential candidate to have opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, but the candidate would have to have displayed fierce opposition in the attendant years.

There are two sitting Republican members of the House who fit Trumps brand of Republicanism almost to a tee and who would complement his message on the campaign trail as Vice Presidential running mates. They are both Southern accented less bombastic versions of Trump. The first is Walter Jones of North Carolina. While Jones was an early supporter of the Iraq war, he has since become a vociferous critic. Jones now maintains: “I just feel that the reason of going in for weapons of mass destruction, the ability of the Iraqis to make a nuclear weapon, that’s all been proven that it was never there.” In 2007, Jones was one of just three Republicans to vote for a bill ordering Bush to bring combat troops home by 2008.

Like Trump, Jones is an economic nationalist. He has voted against virtually every proposed free trade agreement since he entered Congress. He has co-sponsored legislation to repeal NAFTA and is a leader in the effort to stop the Transpacific Partnership. Jones avers: “free-trade agreements like NAFTA have pushed millions of good paying jobs outside our borders.” Jones is also a steadfast opponent of illegal immigration, averring: “It is imperative that we secure our borders and not reward those who have broken our laws with amnesty.”

The other member who fits this description is U.S. Representative John Duncan (R-TN). Duncan, a self-professed “non-interventionist,” was against the Iraq War from the beginning, despite support for the War from the preponderance of his constituents. In fact, after his vote, Duncan was slated to deliver an address at a Baptist Church in his District. However, inflamed church benefactors and a Church Deacon threatened to leave the Church if Duncan were allowed to address the congregation. In response, Duncan agreed not to show up.

Furthermore, Duncan is an economic nationalist and an adversary of illegal immigration. He recently endorsed Trump, praising Trump for his views on these three issues.

Finally, an interesting choice would be former U.S Representative Gene Taylor of Mississippi. Taylor represented that state’s Gulf Coast as a Conservative Democrat. Though popular in the District, he could not withstand the 2010 floodtide against Democrats and barely lost his seat. He has since become a Republican. Taylor was one of the most charismatic members of Congress, excoriating federal Budget deficits, advocating for a balanced Budget Amendment, and disparaging free trade agreements. Taylor introduced a resolution in 2010, “to provide for the withdrawal of the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement.” While Taylor voted for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002, he came to question the futility of the war effort. In 2006, Taylor averred: “How do you win a counterinsurgency when 80% of the people don’t want you there?” He wanted the President to call for a plebiscite among Iraqi citizens to see if they want U.S. troops to stay. A two-thirds majority vote would be required. If the referendum did not muster that number, Taylor harshly intoned: “then I’m at the point of saying to heck with them.”

Part of the reason why Taylor survived in what was a Congressional District where Republican John McCain garnered 69% of the vote in 2008, was his advocacy for his constituents. This was highlighted in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the district, destroying his home. He became a critic of the manner in which his constituents were being treated by the insurance companies, bemoaning: “Private insurance companies leverage our dollars to find ways to deny us the protection for which we pay good American money.” Taylor also lambasted FEMA Director Michael Brown at a House hearing, telling him: “You get an F- in my book.”

The road to a Vice Presidential pick will be a narrow one for Donald Trump. Many elected officials would not want to risk their political careers to be tethered to the real estate magnet. Moreover, a candidate would have to be ideologically simpatico with Trump. His “America First” brand of conservative is a minority ideological viewpoint among Republican elected officials. Trump says he wants someone who can work with Congress. All three of the aforementioned possibilities have worked with members of both parties quite often in co-sponsoring proposed bipartisan legislation. Vetting Jones, Duncan, and Taylor would be a good starting point for Trump.

Follow Rich Rubino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichRubinoPOL

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I’m From Massachusetts: My Vote Doesn’t Count

May 4, 2016

This primary election cycle is showcasing the fundamental unfairness of the way political parties select their nominees. Republicans are aghast that some states choose their nominees at state conventions rather than letting voters choose. Democrats are becoming cognizant that their vote is subservient to the vote of their Governors and members of the U.S. Congress, […]

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Political Parties are Under No Obligation to Operate Democratically

April 16, 2016

Supporters of Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders are flocking to local town hall meetings asking why their U.S. Representative or Senator is a Superdelagate for Hillary Clinton when their district or state supported Sanders. They ask, “Shouldn’t they represent the will of the people?” Contrariwise, on the Republican side, supporters of Donald Trump are incensed […]

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Anybody But Trump, Anybody But Carter, Anybody But McGovern

April 1, 2016

The party establishment is aghast. An insurrectionist candidate is close to securing the party’s nomination. Fears arise on the part of the party establishment that this candidate will get clobbered in the General Election. Party chieftains and financial benefactors panic because the insurrectionist candidate is not beholden to them. A cacophony of voices emerges to […]

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Could Democratic Party History Repeat Itself in the Republican Party in 2016?

March 10, 2016

An insurrectionist presidential candidate stuns his party’s establishment by pocketing the party’s nomination. His views do not line up with mainstream figures in his party. He is charismatic and taps into the undercurrent of populist indignation against the corporate and political elite from rank-and-file party members. Many elected members of the party bolt and form […]

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Dirty Political Tricks From American Politics Done Dirt Cheap

March 3, 2016

Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz is taking heat for dirty tricks allegedly orchestrated by his campaign. The tricks range from photoshopping an image to make it appear that one of his opponents, Marco Rubio, is gleefully shaking hands with President Barack Obama, to allegedly creating a counterfeit Facebook profile for conservative U.S. Representative Trey Gowdy […]

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A Bernie Sanders Presidency Could Revolutionize Bipartisanship

February 19, 2016

Conventional wisdom dictates that should Bernie Sanders overcome all electoral hindrances and assume the presidency, much of his agenda would not get through the U.S. Congress. Since Sanders comes from the left wing of the political spectrum, it would be nearly impossible for him to persuade moderate Republicans to vote for his proposals. Traditionally, presidents […]

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Brian Schweitzer Would Be a Formidable Independent Presidential Candidate

February 2, 2016

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is considering entering the Presidential sweepstakes as a centrist Independent. He will likely enter only if the Democrats nominate Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders and the Republicans select conservative Donald Trump. However, should the Democrats nominate the more centrist leaning Hillary Clinton and should the Republicans nominate Mr. Trump […]

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Dale Bumpers: The Man Who Could Have Been Elected President

January 27, 2016

U.S. Senator Dale Bumpers (D-AR), who served from 1975-1999, recently died. Bumpers had flirted with a bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination three times, but ultimately chose not to seek the nomination. Had he run in 1988, Bumpers would have been a good bet to win the nomination and ultimately the Presidency. Bumpers was a […]

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