Many Americans feel as though the primary contenders for the 2016 presidential election are out of touch or do not truly represent their beliefs in anything close to entirety. In years past, it would seem that vice-presidential candidates have been treated as “supplements” to the real show: the party’s nominee. Yet, during this cycle, I believe the vice-presidential candidate will make-or-break the election. This person must be someone who is every bit as much of a draw as the nominee and can bring in a previously unreachable or unlikely group.
Normally, finding a former contender willing to run alongside the nominee is a challenge (even if the nominee supports them). Even more difficult is finding a contender who is a former nomination-hopeful who also brings in a voter base that the nominee simply cannot.
Cue former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.
Johnson and former Governor Bill Weld of Massachusetts are the Libertarian Party’s 2016 ticket. Yet I believe that with a little coaxing and the opportunity for true partnership and counsel as Vice President, Johnson would be a perfect addition to Trump’s ticket.
A Republican-Libertarian ticket would be unheard of, since the 1960s, but Trump is known for, if anything, his unconventional approach. Trump has gained a huge following but is faltering in the polls as Hillary Clinton has taken the democratic delegates by storm. Despite those who would follow Trump all the way to November, his support base isn’t enough to crush Clinton.
Instead, Gary Johnson has taken the initiative to unite Clinton-Haters and Trump-Haters under the Libertarian ticket, which would win half the battle should he join the Republican ticket. Johnson’s policies are far more moderate than Trump’s in some areas, yet he has enough individual liberty issues on his platform to appeal to a large majority of Americans.
The biggest hurdle would come with convincing Johnson to join the ticket. Yet what Johnson must consider is that he didn’t win the presidential election when he was the Libertarian Party nominee in 2012, and although the division between Clinton and Trump makes a 2016 victory more palatable, it is still unlikely that he has any real opportunity to become President, at least on the Libertarian ticket. While he is polling between 10 and 12 percent, this is not enough for him to get into the debates where he could spread his message.
Critics would likely say that Republican values differ too greatly from libertarian beliefs, yet I believe that although the GOP struggles with limited government and crony capitalism in practice, that only applies to politicians and those in power. I would even venture to say that the everyday Americans who identify most strongly with the GOP dislike these issues in their party as much as libertarians, they just don’t know how to prevent it, which is something libertarians are especially keen to do; A truly symbiotic opportunity.
Johnson does have the opportunity to spread his message and influence policy as Trump’s Vice President—if Trump is smart enough to give him the chance. By uniting the Libertarian and Republican voter bases—along with many unaffiliated moderates—this would create an unstoppable force in November. Additionally, it would give the libertarianism the shot it so desperately needs to become a truly competitive, viable option as a third party in future elections.
It’s been decades since libertarianism has had representation on a presidential ticket, and with voters splitting left and right from both major parties, this could be the credibility that libertarianism needs to find the footing to become the bridge between the two.