The day finally arrived. The Electoral College drama brought the election to its finale. This was the final stand of the Never Trump crowd, the last stand of the Hillary Clinton camp, and perhaps the final attempt of the Gary Johnson campaign to legitimize itself.
Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson ran in 2012 and boosted the Libertarian Party. After the Republican National Committee ran over the campaign of former Congressman Ron Paul with questionable conduct and sketchy procedures, libertarians and conservatives were left looking elsewhere.
Come 2016, would Johnson repeat his popularity and even boost it beyond his previous numbers?
The dynamic was notably different. Many libertarians were opposed to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney because of his many liberal positions and even many positions on any given issue. He was regarded by several as an untrustworthy politician, on both sides of any one policy. In 2016, there was much more debate among libertarians about Republican businessman Donald Trump.
Is Trump a worthy anti-establishment vote, even though his libertarian credentials are questionable?
The lack of a united front against the Republican nominee hurt Johnson, who stood to gain more from disaffected Democrats. This is not surprising, given his campaign catered more to the left. Both Johnson and his running mate Bill Weld were regularly regurgitating Never Trump lines while holding fire on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. There seemed to be a general hesitation among his campaign to engage the right.
It was for this reason that, while posting respectable numbers for a third party candidate, he fell far short of the best expectations for his campaign.
Johnson and Weld was the ticket to change it all. In an election with two candidates nobody liked, this would be the sane ticket to catch disaffected American voters. This was exactly how the two former Governors sold themselves, selling that line more than any given policy. But while trying to sell themselves as the alternate to two candidates, they sold often seemed more focused on Trump.
It was for this reason the Libertarian ticket fell short. Like long-shot Independent Evan McMullin, who even seemed to get more attention down the stretch than they did, they were fervently Never Trump.
A number of faithless electors had an opportunity before them to push a different candidate. While this alternate wouldn’t become President, it was an opportunity to legitimize their positions and make them apart of a movement that is defiantly opposing the President-elect, a movement of which Johnson was a part.
So why didn’t Johnson secure any electoral votes?
If someone likes Clinton enough, they’re going to just vote for her. Bernie Sanders supporters may not be inclined to vote for a Libertarian because of ideological differences, but many wouldn’t even consider it beyond that because of Johnson often holding fire against Clinton, and Weld actively campaigning her cause. Many Republicans who are opposed to Donald Trump dislike Clinton just as much, and thus wouldn’t be too keen on Johnson.
What does that leave the Johnson/Weld ticket? Nothing. The ticket had a great deal of potential that fell flat because of the lack of identity, the lack of ability to stand out, and the appearance that they were Hillary Clinton surrogates. This was why that when the Electoral College convened, Gary Johnson received not one electoral vote.