The Johnson-Weld ticket had its second CNN primetime special on Wednesday, with the duo once again missing a great opportunity to be taken seriously by most of the country. While it’s great to see cable news acknowledge viewpoints outside of the corrupt duopoly (monopoly?) of the status quo, the attention given to the Libertarian Party during this unconventional election year is a constant reminder of how foolish it was for the LP to nominate an uncharismatic space cadet who seems utterly uninterested in any serious intellectual discussion. In a desperate attempt to be taken as seriously as the two major parties in DC, they have followed their example by selling out its principles for the false hope of boosting its ability to fund raise.
CNN’s town hall was the perfect example of the ineptitude of the Johnson-Weld ticket. The event started out with Gary Johnson’s ritual of telling the world how much he admires and loves his Vice Presidential candidate, selling the ticket as “two-presidents-for-the-price of one” (the horror.) Unfortunately, while Johnson’s libertarianism may be shallow, Weld’s is non-existent. Just in the course of this campaign, he has actively defended gun control, the IRS, and his good friend Hillary Clinton; and during the CNN debate went on to defend laws on prostitution, repeated his call for a new ISIS task force, and called for a government jobs for black Americans.
Bill Weld’s views are about as unappealing as Gary Johnson’s stage presence.
During one of the first questions regarding LGBT issues, Gary Johnson was given the opportunity to clarify his infamous comments regarding bakeries being forced to bake cakes for gay weddings. While Gary Johnson’s opinion of religious freedom being a “black hole” is troubling, his attempted clarification drifted to the bizarre as he argued that while a baker should have to sell a cake, he shouln’t have to frost it. While it’s good to hear Gary Johnson defend the free expression of cake decoration, his modification of his position only invites more questions. It honestly seems as if Gary Johnson views the whole gay wedding cake scenario as one in which a wedding party tried to buy a wedding cake the day of their special day, and were promptly physically removed from the store – instead of the store turning down an inquiring gay couple for cake that had-yet been baked. Perhaps in Gary Johnson’s Uber-everything utopia, he envisions bakeries as Subway-style stores where customers get cakes decorated on demand at the point of purchase?
As bad as his attempted clarification was, however, the true lowlight of the night came during the two opportunities Gary Johnson had to bash Hillary Clinton. In a truly strange spectacle, Johnson’s face seem genuinely pained as he stammered out the suggestion that Hillary was guilty of “pay to play” and a mild critique of her blood thirsty foreign policy. It is not surprising to see Bill Weld defend his good friend, but for Gary Johnson to be so gun shy at attacking a woman so reviled as Hillary Clinton is astonishing.
It’s also a major reason why I’ve come to label the LP nominee as Sad Sack Gary Johnson. While some have accused me of being vulgar, “sad sack” simply means “a person who is not successful or able to do things well,” and this is the only way I can describe Johnson’s performance so far. In an election year where people are looking to upset the established order, Gary Johnson has made an explicit attempt to highlight how similar he and Bill Weld are to “respectable” politicians in Washington. While he’s succeeded in earning kind words from Bill Kristol and Jennifer Rubin, he is constantly leaving votes on the table. Be it his desire to constantly highlight how pro-choice he is, alienating social conservatives worried about Trump, to his refusal to bring up the Fed and Wall Street when receiving questions from Bernie Sanders supporters – Gary Johnson is simply playing a bad strategy to broaden his appeal.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a strong enough demand for a non-Trump/Hillary candidate that Gary Johnson is sure to exceed his 2012 performance by leaps and bounds. Many from the LP, especially its current leadership, will try to point to those numbers as evidence that Gary Johnson’s brand of watered-down respectability politics is exactly the approach the Libertarian brand needs to be taken seriously in the future. Of course, nothing could be worse.
This is why it’s so important to ridicule Sad Sack Gary Johnson during the campaign. While I’m likely to vote for Johnson-Weld in November, with the goal being to give a third option a continued seat at the big boys table in future elections, the act is made so much more difficult by the performance he has provided during this election season. The Libertarian Party, as the only third party that claims access to all 50 ballots, had the opportunity to take advantage of an election where the majority of the public despised the nominees of both major parties, and instead they have proven to be as unserious an entity as they have long been perceived as.
In 1992, Ross Perot was able to ride a wave of political discontent to a 19% performance in a pre-internet world. Gary Johnson will likely come far short of that number in a time where it has never been easier to communicate a compelling message outside of the traditional institutions.
The American people were desperate for a candidate that seemed sane, capable, and confident.
Just as he did on Wednesday, Sad Sack Gary Johnson has routinely failed all three tests.