“If you don’t vote that’s a vote for Trump. If you vote for a 3rd party candidate that’s a vote for Trump…”
-President Barack Obama to Steve Harvey, September 28, 2016
When historians, political scientists, and sociologists undertake their research into the 2016 Presidential election, September 28, 2016 will signify the beginning of a new era in American Politics. Academics will identify that day as the day the two-party system, dominated by Republicans and Democrats, for the first time felt threatened by the previously amusing third-party little guys…
The Libertarian Party and their Presidential candidate former two-term New Mexico, Governor Gary Johnson, as well as Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein, have crossed the threshold from benign threats, to political players with electoral currency. President Obama, in advising Americans against casting a vote for third-party candidates, unintentionally revealed the desperate hand of the two major parties. While so many third-party supporters justifiably rejoiced upon hearing the President’s words, any celebration should be short lived.
The dilemma with going from occasional nuisance to a legitimate threat by appealing to voters looking for a candidate either fiscally conservative or who is a committed environmentalist with a message of anti-corruption, is obstructing Hillary Clinton from her rightful claim to the divine right of kings.
It is one thing to steal votes from the Republican candidate, it is quite another to obstruct the anointment of her majesty. Such an outcome cannot be allowed, and therefore the media have turned from cordial yet dismissive inquisitors probing the beliefs of third party candidates, into attack dogs salivating at the opportunity to expose any threat as an unqualified radical with dangerous ideas.
Just as September 28, 2016 represents the beginning of a new era in American politics, it also signified the end of questions to Libertarian candidates about prostitution and marijuana…
Gone are the days when the press found Ron Paul to be a lovable, cranky political novelty. It was much easier for the press to laugh along with the audience when Paul would wave his hands in the air and lecture them about the crippling economic effects of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies. The press and two major parties used to laugh along without anxiety during Paul’s claims of libertarianism’s growth while emphatically declaring “It’s Happening!”
Yet, now that it actually is…their laughs fall silent.
The stakes have been raised and policy based “gotcha” questions are the new normal.
Third-party candidates are not ready for this type of media exposure and vetting. Gary Johnson’s “What is Aleppo?” moment, his inability to name a single potential cabinet member on 60 Minutes, and his failure to name a foreign leader he respects when asked by Chris Matthews, are evidence of the antagonistic environment awaiting third-party candidates.
As with all things, that is both good and bad. It is good in that it signifies the media is taking third-party candidates serious enough to apply the same (if not unfairly higher) vetting process.
It is bad in that every gaffe, incorrect pronunciation, or brain fart will be played on an endless loop in the media in order to brand that individual as a cheap parlor trick with some interesting ideas, yet wholly unqualified for the office of the Presidency.
Whether one loves such treatment, hates it, or complains about it, all that is left to do is embrace it.
All the calls for fair treatment will fall on deaf media ears. The instinct of those who support third-party candidates will be to protect their candidate by pointing out the deficiencies of candidates from the two-major parties. That is a losing strategy, and in time, one that will become monotonous and grating to the ears of voters who are disgusted with politics as usual.
These disgruntled voters want a hopeful dream filled with new answers. They want to hear inspirational rhetoric grounded in concrete plans promising a brighter future just beyond the horizon.
Third-party supporters must accept these higher standards. Failing to accept them will result in the evaporation of everything they have sacrificed and worked for through the years. Like it or not, the Office of the Presidency and its vetting process, is determined by a media class whose questions and concerns are poorly suited to a philosophical framework like libertarianism. Libertarians believe in non-intervention, so naturally foreign policy questions would be of less relevance to Governor Johnson than questions related to civil liberty issues. However, the majority of voters will never listen long enough to grasp such a nuance.
Johnson has to accept that as Commander-in-Chief, he will have to have an easy to understand foreign policy framework, supported by experts, and crafted through media class approved advisers. He must tell voters his foreign policy plan is to stop offering American soldiers up to terrorists as target practice. He will bring the troops home, he will end our financially exhausting forays into parts of the world where the U.S. has to decide between backing Al Qaeda or the Islamic State, like in Syria.
Third-party candidates can no longer afford to run as mesagging arms of their nominating parties. Criticizing the stupidity of the major parties is great for a sound bite, but it will do nothing to win votes and create a perception as a viable alternative to those looking for answers and an inspiring vision. As a visionary leader once said,
Third-party candidates, and their parties, have been waiting for their moment in the arena. On September 28, 2016, President Barack Obama formally extended an invitation to the Libertarian Party and Governor Johnson.
Johnson is now the man in the arena.
His ability to undergo the vetting process, with higher standards than his major party opponents, will determine the growth of third parties. More importantly, should he successfully navigate the process, it will forever change the perception of third-parties in the American psyche from “cute also rans” into “viable third options“.
This is THE moment, it is a time for choosing for Gary Johnson and his supporters. Will Governor Johnson and his supporters play the game as it is? Or complain about double standards and unfair treatment?
It remains to be seen, but his supporters have been anxiously awaiting this moment, and their tireless efforts deserve to be rewarded. The standard is not perfection, it is at a bare minimum, the assumption by Johnson that he is going to win.
If Gary Johnson, and third-party candidates alike, shift their mindset from exposure to success, they will start EARNING votes, rather receiving them from loyal supporters and by those cast in protest to the status quo. Johnson’s struggles are not due to a lack of competence, but rather a lack of preparation.
When Gary starts operating as if Jan. 20, 2017 is his first day on the job, a time when his political capital will be the highest offering him his best chance at putting into plan the set of legislative and regulatory reforms he ran on, his gaffes and perception of disinterest in the rest of the world would go away.
The moment he behaves as the inevitable president-elect, is the same moment voters will begin believing he possesses the knowledge and experience necessary to be Commander-in-Chief.
In that moment he will earn votes when he announces a cabinet full of credible experts.
In that moment he will earn votes when he presents an extensive plan for leading the country and reforming government in a way that closely resembles his libertarian philosophy, which he successfully communicated to the very voters responsible for propelling him into office.
On September 28, 2016 a new era of American politics was created when the President of the status quo formally recognized the “potential” threat third parties and their candidates pose. The question that remains is will “potential threats” transition into results?
It remains to be seen, and it entirely hinges upon the transition from being the critic to being criticized.
So rather than criticizing the unfair standards of the status quo, it is time to stand in the arena and skillfully defeat the litany of critics awaiting Governor Johnson. He is the man in the arena, and as such, he should be expected to prepare in such a fashion. How high are the stakes?
It will determine whether he, and the party he was nominated by, rejoin the audience of critics, or are pointed to by historians as the man who overthrew the status quo and lead America into a new era.
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