Friday, September 27, 2019

Are The Libertarians Ready For Primetime?

There’s a Far Side cartoon that depicts an airliner in distress. There is a gash in the side of the fuselage, the plane is trailing smoke and flames, the pilot is slumped over and incapacitated, and passengers are panicking. There is also a poodle at the controls.

“Suddenly, amidst all the confusion,” the caption reads, “ Fifi seized the controls and saved the day.”

Our current political chaos reminded me of that cartoon. Donald Trump’s political career is almost certainly over, whether he and the Republicans want to admit it or not. New polling shows that the public is evenly split over whether Trump should be impeached even though only about a third of voters are aware of the details of the whistleblower scandal. Even before the scandal broke, more than half of voters planned to vote against Trump next year. Neither of these numbers is likely to improve.

If Republicans are imploding, the Democrats are not without problems. As Erick Erickson pointed out this morning, even though there is no evidence that Joe Biden acted corruptly, the Democratic frontrunner is tainted by the accusations.

“The only way for them to get a clear message against Trump is to ditch Biden and polling suggests they are starting to realize it,” Erickson said. “Biden has to go if they want to beat Trump now and, ironically, Biden was the Democrat who came across as most reasonable and therefore most likely to beat Trump.”

If Biden is deep-sixed, Elizabeth Warren is the heir apparent, but that may be even worse for Democrats. Many of theDemocratic Wall Street supporters are already warning that they won’t back a Warren candidacy.

"You're in a box because you're a Democrat and you're thinking, 'I want to help the party, but she's going to hurt me, so I'm going to help President Trump,'" an anonymous senior private equity executive told CNBC.

Lest Republicans get too cocky, even with all her negatives Warren is still polling better than Donald Trump. By Election Day, Trump might have closed the gap, but it is at least equally probable that Warren will have expanded her lead. Trump really is that unpopular.

Erickson suggests that the final race will be between Warren and Mike Pence, but, assuming that Donald Trump drops out of the race, which is by no means assured, it may still not solve the Republican problem. The new Politico poll puts Pence’s approval even lower than Trump’s. (The poll didn’t ask about Warren.)

The stage is being set for a replay of 2016 in which Donald Trump faces off against a lackluster liberal. However, this time Trump is even more unpopular than before, having spent the last three years alienating a large swath of voters. More to the point, it will be another year in which voters are put off by both major party candidates.

As with the cartoon, our national aircraft is in distress. It is damaged by division, losing fuel through the trade war, and, as I wrote back in March, in a graveyard spiral in which we think we are flying straight and level but are actually careening out of control towards the ground.

Who will leap to the controls to save the day? Where is our Fifi?

2020 could be the big break that the Libertarians have been waiting for. No, seriously. I know that the Libertarians have a reputation as a fringe party that is filled with nuts, but they may be our best hope to avoid a Warren presidency.

Despite Warren’s unpopularity, the fact that 52 percent of voters have vowed to oppose Trump will be a very difficult reality to overcome. It will require Donald Trump to change, but the only way that he seems to be capable of changing is for the worse. As I predicted back in December, without Kelly and Mattis to restrain him, Trump is increasingly unhinged and out-of-control. In the past, he has had a floor of support but I suspect that as the details of the Ukraine scandal continue to emerge, the president’s approval will find a way into the basement. Even so, confident that polls are “fake news” and that he can pull off a second upset, Trump is unlikely to resign for the good of the country or the party.

Enter the Libertarians. The Libertarian Party is a nationally known party that already has an infrastructure and ballot access in all 50 states. All they need is a sane candidate and media attention.

Sure, the Libertarians blew a similar chance in 2016, but it wasn’t apparent at the time how bad a choice Gary Johnson would be. A former Republican governor of New Mexico, Johnson looked good on paper. However, Johnson blew his chance to be taken seriously with his “Aleppo moment.” This is your brain on marijuana. Nevermind that most Americans didn’t know what Aleppo was either. A presidential candidate should.

So, the Libertarians remain a party in search of a viable candidate. The logical answer is Justin Amash.

Amash, you may recall is the formerly Republican congressman who favored impeaching Donald Trump before it was cool. Amash is where many Americans are at this point: Disgusted by both the blind loyalty to Donald Trump displayed by the Republicans and the radical leftism of the Democrats. He is well-spoken, experienced, principled, and, most importantly, not a nut. Amash could be the #NoneOfTheAbove candidate of 2020.

But wouldn’t a third party candidate just be a spoiler, you ask. Quite possibly, but it is also possible that 2020 could represent a perfect storm for the two major parties. A partisan system that renominates a man as unqualified and unsuited for office as Donald Trump and someone as hostile to the values of most Americans as Elizabeth Warren is broken and ripe for a challenge.

It may be that the biggest obstacle to Amash would be the Libertarians themselves. It’s hard to take a party seriously when a candidate for party strips onstage at the convention as one Libertarian did in 2016. On the other hand, after three years of Donald Trump, even a convention striptease doesn’t seem as dysfunctional as it did then.

I honestly don’t know if the Libertarians are ready for primetime, but I’m pretty sure that 2020 is going to be the best chance that they will get. If they can’t beat a badly damaged Trump and Fauxcahontas, they may as well close down their offices and admit that it was never anything more than an excuse to have a party and get high.

If the Libertarians want to be a real political party, it’s now or never. Even though it sounds about as likely as Fifi saving the day, the Libertarian Party may be our best shot.

Paging Justin Amash.
Originally published on The Resurgent

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