IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Libertarian Party offers the GOP an unexpected lesson

Libertarians nominated a two-term governor. Republicans are nominating a reality-show personality. Which is the party of oddball misfits?
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, center, speaks to supporters and delegates at the National Libertarian Party Convention, May 27, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (Photo by John Raoux/AP)
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, center, speaks to supporters and delegates at the National Libertarian Party Convention, May 27, 2016, in Orlando, Fla.
It wasn't easy, and it took a little longer than party officials might have liked, but the Libertarian Party held its national convention in Orlando over the weekend and it put together a national ticket designed to succeed -- unintentionally offering an object lesson to its Republican rivals in the process.
MSNBC's Jane C. Timm reported over the weekend on the results.

The Libertarian Party nominated former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld to run for president on Sunday, as the small party attempts to elevate itself into the mainstream during an election that's given it unprecedented opportunity.  The pair -- both two-term governors -- have more executive experience than any other candidate in the race and will offer an alternative to two historically unpopular candidates, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

I can appreciate why the Libertarian Party comes across as an eccentric group of political misfits. At one point during the party's convention, delegates were asked to elect a national party chair, and one of the stated contenders stripped off his clothes and danced in a thong for the cameras. At another point, Johnson, before eventually prevailing, was widely booed for saying he's comfortable with state-issued drivers' licenses.
I wasn't there, but it's not hard to imagine some of the reporters on hand thinking to themselves, "What a bunch of oddballs."
But that's all the more reason to take the results seriously. The Libertarian Party ended up with a ticket featuring a pair of two-term governors. The party considered other assorted figures, none of whom had the kind of background Johnson and Weld brought to the table, but in the end, Libertarians showed a pragmatic streak, choosing the most experienced and credible candidates available. That may have meant compromising a bit, but the Libertarian Party made a conscious decision to nominate a ticket that can appeal to as broad a national electorate as possible.
And then there's the Republican Party, which is nominating a reality-show personality who's never served a day in elected office and doesn't appear to know anything at all about government, politics, or public policy.
Remind me: who are the real misfits in this picture?
As for the road ahead, Libertarians face some daunting challenges. The Johnson/Weld ticket will need to qualify for the ballot in all 50 states -- a hurdle they're likely to clear -- while trying to raise money and assemble a credible national operation. It will also start lobbying news organizations to start including Libertarians in national polls, even though the vast majority of American voters have no idea who Gary Johnson and William Weld are.
That said, if Libertarians can start overcoming these challenges, and there's a meaningful public appetite for a third-party campaign featuring two former Republican governors, the Johnson/Weld pairing may not be a laughing matter in the fall.