Libertarian presidential ticket Gary Johnson William Weld appeared on a CNN town hall Wednesday, where they were asked about everything from drug policy to foreign policy.
Reactions have been mixed. While the forum did help the Libertarian Party get their message out to a broader audience, many libertarians and others on social media were disappointed. Many saw a missed opportunity.
Here are my takeaways.
William Weld is an asset to the Libertarian ticket: William Weld is the best part of the Johnson-Weld ticket. Although no one will ever accuse the former Massachusetts governor of being a libertarian purist or even much of a libertarian, he’s very articulate and can present his ticket’s arguments well. He also comes off as a likable and reasonable man, especially to non-libertarians.
Weld can potentially reassure the vast non-libertarian majority of the American electorate that he and Gary Johnson won’t kick grandma off of Social Security, won’t abolish the military and police, won’t let people starve in the streets and other cartoonish scenarios some people seem to believe about libertarians. That’s actually a good thing to most voters.
Gary Johnson needs to learn how to communicate: Gary Johnson was inarticulate at times last night. A mother named Maureen Morella asked Johnson and Weld about heroin and drug legalization. Her son used heroin at age 16 and got brain damage. She asked Johnson and Weld about how their position on heroin isn’t really harm reduction. To say that Johnson butchered the question is an understatement.
It was a missed opportunity to make the moral case against prohibition. Instead Johnson made the issue about harm reduction, which probably resonates with more Americans than legalizing heroin. Weld finished the segment by talking about how drugs are starting to be treated as a public health problem, not a criminal issue.
Johnson tries too hard to go after Bernie Sanders supporters, but has nothing to say to anti-Trump conservatives: Johnson and Weld came off as a couple of decent left of center guys last night. Johnson in particular was trying really hard to go after Bernie Sanders supporters, but it was clearly painful for him to reach out to anti-Trump Republicans. Much of this due to the bad blood between conservatives and both Johnson and Weld from their time in the Republican Party.
But I’m not sure going after Bernie Sanders supporters is going to be an approach that pays off in the long run. Jill Stein and the Green Party are getting more and more attention by saying much of the same things Bernie does. Why would they vote Libertarian if the Greens can give them everything they’re supporting? Johnson and Weld should focus on messaging more to anti-Trump conservatives and Republicans.
Gary Johnson and William Weld both come off as decent, likable, and sincere. Unlike both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Johnson and Weld come off as good and decent men. It was telling that Johnson, who has climbed Mount Everest, did say running for president was the hardest thing he has ever done. There is clearly more to life than politics for Johnson.
In an election year of scumbags, there is something to be said for being decent people.