The Hill reported Wednesday, “Democrats panicked by third-party candidates drawing support away from Hillary Clinton are ramping up their attacks against Gary Johnson and warning that a vote for a third party is a vote for Donald Trump.”
“Liberal groups are passing around embarrassing videos of Johnson and running ads against him warning about his positions on issues like climate change that are important to young voters and independents,” the Hill continued.
Why is the Clinton camp doing this?
Because Johnson is getting too many of the young voters they see as essential to her coalition (particularly those who once helped Obama win), enough that Clinton is dispatching President Obama, Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders to try to corral the kids back into her camp.
They are doing this because Gary Johnson is winning.
“Winning” in the most conventional sense in a presidential election obviously means becoming the next occupant of the White House. But this is not what it means, or has ever meant, for most third party candidates.
Victory for Johnson means having a significant impact on the race and having his brand of politics elevated in the national mindset and our public discourse. There are a lot of people talking about Gary Johnson right now. They are also talking about libertarianism.
Most importantly, enough young voters are looking at Clinton and Johnson and deciding that the Libertarian is the more attractive choice. It also doesn’t seem like a strange choice to them, as is often the case for many when venturing outside the two major parties. Young voters seem to like what at one time might have been considered a more fringe option more than they like the well-known, mainstream Democrat.
Johnson has argued that if he were included in the debates, he could have more impact. Perhaps, but he’s having an impact regardless.
And Hillary Clinton is freaking out about it.
In future elections, the major parties will want these young voters. They will have to cater to them. Future liberty candidates — in any party — can make the case that they are the candidates who can likely get these young voters.
I even believe if the Republican nominee were Rand Paul at the moment and not Donald Trump, he would likely be beating the unbelievably weak Clinton handily, due in no small part to his libertarian politics and what they bring to the table. That doesn’t mean just young voters; it also means more opportunities to attract minorities, independents, women and others than what Trump has proven thus far to be capable of.
Similarly, voters don’t even have to know much about Johnson to know that he’s something different and something preferable to what Clinton represents. Too many just don’t like her. Millennials voting for a Libertarian candidate sends a significantly different message than the youth vote simply dutifully lining up behind the Democrat, as many predicted and expected.
This doesn’t mean that young voters’ attitudes and politics won’t change over time, but it does mean more of them are looking at the Libertarian Party in a favorable — and more importantly, acceptable — way than probably at any other time in that party’s history.
The Libertarian Party declared Johnson’s 1 percent showing in 2012 a major and historic victory. No matter what happens in the next six weeks, Johnson is certain to at least eclipse that tally in a way that will be far more memorable than his performance in the last election.
The Libertarian Party will hail it as a victory, and they will be right.
Disclosure: I co-authored Senator Rand Paul’s 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington.