In the wake of Donald Trump becoming the presumptive Republican nominee for president, interest in third parties is growing. As Rare reported on Wednesday, the Libertarian Party has seen a spike in Google searches and membership applications. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) has added his voice by calling for a third-party candidate on Facebook.
The Libertarian Party has three main candidates running for the nomination. The one most likely to win is former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who became the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president after his Republican bid failed in 2012. Johnson received the party’s highest general election vote total yet that year, winning over 1.1 million votes.
Johnson has a very interesting background, which includes climbing Mount Everest and serving as CEO of Cannabis Sativa, Inc. But he is also charisma challenged at times, which is one reason his Republican bid never caught on. Johnson is probably the least libertarian of the three, as well, and might better be described as more of a moderate Republican than a libertarian.
Among his two most credible challengers, businessman John McAfee, original developer of the McAfee anti-virus software, is probably his toughest competition. McAfee has already selected his running mate, businessman and photographer Judd Weiss, and his campaign mainly focuses on civil liberties, Internet privacy, and cybersecurity. McAfee, too, has a colorful past.
Publisher Austin Petersen, who is running against Johnson and McAfee, has built a highly professional campaign and was one of the first to reach out to the #NeverTrump Republicans. But many libertarians are wary of Petersen’s more conservative leanings. Petersen would probably be the most natural fit for #NeverTrump Republicans looking for a home.
The Libertarian Party picks its presidential nominee at a national convention. Conservative Review’s Robert Eno had an excellent article on Wednesday describing the Libertarian presidential nomination process.
Here’s a brief summary of how it works. The LP national convention, convening in Orlando at the end of the month, is expected to draw 1,047 delegates, with 524 needed to win the party’s nomination assuming a full delegate count is represented. The delegates are chosen at state conventions across the country, and it takes the written support of 30 delegates to be considered for nomination.
For those looking to make a statement for conservative and libertarian principles, the Libertarian Party is probably the best bet. It’s too late to build a conservative third party from scratch, as the process to get on the ballot would have to start now. The first deadline is May 9th to get on the ballot in Texas, for example. Several states have a June deadline, and many have July deadlines. It would take an enormous amount of campaign infrastructure and funding to meet that timeframe.
The Libertarian Party, on the other hand, already has ballot access in most states and will likely have it in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Plus, if they hit 5% in the national popular vote, they’ll be eligible to receive federal campaign funds, with some libertarians hoping that will grow their party and make it more relevant in American politics.
Given that many conservatives and libertarians are now homeless in a Republican Party ruled by Trumpism, that’s probably not a bad thing.